A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Landmark survey on perceptions & experiences of Scotland’s BAME writers

In spring 2020, Scottish BAME Writers Network (SBWN) partnered with EDI Scotland to gather the perceptions and experiences of BAME writers in and from Scotland. This survey aimed to assess gaps, absences, and barriers to participation in Scotland’s literary sector, and to help SBWN plan inclusive programming during their pilot programme and beyond. Following SBWN’s Call to Action to the literary sector in June, the SBWN survey results further highlight the need for lasting change.

Key findings from respondents include:

  • 62.5% felt that their ethnic identity or race had been a barrier to success in Scotland’s literary sector (within the past 12 months).
  • 26.7% had experienced a racist incident at a literary event or activity in the past 12 months.
  • 68.8% disagreed or strongly disagreed that Scottish books, journals, and literary publications reflect the diversity of Scotland.
  • 71.9% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, ‘I am aware of the diversity of BAME writers that exist in Scotland’.
  • 84.8% overwhelmingly disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, ‘White Scottish audiences are aware of the diversity of BAME writers that exist in Scotland’.
  • 78.2% disagreed or strongly disagreed that BAME and white Scottish people have equal opportunities to succeed in Scotland’s literary sector.

Several respondents commented on the issues of organisations excluding local BAME artists, saying it risked a “systemic erasure of this history in Scotland” and “institutions and festivals do not pay enough attention to BAME artists from working-class communities in Scotland.”

For those who had experienced racist incidents and microaggressions at literary events, several respondents noted the failure of event chairs or facilitators to adequately address the situation when it occurred. Further comments highlighted the additional emotional labour often involved when performing or talking about their work.

Three respondents mentioned that literary opportunities were improving for BAME people. However, the results highlight there are still significant and systematic barriers in place.

The full survey report includes recommendations to the sector. Click here to read it. A few select responses are shown below.

  • Provide more developmental support to emerging BAME writers.
  • “Ensure a diversity of BAME writers, including local and working-class BAME writers, are represented through events and activities” and avoid recreating the “same cliques or gated spaces that BAME writers might experience in the wider literary sector”.
  • “Challenge views that suggest diversity and quality are incompatible.”
  • “Upskill literary event chairs and facilitators to challenge microaggressions, inappropriate questions and abuse directed at panellist and performers.”
  • “For white senior figures in Scotland’s literary sector, take responsibility to address inequalities in the literary sector and do not place this onus on BAME people.”

The survey results may be read in tandem with the recent Rethinking Diversity in Publishing report (The Bookseller, Goldsmiths, University of London, Spread the Word), also published this month.

Read the full report here. 

Information reproduced from the Scottish BAME Writers’ Network press release. 

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July 9, 2020

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