Northern Fiction Alliance says publishing industry should move north

A group of independent fiction publishers from across northern England has called on the book industry to be less “London-centric”.

The Northern Fiction Alliance (NFA) said in an open letter big publishers should “set up outside of London”.

Publishers need to “better reflect its readers and society”, it said.

Penguin Random House UK said: “In the past few years we have put a number of different schemes and initiatives in place to reduce barriers to entry.”

The NFA said the industry should be “diversifying our workforces and, perhaps more importantly, dispersing across the UK in order to better engage with and embolden a new generation of writers, readers and aspiring publishers”.

London-based Penguin Random House said it had removed the need for a university degree from all jobs, introduced paid work-experience and held careers talks across the country.

The company’s WriteNow scheme finds talented new writers from under-represented communities and is mentoring 23 writers “61% of whom are based outside London and we have already offered five of these writers publishing deals”, added the spokesperson.

Joanne Harris, the Barnsley-born writer of Chocolat who is published in more than 50 countries, said there was “a systematic leeching of resources by the current government from the provinces in general.

“Arts cuts, library closures, museum and theatre closures, etc all based on the idea that only London matters.”

Ann Chadwick, of Cause UK representing the Harrogate Crime Writing festival, said the idea of a northern base for big publishers was a “brilliant idea”.

Ms Chadwick said the annual festival, showed the north could have “that kind of impact” and confirmed “life outside London”.

Hannah Bannister, of Peepal Tree Press from Leeds, said: “Power is concentrated in London and the South East and publishing is dominated by a handful of large corporations but there is more creativity than they can cope with.”

Ms Bannister said a potential author in the north faced problems if he or she “couldn’t afford the ticket to London”.

The NFA was formed in 2016 and includes 11 independent publishers.

These are Comma Press (Manchester), Peepal Tree Press (Leeds), Dead Ink Books (Liverpool), And Other Stories (Sheffield), Saraband (Salford), Blue Moose (Hebden Bridge) Tilted Axis (Sheffield) Mayfly (Newcastle), Route (Pontefract), Valley Press (Scarborough) and Wrecking Ball (Hull).

Sheffield City Council calls temporary halt to tree work

Sheffield City Council is to call a temporary halt to its tree replacement work, the BBC understands.

Campaigners say the council has cut down a number of healthy trees among the thousands felled since 2012.

The BBC’s Dino Sofos told the Daily Politics show there would be “no felling for the next few weeks” while those involved discussed the issue.

The news comes after Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he would do “anything required” to stop the work.

The BBC has approached Sheffield City Council for a comment.

More stories from across Yorkshire

Mr Sofos said he understood there would be a pause in the felling during the Easter holidays.

“What I’m hearing is, during that period both sides are going to get around the table because [the situation] is unsustainable,” he said.

It is understood that work such as pruning will continue during the hiatus but no trees will be cut down.

The tree-felling is part of the £2bn 25-year Streets Ahead project, which is being carried out by contractor Amey and has seen about 5,500 trees cut down since 2012.

The council says the trees have been assessed as dead, dying, diseased, damaging or dangerous, and each tree cut down will be replaced.

However, campaigners say healthy trees have also been lost.

The dispute has led to a series of stand-offs between protestors, contractors, private security staff and police, with a number of campaigners arrested and a court injunction imposed as a result.

Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Conservative MP for Chichester Gillian Keegan said: “It does seem ridiculous. The whole country is covered with tree-lined streets that have these problems with roots and trying to keep flat pavements.

“This is something every other council deals with. What on earth is happening [in Sheffield], to have police on the streets, for this to have escalated in to such a big deal? This happens day in, day out across the country.”

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Stem cell transplant ‘game changer’ for MS patients

Doctors say a stem cell transplant could be a “game changer” for many patients with multiple sclerosis.

Results from an international trial show that it was able to stop the disease and improve symptoms.

It involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.

Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham, is now symptom-free and told me: “It feels like a miracle.”

A total of 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Just over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

They all had relapsing remitting MS – where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

The patients received either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment.

After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.

After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.

Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.

Prof Richard Burt, lead investigator, Northwestern University Chicago, told me: “The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs – the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that.”


Multiple sclerosis

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord
  • It can cause problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance
  • Average life expectancy is slightly reduced
  • It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK

    Source: NHS


    The treatment uses chemotherapy to destroy the faulty immune system.

    Stem cells taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow are then re-infused.

    These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.

    Prof John Snowden, haematologist and director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis”.

    Prof Basil Sharrack, neurologist and director of MS research at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “This is interim analysis, but with that caveat, this is the best result I have seen in any trial for multiple sclerosis.”

    ‘Lived in fear’

    Louise was diagnosed with MS in 2010 when she was only 28.

    She told me: “MS ruled my life and I lived in fear of the next relapse.

    “The worst time was not being able to get out of bed because I had no stability in my body – I struggled to walk and even spent time in a wheelchair.

    “It also affected my cognition – it was like a brain fog and I misread words and struggled to keep up with conversations.”

    The BBC’s Panorama filmed her undergoing her transplant in October 2015 and she is now back to full health.

    She got married to her partner Steve, on the first anniversary of her transplant, and their baby daughter Joy is now a month old.

    “I feel like my diagnosis was just a bad dream. I live every day as I want to, rather than planning my life around my MS.”

    The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs.

    Doctors stress it is not suitable for all MS patients and the process can be gruelling, involving chemotherapy and a few weeks in isolation in hospital.

    Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT “will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England – and when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it”.

    She added: “We’ve seen life-changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.”

    Follow Fergus on Twitter.

    View comments

Stem cell transplant ‘game changer’ for MS patients

Doctors say a stem cell transplant could be a “game changer” for many patients with multiple sclerosis.

Results from an international trial show that it was able to stop the disease and improve symptoms.

It involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.

Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham, is now symptom-free and told me: “It feels like a miracle.”

A total of 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Just over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

They all had relapsing remitting MS – where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

The patients received either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment.

After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.

After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.

Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.

Prof Richard Burt, lead investigator, Northwestern University Chicago, told me: “The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs – the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that.”


Multiple sclerosis

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord
  • It can cause problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance
  • Average life expectancy is slightly reduced
  • It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK

    Source: NHS


    The treatment uses chemotherapy to destroy the faulty immune system.

    Stem cells taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow are then re-infused.

    These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.

    Prof John Snowden, haematologist and director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis”.

    Prof Basil Sharrack, neurologist and director of MS research at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “This is interim analysis, but with that caveat, this is the best result I have seen in any trial for multiple sclerosis.”

    ‘Lived in fear’

    Louise was diagnosed with MS in 2010 when she was only 28.

    She told me: “MS ruled my life and I lived in fear of the next relapse.

    “The worst time was not being able to get out of bed because I had no stability in my body – I struggled to walk and even spent time in a wheelchair.

    “It also affected my cognition – it was like a brain fog and I misread words and struggled to keep up with conversations.”

    The BBC’s Panorama filmed her undergoing her transplant in October 2015 and she is now back to full health.

    She got married to her partner Steve, on the first anniversary of her transplant, and their baby daughter Joy is now a month old.

    “I feel like my diagnosis was just a bad dream. I live every day as I want to, rather than planning my life around my MS.”

    The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs.

    Doctors stress it is not suitable for all MS patients and the process can be gruelling, involving chemotherapy and a few weeks in isolation in hospital.

    Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT “will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England – and when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it”.

    She added: “We’ve seen life-changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.”

    Follow Fergus on Twitter.

    View comments