Literature is a thriving, diverse, wide-ranging part of the United Kingdom cultural sector with a global reputation for excellence. It embraces everything from basic literacy and picture books to major literary prize winners; from graphic novelists and emerging poets to renowned military historians. The literature sector includes big international publishers and festivals, but is dependent on the dedication of a multiplicity of individuals and small organisations, engaging passionate audiences. The fundamental literature relationship is a one-to-one interaction between writer and reader. The universal desire to tell our stories makes literature in all its many forms an invaluable bridge between the people of the UK and the countries of the world.
The Literature team in the UK work together with the arts managers in British Council offices in more than 100 countries around the world to create programmes that help to build those important connections and increase mutual knowledge and understanding. We work with individuals and organisations from all parts of the UK literature sector and their international counterparts. Each programme is different, tailored to the cultural relations priorities of the country, but in all our programmes we focus on creating international opportunities for emerging and mid-list writers; building an international network for the next generation of literature producers; and raising awareness of UK literature areas of strength that are less well known abroad.
The British Council is not a funding organisation – all our literature work is within the context of specific programmes – but we partner with the Arts Council England in the Artists' International Development Fund, in supporting artists wishing to develop their international work. There are similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Our programmes often involve travel by UK writers to take part in international festivals and to deliver workshops and master classes. We also develop international collaborations involving experts in literacy and reader development, translation and storytelling; librarians and publishers; illustrators and academics. Many of our programmes also involve bringing international writers and literature sector professionals to the UK. We take advantage of literary and other anniversaries to showcase the work of contemporary writers and we take part in the British Council’s programme of seasons focussing on a particular country or region. We are working to increase the audience for UK literature through digital channels.
We hope that our work will result in more emerging and mid-list writers with international experience and profile; an international network of literature producers working together on projects and programmes; international audiences for a new generation of UK writers and literature beyond mainstream fiction representing the full diversity of the UK in the 21st Century; and a greater mutual understand between the people of the UK and other countries through a shared appreciation of our wonderful literature.
Cortina Butler, Director Literature, November 2015