Belfast Telegraph

Unseen work by murdered Lyra McKee to appear in new book... if man behind it can raise £23,000

The late Lyra McKee
The late Lyra McKee
Belfast author Paul McVeigh
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

An unpublished piece of writing by the 29-year-old murdered journalist Lyra McKee is to be showcased in a new publication featuring Northern Ireland's writing talent.

Belfast novelist Paul McVeigh is aiming to raise £22,752 in crowdfunding to publish a unique book containing the work of well-known and emerging local writers.

The Ardoyne native, who is spearheading the fundraiser for 'The 32: An Anthology Of Irish Working Class Voices', also revealed that he recently secured a generous £3,000 donation from north Belfast bar, The Chester.

The 51-year-old wordsmith, who wrote The Good Son, told the Belfast Telegraph that he was thrilled to have been given the go-ahead to include a sample of the late Lyra's writing in his forthcoming collection.

"I met Lyra through Anna Burns, the Booker Prize winner, and the three of us had lunch together - three working class Ardoyne authors from three different generations," he said.

"She told me her book was coming out and I spoke to her about being part of the anthology - that was before her book deal - and then, heartbreakingly, the tragedy happened.

"I recently talked to her publishers, who are bringing out a new book from her next month, and after I explained the back story, they are now giving me an unpublished piece of her writing to include, which is really amazing."

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, who wrote Resurrection Man, which is about the Shankill Butchers.

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 up and coming authors will be selected by an open call once funding for the project is finally secured.

Mr McVeigh said the boost from the Antrim Road hostelry's new boss (who also owns The Spaniard, Muriel's Cafe Bar and The Jeggy Nettle) brings the running total to around £8,000 - which means a further £15,000 is needed to commission the book.

"The owners of The Chester wanted to contribute to the fund for The 32 and they are buying loads of books to donate to local libraries," he said. "They've said they want to make sure the book is published. It's our biggest donation and the owners have said it's the first time they've ever done anything like this."

He added: "The bar is in a strong working class area in north Belfast and they are keen to help with the discovery of 16 working class writers who can't otherwise get an opportunity to break into publishing."

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.

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".

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