Three out of four of us read at least one book last year but writers’ incomes are falling.
- 73% of Irish people read a book in the last twelve months
- Average income for those in the arts down 3.5% since 2013, compared to a 7% increase in incomes generally
- Budget 2020 offers an opportunity to support Irish writers and get more children reading
73% – or three out of four – Irish people read a book in the last year and yet incomes for Irish writers are falling according to Words Ireland, the collective of seven literature organisations working together for writers and writing in Ireland.
The group highlighted the figure as it published its pre-Budget submission and went to the Oireachtas to meet TDs and Senators today.
The fall in incomes came at a time when State funding for the Arts Council of Ireland fell by 11% (2008–2019) and at a time (2013–2018) average incomes across the economy rose by 7%. Despite these facts, 15 million books are sold in Ireland every year, at a value of €175m.
Words Ireland’s pre-Budget submission calls for the implementation of a five-point plan for Irish writing:
- Reinstate the school library fund, to enable schools buy more books, and help children get off their screens and reading earlier.
- Increase the numbers of Writers in Schools engagements, to allow children meet and talk to working writers, inspiring the next generation of Irish authors.
- Support emerging and professional writers though increased Arts Council funding for literature.
- Channel more funding into Literature Ireland, who translate and promote Irish writers abroad.
- Develop a new literary hub and writers’ residence in Dublin to provide new and established writers with the space they need to work and flourish.
Commenting on the Plan, Words Ireland Chairperson and Managing Director of Penguin Random House Ireland, Michael McLoughlin, said;
“There are two stories of Irish writing. The first is a flourishing literary scene with successful Irish writers inspiring more and more people to read and to write. The second is of poor State supports, falling incomes for writers and minimal funding for the literary sector.
“It is convenient to believe that writers are born, not made. Experience tells us otherwise. Sally Rooney’s first poem was published in an Arts Council funded journal. Her first essay was published in an Arts Council funded magazine. We are proposing five measures that if implemented in Budget 2020 would reflect this reality.
“The existing Dublin Writers Museum in Dublin’s Parnell Square could be transformed into a Literary Hub, to house a number of literary organisations and publishers in one cluster. A similar opportunity lies with the former, currently disused, home of George Bernard Shaw, which could act as a residence for visiting writers to live as Writers in Residence.
“Similarly, existing schemes like the Writers in Schools programme could be boosted and the sadly discontinued Schools Library Fund reintroduced to get children away from screens and back into the pages of books. Increased, targeted funding to organisations like the Arts Council of Ireland and Culture Ireland can also help us tell our story.
“We believe there is a huge opportunity to capitalise on the current literary moment. Our five-point plan, if implemented, would build and grow Ireland’s existing literary ecosystem and make it really work for Irish writing.“