New development hub for emerging writers of colour launched

Words of Colour has joined forces with University College London (UCL) and Spread the Word (StW) to launch the Take Flight Hub, a virtual professional and creative development programme for emerging writers of colour.

Some of the country’s leading novelists, poets, playwrights, literary agents and publishers of colour will be sharing their expertise through free talks, masterclasses, workshops, panel discussions and presentations over five weeks, made possible by a grant from the UCL Knowledge and Innovation Rapid Response fund.

Alongside masterclasses by journalist and writer Gary Younge on polemical writing and Inua Ellams on the fundamentals of dialogue and location in playwriting, Mary Jean Chan will offer advice on sustaining your career as a poet,  while author Patrice Lawrence will shed light on writing convincing multicultural characters for YA fiction.

Writers will have the chance to meet literary agents, such as Emma Paterson and Elise Dillsworth, hear from inclusive publishers, including Valerie Brandes (Jacaranda Books) and Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books) and understand the power of non-fiction to transform society with Jhalak Prize 2020 winner Johny Pitts, #Merky Books inaugural signing Derek Owusu and writer and academic Darren Chetty, as well as other dynamic presenters.

The Take Flight Hub was inspired by BookTrust Represents research conducted by Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, Associate Professor in Publishing and Book Cultures at UCL, which found that emerging writers of colour needed support, advice and access as part of an industry-focused network to help sustain their careers.

Joy Francis, Executive Director, Words of Colour Productions, said: “Various studies have highlighted publishing’s slow progress on inclusion and diversity over the past 16 years. This failure is creating unwitting casualties among Black and Asian writers. We are losing many of them to other industries as they are convinced their stories will never be published, marketed or read, as they should be. The Take Flight Hub is just one example of what can be created through collaboration and vision, at a challenging time, by providing opportunities for emerging writers of colour to not only understand the publishing landscape, but how to navigate it while being inspired by those who are paving the way for them to follow.”

Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold said: “The Take Flight Hub, based on the recommendations from my research, is a direct intervention for the next generation of writers of colour and will offer support to access, navigate, and thrive in the publishing process. Not only will it help emerging writers of colour develop their craft, and learn from established writers and publishing professionals, but it will also assist them to build networks that are important for their careers. The fact that this programme is by and for people of colour – talking about, and teaching, their craft rather than ‘diversity’ – is really powerful.”

Ruth Harrison, Director, Spread the Word, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for writers of colour to not only find out more about the industry and how they can progress their writing careers, but also to develop their craft through masterclasses and workshops led by some of UK’s leading writers, poets and playwrights. With the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black and Asian communities showing the longstanding structural inequalities and racism in the UK, it is vital to be creating spaces for writers of colour that have development, community and wellbeing at their heart.”

The hub’s launch is timely amid #PublishingPaidMe on the lack of pay parity between Black and non-Black writers, followed by the recent open letter from the Black Writers’ Guild calling for more diverse narratives in mainstream publishing as publishers aren’t addressing their own “racial inequality”.

Publisher Valerie Brandes, founder of the award-winning Jacaranda Books, said: “Writers need to be able to write. They need to be able to develop their craft and grow in their process. And they have to know and believe that when they have done the hard work, that there are real and viable opportunities for them to be published and have sustained careers, not as the one superstar, or the two or three stars, but as a constellation of great Black British writing, existing to represent who we are now and for centuries to come.”

Award-winning poet Mary Jean Chan said: “There has been significant progress made in terms of programmes such as The Complete Works in poetry and Creative Access which seeks to improve diversity and inclusion in British creative organisations, but we still have a long way to go. That being said, I do hope emerging writers of colour can see that writers, critics, agents, editors and publishers of colour (and their allies) are all working hard to ensure that the literary industry becomes a more equitable place for them.”

In addition to the hub’s main programme, there will be a series of podcasts featuring advice and tips from leading writers of colour, based in the UK and abroad, which will be produced and launched at the end of the programme and made available to the wider public.

Tickets for the Take Flight Hub programme can be booked from the week commencing Monday 22nd June 2020. Please check our Eventbrite page for more information.

Official hashtag: #TakeFlightHub


Eligibility (please read carefully)

The Take Flight Hub‘s programme (see full listings below) are primarily for unpublished writers of colour (Black, Asian, Arabic and Mixed-Race), but we will also consider writers who have had no more than two books published. You must be based in the UK. The programme is divided into two broad categories:

  1. Workshops / Masterclasses

  2. Talks/Presentations/Spread the Word Development Surgery/Panels


About Workshops / Masterclasses

To be considered for a masterclass or a workshop, you must respond to the eligiblity questions listed on the relevant Eventbrite page, when made live, including how the specific workshop or masterclass will assist you with, and benefit, your writing goals, with some indication of what you are currently working on. You will also need to take into account any specific request made by the masterclass or workshop presenter, which will also be listed on the relevant Eventbrite page, including meeting any deadline listed or responding to requests for a sample of your writing. Once the session is full, we will host a limited waiting list.

Please read the eligibility criteria on the relevant Eventbrite page carefully otherwise you will not secure a place.

The second and third wave of events will be listed on Words of Colour Productions Eventbrite page from the week commencing Monday 29th June 2020 and will all be live by Thursday 2 July 2020 (by 5pm).

Please note:

Each applicant can only attend one workshop or masterclass, due to high demand and limited spaces.

Spread the Word’s Development Surgery ‘Take your writing forward’ on 21st July 2020 needs to be booked directly via their Eventbrite page. You can book for the session here.


About Talks/Presentations/Spread the Word Development Surgery/Panels

Please note: These events are open to budding and emerging writers of colour. You do not have to apply to attend any of these events and you can book directly from the Eventbrite page, once you fit the aforementioned criteria.

It is advisable that you sign up to our Eventbrite page to receive alerts.


Take Flight 2020 full programme (to be delivered on the Zoom platform)

30th June 2020 

Masterclass (10am-1pm)

Finding your voice: Polemical writing with award-winning writer and journalist Gary Younge (SOLD OUT)

2nd July 2020 

Masterclass (10am-1.30pm)

Volatile Space: The fundamentals of dialogue and location in playwriting with Inua Ellams (SOLD OUT)

Panel discussion/Q&A (10am-1pm)

The power of non-fiction to transform society with authors Johny Pitts, Derek Owusu and Darren Chetty (SOLD OUT)

9th July 2020 (7pm-8pm)

In Conversation

How to sustain a poetry career with award-winning poet Mary Jean Chan

14th July 2020 (10am-1.30pm)

Workshop (only 20 places )

Writing convincing multicultural characters for YA fiction with award-winning novelist Patrice Lawrence

To be considered for a place, you must email [email protected] with your response to the eligiblity questions listed on the Eventbrite page for this event by the deadline. Only then will you receive confirmation of a place or being put on the waiting list.

16th July 2020 (12pm-1.30pm)


Demystifying children’s publishing: An author’s perspective with award-winning writer Chitra Soundar

21st July 2020 (2pm-4pm)

Development Surgery (Hosted by Spread the Word – StW)

Take your writing forward, featuring StW’s London Writers’ Award recipients – Alexis Keir, Denise Rawls, Mark Mukasa and Natasha Brown

To book, go to Spread the Word’s Eventbrite page here.

23rd July 2020 (7pm-8pm)

Panel Debate/Q&A

Meet the agents with Davina Andrew-Lynch (Andlyn Literary Agency), Elise Dillsworth (Elise Dillsworth Agency) and Emma Paterson (Aitken Alexander Associates)

28th July 2020 (10am-1.30pm)

(only 20 places available)


Memoir writing: Telling your story your way with poet, writers and literary activist Salena Godden

To be considered for a place, you must email [email protected] with your response to the eligiblity questions listed on the Eventbrite page for this event by the deadline. Only then will you receive confirmation of a place or being put on the waiting list.

30th July 2020 (7pm-8pm)

Panel Debate/Q&A

Publishing inclusively with Aimée Felone (Knights Of), Valerie Brandes (Jacaranda Books), Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books) and Crystal Mahey-Morgan (OWN IT! Publishing)