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Belfast author in cash drive to publish book featuring Northern Ireland's writing talent

Author Paul McVeigh
Author Paul McVeigh
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A Belfast novelist is aiming to raise nearly £23,000 in crowdfunding to publish a unique book showcasing the work of well-known and emerging local writers.

Paul McVeigh hopes to raise £22,752 to commission The 32: An Anthology Of Irish Working Class Voices following on from the success of a similar project in Britain.

The 51-year-old Ardoyne native, who wrote The Good Son, said he is spearheading the fundraiser because Northern Ireland has no writer development agency, unlike the rest of the UK.

Among the big names involved in the project so far are Irish novelist Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), Londonderry crime writer Claire Allan (Her Name Was Rose) and Kilkeel author Eoin McNamee, author of Resurrection Man, which detailed the bloodletting of the Shankill Butchers.

Mr McVeigh, editor of The 32, said the tome will celebrate established writers and emerging voices from working-class backgrounds who often have bigger barriers to overcome than their wealthier counterparts.

"Too often, working-class writers find that the hurdles they have to leap are higher and harder to cross than for writers from more affluent backgrounds," he said.

"The 32 will see writers who have made that leap reach back to give a helping hand to those coming up behind."

The new book follows on from the hugely successful Common People anthology by acclaimed English novelist Kit de Waal, who worked with publishers Unbound to give working-class voices a unique platform.

Like its predecessor, The 32 will be a collection of essays and memoirs - but this time the contributors will be 16 well-known writers as well as 16 new writers from Northern Ireland and the Republic. These upcoming authors will be selected by an open call once funding for the project is finally secured.

Mr McVeigh said he felt compelled to replicate the idea behind Common People when he realised that people from Northern Ireland were excluded from taking part in it.

"We quickly realised there was a big problem in that all the new writers had to apply through their regions via a writer development agency," he said.

"And guess what? Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK that doesn't have one.

"It meant that no one from here could be considered for inclusion and I was furious. Initially I was shocked - then angry.

"Why are we the only region of the UK that doesn't have this agency? It's scandalous.

"Writers in Northern Ireland are not being nourished or encouraged and yet they're really celebrated in the UK."

He added: "That's really what gave birth to this idea of doing an all-island version of the book. We were excluded from the original version so now we'll have our own book."

He also said he wanted to "redress the balance in that we're the only place in the UK that couldn't be part of a massive project and a book that was hugely successful internationally".

The Observer recently described Kit de Waal's My Name Is Leon and Paul McVeigh's The Good Son as the "exceptional working-class novels from the last few years".

Once enough pledges are in, the project will be up and running.

To purchase the book, visit unbound.com/books/32/

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