Women in the Arts
4. WORKS BY WOMEN: c) Literature
Relatively little literature, apart from writing for theatre, is subsidised through public money for the arts. On the other hand it is, through the library service, the one art form which always receives substantial local authority monies. As I have already made clear I have not as part of this research been able to look at the public presentation of literature through the library service. What I am considering here are public readings - usually poetry and subsidised publishing.
i) Publishing: the small poetry magazines which used to be so much part of Merseyside's cultural life seem to have largely disappeared. Here I am only considering 2 publications works included in 'Smoke' (a roughly quarterly poetry magazine published by the poetry group Windows) and works published by the Headland Press. 'Smoke' receives only indirect public subsidy in that it benefits from some of the subsidised facilities of Windows. This, from a woman's point of view is to be regretted since in the period I am considering there were 3 issues available and they printed 28 poems by women and 26 poems by men. A level of parity that we could do with in other areas. I have no knowledge as to whether any of the writers were black or whether they were able-bodied or not.
Headland put out one publication in this period presenting the poems of two men.
ii) Public Readings: Overall there were 25 public readings in this period:
14 solo readings -11 by men and 3 by women
4 all women readings - some 17 women took part
7 mixed readings including 22 women and 10 men
Overall some 40 women read their work in this period compared to 18 men. However men predominated when it came to solo evenings. Of the women reading at least 5 (12.5%) were black writers (I don't have a complete racial break down for all groups) and 3 (7.5%) were disabled writers.
The promotions organised through the library service were a model that many other organisations could well follow. Firstly they sought to ensure an equality of opportunity within their programming and secondly they monitored their audiences.
The other factor that ensured the presentation of works by women and specifically by black women has been the promotions by Africa Arts Collective and the presence of a black woman committed to the cause of literature. Such factors illustrate clearly that if women are to achieve parity one of the prerequisites is the presence of women in positions that make the promotion of women's interests possible.