Our work at ELNet is never intended to be openly political but – I think our name is a giveaway – we are in favour of European culture and support as many pro-Europe (not necessarily pro-EU) campaigns as possible. With the usual caveats: yes, reform the EU but don’t abandon it; yes, change is good but not regression, and so on. You know the arguments. You’ll have your own ideas. But these past few weeks, as I walked past Parliament to Europe House for meetings, these enthusiastic pro-Europe flag-fliers lifted my spirits. Generally though I’ve been extremely worried: the situation post-Brexit for arts, languages, libraries and literature in the UK is dire. It is quite dire without Brexit but there isn’t a single statistic that states the situation might improve. I know several groups and organisations with outstanding people and projects (you all for starters) trying to reverse negative trends and at least make sure that the arts are ‘on the table’. But I know from listening to many of you in recent months that you want more – more effective networks, infrastructures, funding and development for independent publishers, bookshops and booksellers; for the low-paid freelancers, writers, performers, moderators and translators. Many of you are deeply concerned about the issue of pay in the UK. As a freelance ‘creative’, in spite of my so-called public profile and BBC career, the MAJORITY of organisations I work for expect me to work for free or for very little money. I am not alone. So, with all the shameful, arrogant, expensive and time-wasting party-political wrangling over the EU and Brexit who is flying the flag for literature and languages, culture and creativity?
We held one of our regular ELNet meetings on June 20th at Europe House (what will we do without THAT bastion of creativity and free thinking post-2019?) and you expressed a desire for a big public debate on Culture and Brexit. You may recall that I organised the CULTURE MATTERS debate just before the Referendum in 2016 with a panel of literary luminaries. Would you like to repeat this? End of November? Would you support us in making this bigger and better? Send your thoughts to us via our ELNet email: email@example.com. I can’t do this alone.
On other matters: things are going well (!): it’s full steam ahead in all our Literally Swiss and 12 Swiss Books work with the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia and – if you’d like to get involved do get in touch. We have also just launched our 2019 EBRD Literature Prize and I’m delighted to welcome Ted Hodgkinson, Samantha Schnee and Gabriel Gbadamosi to my judging panel. Then, I attended the opening of the new National Centre for Writing in Norwich under the auspices of the Great Gribble: lots of lovely projects planned for all of us there. I also went to the Future Library in Norway with Elif Shafak. I continue to present my monthly books podcast The Words, a joy for me, returning me to BBC broadcasting roots. It’s a clever format, professional and free. Subscribe or listen here.
Some more positive news: Wonderful West (Camel) has agreed to take over as Editor of our RivetingReviews – online and in print. He and I have collaborated on ELNet for several years and I couldn’t wish for a better Editor. I will still wave my Rosie The Riveter fist as I oversee our growing empire of European enthusiasts. NB. RivetingReviews deadline for July is 9th, for publication on 13th; for August, the deadline is 13th, for publication on 17th. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for reviews, and Amazing Anna (Blasiak) for all other ELNnet matters. Not only do we have plans to expand and improve reviews (another issue close to your heart) but we will continue to publish our wonderful Riveter magazine too (funding permitting): a Swiss Riveter in December, a Romanian Riveter in 2019, followed, we hope, by a Queer Riveter and Kids Riveter.
Do put September 20th, 2018 in your diaries for our next European Literature Network meeting, at Europe House in London. Then December 3rd for both a SWISS networking meeting in the afternoon and EUROPEAN meeting in the evening. Thank you to Jeremy O’Sullivan of Europe House for your generosity. A reminder that we hold these meetings – and do everything – for you.
Enjoy your summers – whether at your Festivals in Edinburgh or Bradford or Mantua, or cycling through Nepal, or sitting on Italian mountaintops drinking Prosecco – which is where I will be! See you in September!
Rosie The Riveter