Together with its sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management, The Folio Prize Foundation is delighted to announce the Rathbones Folio Mentorships, in association with First Story.

The Folio Academy, over 250 strong, is the group of outstanding writers and critics who form the Prize’s unique, de facto governing body. Now, with the launch of the Mentorships programme, it will start to undertake a more dynamic and wide-ranging role.

First Story, founded by former teacher Katie Waldegrave and the writer William Fiennes, brings talented, professional writers into over 70 secondary schools serving low-income communities, to work with teachers and students to foster creativity and communication skills.

The first Rathbones Folio Mentorships programme was launched in September 2017. Four outstanding First Story students have been selected and paired with this year’s four mentors – AL Kennedy, Kamila Shamsie, Ross Raisin, and Evie Wyld. The four mentors and their mentees will meet face-to-face throughout the 2017/18 academic year, in addition to corresponding on-line. Over the course of the year the mentees will work on an agreed writing project, culminating in a showcase event for the public at the British Library, in the weekend leading up to the Rathbones Folio Prize Ceremony, in May.

The Rathbones Folio Mentorship scheme has been made possible by the generous funding of Arts Council England.

From the outset, our ambition was that this should be more than ‘just a prize’, with the unique resource of the Folio Academy being ideally placed to engage the public in exploring the power and potential of writing to transform lives.

Andrew Kidd and Kate Harvey, co-founders of The Folio Prize, say: ‘From the outset, our ambition was that this should be more than ‘just a prize’, with the unique resource of the Folio Academy being ideally placed to engage the public in exploring the power and potential of writing to transform lives. This engagement is a key priority for Rathbones as well, and together with them and First Story we are thrilled to be launching a new mentorships programme – the first of numerous initiatives we will roll out over the coming months and years.’

Philip Howell, CEO of Rathbone Brothers plc, says: ‘The Rathbones Folio Prize not only recognises outstanding literary work, it also supports programmes that nurture new talent: a quality we greatly value at Rathbones. We have always been a strong supporter of youth development – be it through our financial awareness programme or our sponsorship of schools lacrosse – and are delighted to be able to continue this tradition with the Rathbones Folio Mentorships, which will help future generations discover and develop their talent.’

Ross Raisin, Rathbones Folio Mentor (and previously a writer-in-residence for First Story), said: ‘As a teacher of young people, and also a mentor of writers, this role will combine two of my most gratifying work engagements, so I am delighted to be involved in the scheme and excited to begin.’

Mónica Parle, Executive Director of First Story, says: ‘First Story believes writing is a source of power and pleasure, and we are delighted to be partnering with The Rathbones Folio Prize to transform the lives of secondary school students. Working with Folio Academicians to nurture the most talented First Story students presents an unparalleled opportunity for them to develop their skills and find their own voices. We hope this will also contribute to the diversity of the publishing world, as the young people we work with come from backgrounds often not represented in mainstream publishing.’

A L Kennedy was born in Dundee and has won over a dozen major prizes for her work, comprising 17 books of literary fiction, non-fiction, short stories and children’s literature; her most recent novel, Serious Sweet, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She also writes drama for BBC Radio and occasionally appears on stage as a stand-up comedian. She lives in Essex.

Kamila Shamsie was born in Pakistan and now lives in London. She is an award-winning novelist and an acclaimed essayist and media commentator whose most recent book, Home Fire, was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

Ross Raisin was born in Yorkshire and arrived on the literary scene with his first novel, God’s Own Country, which won him the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and was shortlisted for three other prizes. Since then he has published two more critically acclaimed novels, most recently A Natural.

Evie Wyld was born in London and grew up in Australia.  She studied creative writing at Bath Spa and Goldsmiths University and her two novels, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice and All the Birds, Singing, have won and been shortlisted for numerous awards. She also runs Review, a small independent bookshop in South London.