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It's just brilliant to put emerging Northern Ireland writers on the map, says author Paul McVeigh after raising £23k for new anthology

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Novelist Paul McVeigh has secured £23,000 in funds for a new collection of essays and memoirs by working class writers

Novelist Paul McVeigh has secured £23,000 in funds for a new collection of essays and memoirs by working class writers

Novelist Paul McVeigh has secured £23,000 in funds for a new collection of essays and memoirs by working class writers

A north Belfast novelist has raised a staggering £23,000 in order to publish a unique book showcasing the work of well-known and emerging local writing talent.

Paul McVeigh hit the ambitious target in less than four months, enabling him to commission The 32: An Anthology Of Irish Working Class Voices, following the success of a similar project in Britain.

The 51-year-old Ardoyne native, who wrote The Good Son, said the money came from members of the public and private donors, including north Belfast bar The Chester and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

An unpublished piece of writing by the 29-year-old murdered journalist Lyra McKee will also feature in the forthcoming collection which is now due to hit the bookshelves next spring.

Mr McVeigh told the Belfast Telegraph that he was "over the moon" that everyone helped him to make the ambitious fundraiser such a success in a relatively short space of time.

"I can't believe that the book has finally been funded - and I'm so grateful that people got behind the project," he said.

"Around a third of the funds came from public pledges, there was some private funding and the Arts Council also helped out.

"It's just brilliant to be able to do something positive to put emerging working-class writers on the map and give them the boost they need to progress."

He added: "Very soon we'll be starting to look for the new writers to showcase in the publication, once we've ironed out the criteria for inclusion."

Among the big names involved in the project are Irish novelist Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), Londonderry crime writer Claire Allan (Her Name Was Rose) and Kilkeel author Eoin McNamee, who wrote Resurrection Man, which is loosely based on the Shankill Butchers.

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

Damian Smyth, head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, hailed the merits of the new book and praised the endeavours of the man behind it. "The Arts Council is delighted to be able to support this great initiative from one of our best writers, recognising the value of the working-class voice in contemporary writing," he said.

The Observer 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".

Belfast Telegraph