Stormzy is considered a pioneer in the UK rap industry, but his latest project is more readily associated with the literary charts than the billboard ones.
The ‘Shut Up’ star has just put together the first #Merky Books two-day literature festival in Camden, London. For those of you who don’t know, #Merky Books was launched by the rapper and Penguin Random House UK in 2018 with the intention of telling diverse stories.
The festival took place on the 22nd and 23rd of April. It was headlined by Noughts and Crosses writer, Malorie Blackman, songwriter Wretch 32, and John Agard. Many of the sessions throughout the two days were designed to open up the literary industry to those who feel like it’s a closed shop.
Taylor-Dior Rumble was the first writer to be signed to #Merky Books in 2018, with her novel The Situationship receiving critical acclaim. She spoke to the BBC about the importance of events like this.
She said: “It makes the world of publishing feel a lot more accessible. (Without events like this, it feels) very posh, very white, very upper middle class. And for me personally, it just feels kind of like a world away from what I’m used to and what I’ve grown up in”.
Malorie Blackman also discussed the importance for unsigned writers to see events like this demonstrating that their ambition isn’t an impossible goal.
When speaking to The Guardian, she said: “There’s a lot of people who still feel that you either have to have a whole spider’s network of connections, or you have to have parents with deep pockets to get a foot in the door. And while that does help in every industry, I think it’s not the only way in. I think that’s an incredibly important message to get out there.”
The award-winning Afro-Guyanese playwright, poet, and children’s writer, John Agard, also spoke at the event. He has previously discussed the importance of both the festival and #Merky Books as a whole: “It is vital for young people in their reading space, to hear different voices. And it’s a very commendable initiative as it opens opportunities for young writers”.
He added: “What this initiative is doing is extending the repertoire of their voice and extending their ability to engage with the page and from the page, you can lead up to the stage.”