The Spare Room Project is marking its two-year anniversary by re-launching with a fresh identity, a new sponsor and a call to arms for at least 50 new people across the industry to sign up as hosts. Supported by new sponsor Penguin Random House UK, the Spare Room Project wants to encourage more individuals in publishing, including agents and authors, to get involved with the programme to help further break down barriers to entry to the industry.
Established in 2016 with the support of the Publishers Association, the Spare Room Project aims to address the lack of regional diversity in the industry and diversify the historically London-centric talent pool. It matches interns and people doing work experience from outside London with people working in the publishing and wider book industry, who can offer them a spare room or a spare bed for free for one week. Acting like a free Airbnb, the project enables people to take up internships that would otherwise have been financially difficult.
The Spare Room Project has already had enormous success since it was launched, helping over 70 interns find free accommodation. The project already has worked with 60 hosts from the industry, including staff from over 30 different publishers as well as agents and authors; some with spare rooms, some with spare sofas; some in houses, some in flats, one on a houseboat.
The need for the project is clear: in a survey of 23 users, almost 40% said it would have been impossible for them to take up their placement without free accommodation, with a further 30% unsure if it would have been possible. Furthermore, over half those surveyed have since found a job in the publishing industry; demonstrating the importance of the Spare Room Project in supporting new and diverse talent acquisition. Currently, the project does not have enough hosts to support the number of people applying as guests and is having to turn away at least five people each month.
The project urgently needs more spare rooms/beds and is looking for 50 new hosts from across the industry - if you can help, or to find out more information, please visit thespareroomproject.co.uk.
James Spackman, founder of the Spare Room Project, said: “Despite the name, you don’t even need a spare room to be a host; we want to hear from anyone who can welcome an aspirant new starter in publishing, even if you’re offering them a sofa or your room while you’re on holiday. We’ve seen that it works, no matter what the host’s living situation may be: whether you have pets, other flatmates, or small children, we’re keen to work with you.
“We see this as a very practical, and easy, way for people across the industry – no matter what area of publishing they work in – to get involved in opening doors to those people outside London who might otherwise not have the opportunity to experience working in the wonderful world of books. Hosts also tell us how rewarding they find it to give new starters some informal mentoring; passing on useful experience and advice. We are very grateful to Penguin Random House UK for coming on board to help the programme continue to grow and develop.”
Emma House, Deputy CEO of the Publishers Association, added: “We are proud to have supported this fantastic initiative since its launch in 2016. Tackling regional diversity is a key aim of our work to promote diversity and inclusion in the publishing workplace and this grassroots project is a great example of that. We thank all of the Spare Roomers who have participated so far and look forward to working closely with James to continue our support of the project in the future.”
Talking about her experiences as a host, Beth Coates, Publishing Director for Vintage Editorial, Penguin Random House UK, said: “I so enjoyed hosting my Spare Room Project guest, Aimee, when she came to do work experience in London. Aimee was a great house guest, and hosting her was genuinely a pleasure - and it felt great to give over our spare room to such a positive cause.”
Some of those who have stayed as guests through the Spare Room Project also had the following to say:
“I learnt as much from my hosts about the industry as I did during my work experience. Also, being from outside London, it was a great way to experience big city life! I’m endlessly grateful for the Spare Room Project and my hosts; I know I wouldn’t have my present job without them.”
“Not only does The Spare Room Project enable aspiring publishers to get a foot in the door of what has long been a London-centric industry, but it provides a vital network of publishers through which connections can be made outside of the workplace.”
“It was fantastic - the Spare Room Project allowed me to intern for longer than I could have afforded to on my own and provided me with a far more insightful experience (living with a publishing professional / London local was helpful beyond words).”