Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Siobhan Dowd Trust

The Siobhan Dowd Trust is the dying bequest of the celebrated children’s author Siobhan Dowd. Just before her tragic death from cancer in August 2007 she personally and energetically supervised its foundation, to support, in all ways possible, disadvantaged young readers in the UK and Ireland. It was one of the very last things on Siobhan’s mind and clearly for her the most pressing cause in our society today.

The aims of the trust are simple and direct:
To take stories to our children without stories.
To bring the joy of reading to our children deprived of reading.
To bring books to our children deprived of books.
To fund disadvantaged readers where there is no funding, and to support disadvantaged readers where there is no support.
To fund and support any persons or organizations who help disadvantaged young readers.

The Trustees believe that the best and truest way faithfully to observe Siobhan’s last wish is to invite applications from persons or organizations in the UK or Ireland who need funding to directly help disadvantaged young readers. The Trustees will take a few months to consider and evaluate applications and then begin to disburse awards in the way that best seems to follow Siobhan’s wishes. By the terms of Siobhan’s will, all royalty income derived from her published novels and any posthumously published work will go to the Trust. The Trustees believe that Siobhan’s generosity will be the seed of something much larger, and so the Trust also welcomes donations from the public. The aspiration is to help as many disadvantaged young people as possible.

The Trustees are in no doubt of the importance of this bequest and its fundamental urgency for our children and for the future culture of the British Isles and Ireland. We may think we live in a literate society but, as Siobhan was well aware, there are too many places in our own ‘house’ where children are denied the opportunity to read. This is a charity that must begin at home, a home that, like Siobhan’s life, spans both sides of the Irish Sea.

A brief note on Siobhan: Siobhan spent most of her career looking after writers. Working for PEN she fought to help writers silenced by oppressive regimes around the world. Closer to home, she did all she could to get reading material into the hands of disadvantaged young people from all walks of life, for example encouraging people in young offenders’ institutes to read, and youngsters from the Romany culture to record their history. Her support for, and encouragement of, her fellow-writers was inexhaustible.

In some ways perhaps she sacrificed her own brimming talent for the benefit of other authors. And then, just as she discovered she was fatally ill, she put pen to paper and produced four of the most remarkable novels for children you could wish for. She was a writing phenomenon. The overriding thought of all those who knew her work is that her loss to the world of children’s writing is a tragedy. It is utterly characteristic that Siobhan should, at the end, put her mind unerringly to the most deserving group of all: the young reader. Siobhan realized that our literary culture - critics, bookshops, agents, publishing, libraries, schools - depends ultimately on the reader. And, of readers, the young reader is the most vulnerable. And amongst young readers, the disadvantaged young reader is the most deprived of all. Siobhan, at the last, and with all her usual clarity, decided to help them. And you can help them too.

The Siobhan Dowd Trust Books A Swift Pure Cry The London Eye Mystery Bog Child Solace(to be published in 2009)

The Trustees Tony Bradman Rachel Billington Polly Nolan David Fickling

Just click for more details about the Trust, about how to donate and about how to apply for support

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