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18 November 2023
10:00 am to 5:00 pm
All ages welcome
Manchester City of Literature
Over three days, Our Stories champions the bold steps publishers are making to advance equality, amplify the stories of LGBTQ+ writers and illustrators, explore routes into publishing for aspiring authors, and considers the future possibilities for representation in books for all ages.
By bringing together young people, writers and illustrators working in every form of literature, and publishing folk from the UK and Ireland, Our Stories aims to spark a conversation with the industry, and ultimately to empower a next generation of LGBTQ+ writers and illustrators to take up pathways into publishing.
In this Manchester day of the conference, we will hear from writers, publishers, agents and more all working to make UK literature a more inclusive industry for LGBTQ+ people, celebrate the progress that’s been made, and acknowledge the work that’s still left to do.
There will be keynote speeches from Author of ‘fearless debut’ Rainbow Milk, Mendez (pictured above) and Manchester writer Jane Claire Bradley (pictured below), Author of Dear Neighbour. The day will also feature insightful panel discussions with publishers, librarians, booksellers and those working to celebrate LGBTQ+ identities in publishing.
In addition we’ll have creative workshops and networking throughout the day, plus a couple of surprise pop-up performances! There will be fun stalls for browsing featuring The Proud Trust, Pen Fight Distro, BitterTats and even live illustration.
Over the last three years, with funding from arts councils in four nations, Pop Up Projects – a London-based children’s literature agency – produced an ambitious LGBTQ+ literature creation project called The Rainbow Library. The Rainbow Library involved 80 young people in seven cities (Manchester, Nottingham, Basildon, Glasgow, Inverness, Belfast and Cork) taking part in workshops with 11 children’s writers and illustrators. While developing their own work, which was published in five digital anthologies, the young people were also directly involved in inspiring and shaping new LGBTQ+ inclusive stories, which the writers and illustrators went on to develop into manuscripts – some of which we hope to publish in the coming years.
The point of the project was to connect professional book creators with contemporary, lived experiences of being young and LGBTQ+. In an age of rapidly shifting language to describe and define more fluid notions of sexuality and gender, we felt it important that books for young people begin to reflect the realities on the ground. This conference, a no-less ambitious partnership with three UNESCO designated cities of literature in England and Ireland, marks the culmination of The Rainbow Library. Part-curated by young people in the three cities, Our Stories celebrates the power and potential of children’s books to ‘change the game’ for LGBTQ+ people – by including us, by embracing us, by giving us a place in a shared future free from stigma, discrimination and violence.
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