The Siobhan Dowd Trust

In 2003 I was trying to put together an anthology of short stories for young people about racism. I wanted to find someone who could write a story about Travellers, as it seemed to me they were one community that suffered a lot from prejudice. Eventually I found my way to someone called Siobhan Dowd, who had edited an anthology of songs and poems by travellers, and she asked if she could try her hand at a short story. The anthology is now out of print, but the tale she sent me for it – The Pavee and the Buffer – was so good that I sent Siobhan to my agent, Hilary Delamere, who took Siobhan on as a client. Siobhan then went on to write four of the most critically acclaimed young adult books of the last decade – A Swift Pure Cry, Bog Child, Solace of the Road, and The London Eye Mystery, all of which have been shortlisted for or won major prizes both in the UK and abroad.

Of course, what I didn’t know was that Siobhan was ill with breast cancer. In some ways writing the books was a race against time for her – she died in August 2007. But before she died she set up a Trust to use the money she had earned from her books to help ‘bring the joy of reading to under-privileged children’, and she asked me and several other friends and colleagues to act as Trustees. You can find out more about the Trust we set up – and of which I am now chair – here. So far we have made a number of grants to deserving causes, and we’re always looking for new projects. Contact us at


Writers’ organisations 

I’ve always been active in writers’ organisations – I’m a member of the Society of Authors (where I was chair of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group). The Writers’ Guild also does sterling work on behalf of the writing community. In 2007 I became a director of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and I’m currently vice-chair of the board. ALCS collects secondary rights money for authors – fees for the photocopying or scanning of our work in schools, colleges, universities and businesses; cable re-transmission of TV shows and films; foreign Public Lending Right payments; and fees from a variety of other sources. ALCS also works on behalf of writers, lobbying the government of writers and raising people’s awareness of the contribution of writers to society and the economy. Click here to find out more about the work of ALCS. I was also appointed to the board of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), an organisation that ALCS owns in conjunction with the Publishers’ Licensing Society, the body that represents publishers in this field. Click here to find out more about CLA.

I’d like to mention one other great organisation – The Public Lending Right Office. Authors won the right 30 years ago to be paid for loans of their books from public libraries, and the PLR Office was set up to administer the scheme. Since then it has been a boon to authors, bringing us news that our books are being read and a welcome payment. I sat on the PLR Advisory Committee for four years and like most authors who receive PLR, I have always been impressed by the knowledge and sheer efficiency of Registrar Jim Parker and his team in Stockton-on-Tees. But the current government wants to close the PLR Office and transfer its functions to another organisation – which to most people who know anything about PLR think is complete madness. Click here to find out more about PLR and what’s happening!


Useful links

Here are some other great organisations involved in the world of writing, children’s books and literacy.

The Society of Authors

Book Trust

The Scattered Authors Society

Book Trust Scotland