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Diversity and entrepreneurialism: PN Review, feminism and the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1973-1990
journal contributionposted on 28.06.2021, 14:13 by Lise Jaillant
This article examines the evolution of PN Review, a leading Manchester-based poetry magazine, in relation to second-wave feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. Largely funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, the magazine was initially not a welcoming place for female poets and contributors. Women’s poetry was often disparaged, and few women contributed to the magazine. From the early 1980s, however, PN Review started to include more women voices – a transition led by the founding editor Michael Schmidt, who was eager to include forgotten and neglected female poets on his list. This essay argues that changes in public funding, and increased market opportunities for women authors and feminist ideas, forced the magazine to evolve and adapt quickly. Women were taking a more visible role in the publishing world, as the success of the feminist press Virago (created in 1973) shows. Women poets were becoming more vocal, and openly denounced their marginalisation in the poetry scene. The funding cuts decided by Margaret Thatcher’s government led to profound changes as Arts Council ‘clients’ competed fiercely to survive in a tough landscape. Changing priorities at the Arts Council– including the need for more diversity in publishing – also had an impact on grant holders. PN Review therefore offers a good example of a literary institution that was directly pushed towards gender diversity through external pressures from the Arts Council of Great Britain and the market.
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