ANDREA LEVY has posthumously become the first writer of colour to have her pen entered into the Royal Society of Literature’s (RSL) collection.
Levy, whose work chronicled the Windrush generation, is one of two new pens have also been added to the RSL’s collection for Roll Book signing, the other is from Jean Rhys.
Bill Mayblin, Levy’s widower, said: “Andrea always wrote her first drafts by hand and it would be nice to be able to say that she used this pen from that time onwards. But the truth is that to her mind it was too posh and valuable to be used for scribbling in her notebooks. She kept it neatly in its box on her work desk and took it out for certain tasks – signing books, writing special letters, birthday, Christmas and thank-you cards – for ‘ceremonial purposes’ you might say.”
Mayblin added: “Certainly as a gift from the world of literature it had a symbolic importance for her and she always used it with pride and treasured it as a possession. She would be thrilled to know that it will now continue its ceremonial role with the Royal Society of Literature.”
The RSL’s collection features pens from some of the most historically influential UK writers including Charles Dickens, George Eliot, T.S. Eliot and Lord Byron.
Today in celebration of its 200th birthday, the RSL has also announced RSL 200, a five-year festival launched with a series of major new initiatives and 60 new appointments that aim to champion the great diversity of writing and writers in the UK.
Founded in 1820, the charity, which honours and supports emerging and established writers, has launched two new initiatives – RSL Open and RSL International Writers Programme.
Over the next two years RSL Open will elect an unprecedented 60 new fellows from communities, backgrounds and experiences currently under-represented in UK literary culture. The new fellows will include writers of colour, LGBTQ+ writers, writers from lower socio-economic backgrounds, writers who identify as having a disability and writers outside of London.
Readers and writers from across the UK will be asked to recommend writers for nomination who will then be considered by a panel made up of some of the UK’s most prolific writers. Booker prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo, who was announced today as a new RSL vice-president, will chair the panel.
RSL International Writers programme will recognise the contribution of writers across the globe to literature in English, and “the power of literature to transcend borders and cultures to bring people together”. As with RSL Open, readers and writers will be asked to recommend writers outside the UK for nomination.
Evaristo said: “It’s so important to create new initiatives designed to help make our culture more inclusive for writers from under-represented communities. There are so many stories waiting to be told and I’m looking forward to discovering and nurturing the next generation of talented writers through this mentoring award.”