No poverty of imagination in Scotland – Mike Findlay

No industry has been left untouched by Covid-19, and the publishing world is no exception. Book shops have had to close, and small independent publishers are feeling the financial pinch.

Many vulnerable or so called “disadvantaged” people and groups in society have become even more vulnerable at this time – mentally, physically and financially. But it’s not all doom and gloom. What we have also seen during our lockdown days is a great deal of creative thinking from grassroots organisations and charities.

One such organisation is the Arkbound Foundation. Our charity has recently started its operations in Scotland and is a publishing powerhouse supporting disadvantaged authors breaking into what is often seen as an elite world.

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The focus of Arkbound is on important social justice issues, equalities and the environment. It works with people and groups who are socially excluded, those who have experienced poverty or have faced adversity due to their mental health, disability, race, gender or sexual orientation. Arkbound supports them, encourages them and guides them through the process of book publishing.

The charity was founded in Bristol in 2017. Over the last year it has established its Scottish office in Glasgow, from where its main publishing operations run. As a charitable publisher, Arkbound is able to fund, edit and print books from authors who would otherwise not have the opportunity.

Since setting up in Glasgow, creative writing workshops have taken place in the Govan Community Centre involving volunteers from the University of Glasgow in support of aspiring authors. Publishing and writing is often seen as the domain of the elite few but in recent times we have seen a surge in Scottish writers who come from more working class backgrounds – think Kerry Hudson, author of Lowborn or 
Darren McGarvey (aka rapper Loki) author of Poverty Safari.

Arkbound has a huge amount of potential to make a positive dent in the publishing world in Scotland, making it more inclusive for all and encouraging the next generation of writers from marginalised backgrounds.

At the start of 2020, Arkbound put a call to Scottish authors to come forward with their book ideas. Since then the charity has been working with a number of emerging Scottish writers who can provide insights and experience into some of the issues that are often overlooked in today’s world.

One such author is Glasgow-based Shane Johnstone. His book, The Gods of Frequency, is the compelling story of a working class, untrained, hard-drinking Glaswegian musician who struggles with class identity resulting in mental health difficulties and alcoholism. Johstone’s book is the first Scottish publication by Arkbound and it will officially have its launch on 22 July on Zoom, everyone is welcome to join.

Over the month of July, Arkbound launched its crowdfunding campaign to encourage people to get involved in making publishing more accessible to all. This has involved a major social campaign from the charity to encourage donations and allow Arkbound to continue to fulfil its ambitions in Scotland.

The majority of the funds will directly support writers from all kinds of backgrounds with 1-2-1 support and mentoring, with a particular focus on those most adversely impacted by Covid-19 and writing that covers important social and environmental themes – 15 per cent will go to a ring-fenced fund that can be fairly accessed by other diversity-led publishers in an open application procedure, with a panel of five independent judges from the Universities of Glasgow and Bristol.

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Arkbound’s success in Bristol is something it is keen to replicate in Scotland. Recent publications include Roofless by Stewart Harvey, a compelling anthology of real-life stories of homelessness in the UK; and Bury Me Where They Fall, a dark fantasy book by Jonathan Watts.

Arkbound is seeking new partnerships with media organisations, magazines and newspapers from across Scotland over the coming months who are supportive of the charity’s aims of making the industry more accessible to all.

We are also on the lookout for new volunteers and trustees to support us in our mission.

In the coming weeks, Arkbound will be announcing a new project inviting LGBTQ+ writers to submit their work to become part of an anthology. As this part of society is often under- or misrepresented in the media, Arkbound’s trustees felt producing a book which was a collection of stories would be a great way to show the diversity of Scotland’s LGBTQ+ population.

Not only are the books that Arkbound publish transformative in terms of turning around the lives and fortunes of the authors that are supported, they are powerful in changing public narratives and assumptions around some of the most important issues of the day.

Mike Findlay, Trustee, Arkbound Foundation



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