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Whittrick Press Launches with Award-Winning Author

Whittrick Press Launches with Award-Winning Author

News & Events

Northern Ireland’s newest digital publisher Whittrick Press launches this week with their first publication by award-winning novelist and playwright Bernie McGill.

Launching as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2013, Whittrick Press is releasing Sleepwalkers, a collection of short stories that has already been long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

Darkly moving and beautifully written, McGill’s debut collection of short stories explores the lives of women across the generations. From the storm-battered coastline of the north of Ireland to the sleeping villas of Andalusia, McGill’s characters grapple with the consequences of affairs, bereavement, alcoholism, illness and murder.

McGill said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that Whittrick has chosen Sleepwalkers as its first publication. In many ways, digital publishing feels like a natural fit for short story writing. This is a very exciting time.’

Founded by David Lewis and Hugh Odling-Smee, Whittrick Press sets out to bring new writing and new ideas to readers in innovative and interesting ways. It is also one of the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries Innovation Funding (CIIF) that aims to stimulate innovation, research and development and creativity in the Northern Ireland economy.

David Lewis explains the background to the new company: ‘Both Hugh and I have talked about setting up a publishers for years. With the advent of digital technology, it’s now possible to produce e-book titles relatively cheaply and distribute them to readers around the world through platforms such as Amazon, iBooks and Kobo.

‘Whittrick Press brings the traditional values of literary publishing to the digital age, working with writers to package their work in the most appropriate formats, whether that’s an e-book, an app or a limited edition print copy.’

With an eye-catching brand created by renowned artist and designer Rory Jeffers and submissions already pouring in, the team intend Whittrick Press to become synonymous with quality, interactivity, innovation and literary excellence.

Odling-Smee explains the meaning behind the distinctive name. ‘The name is from the Scots word for weasel, “whittrick”. We chose the name after being inspired by the title of a poem of the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan “Whittrick in 13 Dialogues”.

‘The poem is about the joy and colour that art brings to our humdrum lives. The rare glimpse of a beautiful creature such as a whittrick is the spirit we want to express in our publishing, creating a lasting bond with the reader.’

Whittrick Press intends to bring 20 e-books to the market by the end of 2014, with plans to develop a non-fiction imprint as well as developing new products to enhance the reading experience.

With backgrounds in digital communications, literature and event management, the Whittrick team are well-placed to bring about the company’s aims of ‘seeking out authentic voices and new writing talent, and producing high quality, thought-provoking and beautiful e-books’.

Damian Smyth, Head of Drama & Literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

‘At the Arts Council we want to put our support firmly behind local companies and to help them develop and transform their creative ideas into commercial success.  The source of our wealth, job creation and economic competitiveness is shifting to our burgeoning creative sector and we need to make these businesses as best equipped as possible to compete at the forefront of the global market.

‘David and Hugh have clearly used their combined skills and experience to establish Whittrick Press.  The potential is bright for digital publishing and we wish them all the success for the future.’

Whittrick Press and Bernie McGill will be launching Sleepwalkers on Thursday May 9 at 7pm on the Belfast Barge as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Whittrick Press has an open submissions policy, meaning anyone can submit work to be considered. Visit www.whittrickpress.com for details on the submission process.

The Creative Industries, which includes innovation in the areas of film, craft, digital media and publishing, currently employ over 31,000 people in Northern Ireland and generate £737million annually.   The Arts Council has funded the development of Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries since 2008.


  • Whittrick Press (www.whittrickpress.com) is a new digital publishing company based in Northern Ireland, founded by David Lewis and Hugh Odling-Smee.
  • David Lewis has more than 15 years’ experience of print and online journalism and interactive media. He is the Director of Communications & Digital Content at the Nerve Centre and has been director of the Culture Northern Ireland website (www.culturenorthernireland.org) since 2005. He was co-founder and director of the first Belfast Book Festival in 2009. He is a governor of the Linen Hall Library, director of the North West Business Complex in Derry~Londonderry, and has published short fiction with Lagan and Stinging Fly Presses.
  • Hugh Odling-Smee has played a key role in developing and making popular the literary heritage of Belfast for almost 15 years. As Theatre Archivist at the Linen Hall Library and Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Hugh pioneered using modern technology to access information on NI’s rich performing arts tradition. Hugh is director of the Belfast Book Festival at the Crescent Arts Centre and founder of the Belfast Literary Tours.
  • Bernie McGill has pursued a diverse career in the arts, as a theatre company manager, writing facilitator and writer for theatre. Her novel The Butterfly Cabinet, published by Headline Review in 2010, was widely praised by critics and named by Julian Fellowes, writer of Downton Abbey, as his novel of the year in 2012. She was the winner in 2008 of the Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest in the US and her short stories have been shortlisted for numerous prizes. Bernie lives in Portstewart, Northern Ireland, with her family.
  • Project supported by the Creative Industries Innovation Fund.
  • The Creative Industries Innovation Fund provides seed funding to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship; to expand the skills and knowledge base; to help develop new markets; and to support existing and emerging creative enterprises to expand their businesses, particularly into global markets, thereby increasing both turnover and job creation.
  • CIIF priorities over 2011-15 are:
    • Digital content
    • Export-focused activity
    • Cross-sectoral collaboration
    • Innovative and entreprenurial potential of NI’s culture arts and leisure base
  • The Creative Industries Innovation Fund was established in 2008 with an investment from DCAL of £5million.  To date the Arts Council has successfully funded nearly 250 projects with an investment of approximately £4.5 million.
Written by David Lewis

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