Winner of Diversity Writing for Children Prize

Commonword is pleased to announce that the winner of the Children’s Diversity Writing Prize 2014 is Dale Hannah’s The Multiple Lives of Haroon Patel
Dale describes his novel as ‘A Christmas Carol meets The Fault In Our Stars’ and is a story about a boy with a terminal illness. Dale uses humour as a counterpoint to the emotional subject matter.
Dale Hannah lives in the North West of England. He is the Head of a Pupil Referral Unit where he works with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people from a diverse range of backgrounds.
The Shortlist:

Wild Isle by Devon Black
Pufferfish by Jenni Foley
The Multiple Lives of Haroon Patel by Dale Hannah
Hope Grayling, The Blind Detective by Honey Stavonhagen
Soul Child by Joanne Wesley-Williams
The Commonword Children’s Diversity Writing Prize welcomes submissions from unpublished children’s authors whose writing embraces ethnic diversity either through their own ethnicity and culture and/or in their writing. Dale was announced as the winner in a prize-giving ceremony held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester on 5th of February.
The Commonword Children’s Diversity Writing Prize is a national competition run in association with the award-winning publisher Penguin and the leading literary agency Catherine Pellegrino & Associates. It is also supported by regular Commonword writing workshops and an annual masterclass.

Alexandra Antscherl, Executive Editor at Puffin, said: ‘It’s been an honour and a pleasure to judge this year’s Commonword Diversity Writing for Children prize. The variety of stories told by the talented shortlisted authors is a testament to the diverse backgrounds of people writing in Britain today, which this prize seeks to encourage.

Catherine Pellegrino, literary agent, said: ‘In its third year, The Children’s Diversity Prize has again produced a strong short list, five very different novels, linked through their exploration of cultural and ethnic diversity.’

Irfan Master, Leading Children’s author, said: ‘it has been fantastic being a judge for this marvellous and important prize. This year’s winning entry The Multiple Lives of Haroon Patel was funny and original and stood out for me.’

Commonword’s Artistic Director, Pete Kalu, said: ‘Notions of Englishness are seeded by writers, including by children’s writers. We are a diverse nation and yet there is a disturbing absence of diversity in what is currently published in the UK. This Prize addresses that and I am pleased with the talent it is discovering and nurturing.’

The winner, Dale Hannah, said: ‘I’m so proud to be the 2014 winner of the Commonword Diversity Prize. It has always been a passion of mine to write diverse characters, and winning such a prestigious award will hopefully ensure my novel, The Multiple Lives of Haroon Patel, can reach a wider audience through publication.’
For further information please contact:

Pete Kalu: Phone: 0161 832 3777
Hannah McMillan: Phone 0207 010 3386

Haram by Vijay Medtia

Vijay Medtia’s short story – Haram, has been accepted by

Haram By Veijay Medtia

The work began at the back of the house; the length and width measured and wooden pegs knocked into the ground. With a white can, we sprayed the lines so that the men could see where they had to dig. The access was difficult for a JCB machine and so this was going to be hard manual dig. One man rolled up his sleeves and spat into his hands, before he gripped the wooden handle of the pick. Lifting the pick back over his head, he brought the sharp metal point onto the ground and sunk it into the soil, loosening it. The other men now dug their shovels into the ground, scooping up the soil and filling a wheelbarrow.


The digging was going to take the best part of a week or so, and that was without hitting any difficulties. Mr Ali, a tall man with a black beard came out every morning at eight-thirty to chat with the men and to ask, ‘want brew.’ He then left for work, pleased to see us on time and telling us that we looked like men who were going to work hard. Around mid-morning on the third day, a stocky old man wearing white kurta pyjamas came out from next door and watched us for a while. He had a grey beard and wore a white cap. He was quite jovial and complained about the British weather.


‘Too cold for my Pakistani bones,’ he said. ‘This country too cold.’


He smiled on this first occasion, looked over to Mr Ali’s house and then up at the gutter. Walking out into his garage, he pulled out a long aluminium ladder. He came out with the ladder without any difficulty and placed it near us.


‘I am Mr Ali’s father,’ he said. ‘I am sixty-eight years old.’


We didn’t need to know that but maybe it was his way of asking for help. We stopped the digging of the trench and asked him whether we could help.


‘Lifting ladder against back wall, thank you.’


‘Is something wrong with the gutter?’


There was no reply and I told one of the men to do as he had asked. Mr Ali’s father climbed the ladder all the way to the top and then he seemed to reach over the back gutter with his hand and do something. We couldn’t quite see from below and didn’t give it much thought either. He came down again with a mischievous smile and more than a little self-satisfaction. One of the men brought the ladder down and carried it back into the garage.


We carried on with the foundation work with the mud sticking to our boots, and we went down to about four feet before we hit good clay. It could have been worse and we might have had to go down deeper. The men levelled that section, so that it was four feet deep and nearly two and a half feet across; getting it ready for the building inspector and for the concrete to be poured in the morning.


The next morning there were dark grey clouds with a slight chill in the wind that was blowing in from across the back of the houses. We got to work and developed a good rhythm. Sweat formed over our brows and the muscles ached, but we carried on. Mr Ali came out from the house but today there was no smile or asking of a brew. He looked at us from the back door and I thought he was going to say something but seemed hesitant. When I looked up again, he was staring across at his father’s house and then he asked me.


‘Did my father come around yesterday?’


‘Yes. He checked something on your roof.’


‘You mean he went up there?’


‘Yes, he climbed the ladder that he brought out.’


‘He did that?’


‘Yes he did, why what’s the matter?’


As soon as I said that, his frown got worse and he went back inside and banged the door shut. The slamming of the door was loud and we didn’t know what we had done wrong.


Later in the afternoon, Mr Ali’s wife came out and offered us tea. She wore a green shalwar kameez and was on the plump side. She was friendly and when I commented on something she laughed, so that all her body shook, like the way some people do. That is her arms, body and face all moved in a rolling action. I thought that if she shook anymore, she would cause a minor earthquake.


‘Is Mr Ali all right?’ I asked.


‘Yes he is fine, why?’


‘Oh, he seemed upset about something this morning.’


‘Nothing to worry about, it is family problem. Nothing to worry.’


‘Where are you from Mrs Ali?’




I smiled.


‘What’s funny?’


‘Oh I thought it might have been more exotic, you know like Kashmir.’


‘Trust me Bradford is exotic! But you are right my family is from Kashmir. My niece has typical Kashmiri looks, you know, she is fair with sharp features, very pretty girl.’


The work progressed and we finished the digging and the pouring of the concrete. The men were just setting the drainpipes and carrying bricks to the back, when Mr Ali’s father came out again with his ladder. Six days had passed since his last ‘ladder visit’ and we knew what we had to do. Mr Ali’s father climbed the ladder with swiftness and leaned over the gutter with his arm. I didn’t like him climbing up the ladder and risking an accident, but he was one of them men who insisted on doing everything his way. He seemed to be up there a long time reaching for something and when we shouted whether we could help, he glared down at us and said nothing.


Leaning back, I saw him trying to find something with his hand on the roof tiles. He gave up at last and came down. There was no smile this time and no words, only a puzzled expression. He stared at me as if I was an accomplice in a crime and I thought he was going to lecture me. But he thought better of it, turned around and stormed off back into his house. I looked at the men and they looked back at me, and of course we all just burst out laughing. One of the men took the ladders down and put it out of the way.


Just as another long hard day of honest work was ending, Mr Ali arrived back from his work. He seemed to be in a good mood and more than once did he glance upon his roof with much satisfaction. He stroked his beard and then asked me.


‘Do you believe in God?’




‘That’s good. There’s hope for you. But you’re originally from India, yes … and as an Indian you have many gods.’


‘Yes that’s true. We thought having one god would be too boring.’ I smiled and added. ‘We also believe in one God but with many forms. He comes down to earth to bless his devotees and put the world to right.’


‘God doesn’t have a form or an image. This is where you are mistaken and unfortunately led down the wrong path. There’s only one true god – Allah. If you want to consider converting to Islam, I will help you.’


‘That’s very kind of you,’ I said. ‘But I don’t think I’m mistaken.’


‘I can give you an English Koran to read, it will help you.’


‘I’m not keen on converting just yet.’


‘The rewards would be very great for you. You would be saved. I see that you’re a good young man and my wife seems to think so too. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but we have a niece in mind for you … if only you might consider converting.’


‘I’m very flattered and I thank you. But I’m ok the way I am.’


‘It’s my duty to tell you this … I hope you don’t take it the wrong way.’


‘I don’t and I hope that you can accept that there are many ways to God.’


‘I think we shall agree to disagree,’ said Mr Ali.


‘That’s also fine by me.’


‘You should think about heaven, God and all those things. You know the big questions of life.’


‘I’m thinking about Friday and hope that you will pay us on time like we agreed. Heaven and God can wait.’


Mr Ali laughed. ‘Yes, yes, of course that goes without saying.’


‘Can I ask you something Mr Ali, why does your father keep going up to the roof? I don’t like it because he might fall and injure himself.’


‘He won’t go up anymore,’ said Mr Ali looking quite satisfied. ‘You see he kept going up there to cut the tv aerial.’


‘tv aerial?’


‘Yes, he thinks it’s against Islam to watch tv. He thinks it’s haram, but there are different interpretations to this. He would climb up there and cut the wire. In the evening, I would have to climb up and repair it. You know how children and wife love tv, isn’t it? This has been going on for some time. Finally I had the tv aerial wire raised and re-routed from the inside the loft. He can’t reach it from the outside.’


‘Your father certainly has his ways.’


‘Yes he has, but I respect him. He has his old thinking but he’s all right. That will be the end of the tv problem but he will find something else now,’ said Mr Ali with a smile.


Vijay Medtia attended the Commonword’s monthly advanced novelist group.  Over three years he developed his novel, House of Subadar at this group.  It was published by Arcadia in 2006 and went on to win impressive reviews and was shortlisted for the Glen Dimplex New Writers Award, Dublin.

His short stories have been published in the Migration Anthology, and his latest  Leaving the Reno’ was published in the Moss side Stories collection in 2012. His short story Maya was one of the winning entries in the Inspired by Tagore collection published by Sampad Organisation in Birmingham. He is presently working on several novels and a new short story collection.



‘Commonword gives writers a place to develop, receive critical feedback and opportunities to get published. Writing is a lonely business and Commonword has helped me become part of the wider writing community in Manchester and meet other good writers.’

Black and Asian Writers Conference and Festival 2016

The 8th Black and Asian Writers Conference and Festival will take place on the 8th of October 2016.

Cultureword’s National Black and Asian Writers Conference has been running for 30 years. This conference, the 8th one of it’s kind, will take place on Saturday,  8th October. This year’s Conference includes panels, stalls, performances, interviews, conversations, ruminating, crystal-ball gazing, and an evening festival including a stellar performance from Manchester’s very own Lemn Sissay.
The panels will discuss Afrofuturism, flash fiction, digital and immersive poetry, new directions in theatre and many more, all in a dispersed festival fashion.

Check out our facebook event for regular updates

To read more about the panelists go to :

Buy Tickets here

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Brilliant News: Arts Council England Approves Commonword’s NPO Status 2015-2018

ccw arts council news

Brilliant News: Arts Council England Approves Commonword’s NPO Status 2015-2018
Commonword has recently received news from Arts Council England that, following our official complaint and the Arts Council’s subsequent re-assessment of our application to become a National Portfolio Organisation for the years 2015-18, Commonword’s status as a National Portfolio Organisation has been fully approved.

Commonword’s Artistic Director, Pete Kalu said, “Commonword is delighted that our strategic importance in the literature eco-system, both regionally and nationally, has now been recognised by Arts Council England. Our track record of success in discovering, nurturing and promoting new writers is second to none. Our pioneering work ensuring new voices – especially those of hard to reach communities – are fostered and heard will now continue on a sure footing. It is our evidence-backed belief that the fostering of such voices is crucial not only to the reinvention and invigoration of literature in the UK but that such voices, by their unique insight into our society, also enhance the common good.”

“Alison Clark-Jenkins, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “Our investigation of the complaint made by Commonword showed that there had been inconsistencies in the way we had applied our processes. We have a fair and robust system in place to address complaints and to look again at our decisions when it is clear that our processes were not followed.

“Following the reassessment of Commonword’s application we are pleased to announce that it will be offered funding of £94,247 per year over the three years from 2015-18 as a National portfolio organisation. Commonword makes a valuable contribution to literature development, as a writing agency focused primarily on diversity and equality and developing talent.”

Commonword’s Chair, Deyika Nzeribe said, “we look forward to renewing our relationship with new writers and hard to reach communities in the North West. This decision will be to the benefit of hundreds of North West writers, particularly diverse and young writers. We thank everyone for their support and persistence during the difficult last six months.”

Further information from Commonword can be obtained from Commonword’s Artistic Director, Pete Kalu

Further information from Arts Council England can be obtained from Senior Manager, Advocacy and Communications, Julie Leather

Commonword’s news as a tweet: It’s morning at Commonword again. The night of evisceration has ended. ACE approves Commonword’s NPO funding 2015-18

Surveillance Short Fiction Anthology


Surveillance: The Anthology sets out to address this oversight. We are looking for short fiction of up to 5,000 words on the theme of surveillance.


Submissions and more information :

Surveillance Flyer

Levels of surveillance have grown phenomenally over the last 30 years, with associated changes in language and attitudes. We are now at the stage where the UK could be described as a surveillance society, with increasingly pervasive and intrusive forms of state and corporate surveillance now a part of our daily lives.

From the aggressively expanding concept of extremism to the daily harassment of black people and the working class, it is beyond doubt that the ideology and instruments of state surveillance have significantly eroded many of our previously accepted liberties. Similarly, corporate surveillance, either as a contracted extension of the state or as a self legitimising activity of consumer capitalism, exposes the fragile nature of both the idea and the enforcement of rights.

This erosion of privacy and civil liberties is sometimes justified in terms of making us a safer, more moral society, or in the name of championing consumer choice (as if consumerism is in itself a viable moral alternative). However, for many, the political and economic motivation of surveillance is better characterised as the protection of privilege. On this latter analysis, opponents of the new narratives find themselves criminalised as dangerous or infantilised as irresponsible.

Whilst environmental issues are commonly discussed and the subject of large and well organised protest movements, surveillance is only sporadically on the public agenda. There are few organisations expressing concern and outside of science fiction writing there is within literature a remarkable lack of engagement with the subject.


Surveillance Background Thinking And Examples

Surveillance in one form or another has always been with us, technology has simply extended the range and scope of what is possible. Underlying all forms of surveillance are ideas and beliefs regarding social order and control. For the most part this is codified and internalised through, for example, moral and religious beliefs, and is policed at the most basic level by the family and/or community watching and responding to the behaviour of its members.

With the evolution of the modern state the need for control in order to maintain state power and authority, and to maintain the alliances and enmities between states, has led to an increasing emphasis on technology along with a new narrative of ‘good’ and state responsibility. In a sense this is simply claiming for the state powers and authority previously reserved for god(s) – the power to see everything and the authority to decide what is good and bad. In the adoption of this ideology states have been aided by the global rise of corporations and the erosion of privacy in the name of consumerism and choice.

Opponents of the increase in surveillance argue that the fundamental reason that modern surveillance exists is to ensure that the interests of a small but powerful minority are naturalised and protected not only by the state but by society as a whole.
For the most part we no longer have a vision of what a world without surveillance would look like or what the harmful effects of surveillance are for the majority of the world’s population.
To help think about what this all means (whether you agree or disagree!) below are a few examples of the kind of technology driven surveillance that now exists.

• National Identity Card – doesn’t yet exist but is favoured by sections of the government, police, etc. Has been argued that photoID cards, such as the driving licence, are becoming National ID cards by the back door.
• Supermarket loyalty cards – track purchasing habits allowing the supermarkets to profile customers and ‘target’ services, offers, etc.
• Bank/credit card payments – as with loyalty cards, allow the tracking of purchasing habits.
• Facebook – monitors everything put on the site and actively encourages users to give up as much information as possible about themselves without any real consideration for privacy or ownership.
• Google – as with Facebook, monitors everyone/thing that uses its services.
• CCTV – now ubiquitous and seems to barely merit a second thought. Sold on the idea of increased safety whilst showing little or no overall impact on crime statistics.
• ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) – a national network of cameras which are able to recognise and track cars via their number plates. Sold as a public convenience – no longer require a tax disc – but undermines civil liberties, for example used to track and stop cars known to frequently go to legal demonstrations.
• Online tracking – most web based services and websites track as much personal data as possible.
• Mobile phones & apps – monitor and record location, internet usage, etc.
• GCHQ – everything. Monitor and record electronic communications to and from and across most of the UK. Data mining and profiling in order to identify ‘high risk’ individuals and groups.
• National databases, e.g. for benefit claims. Of particular concern is the national NHS database (NHS Care Records System) which has attracted criticism for eroding patient confidentiality and anonymity (e.g. when attending a GUM clinic).
• NINO – individual ID used to track all activity relating to benefits and taxes.
• Filming of demonstrations and use of Liaison Officers amongst crowd to gain ‘intelligence’.
• Private Investigators – used increasingly by the public as well as corporations to place people under surveillance for reasons not subject to scrutiny or any real sense of accountability.
• Media companies – E.g. News Corp, aggressively pursue and retain information on any ‘story’ they deem to be of interest. Includes clear infringements of privacy that cannot be justified in the public interest. Also obtain confidential information from the police.
• The cloud – transfer of more and more software and services online allows more control and more monitoring of both usage and data.