Impact case study: Benjamin Myers

“Winning a Northern Writers’ Award was the first crucial step in my writing career”

“When I [write], I feel free”

A former music journalist, Benjamin Myers began writing fiction in the early 2010s. In 2013, he won a Northern Writers’ Award for his novel, Beastings. The book went on to win the Portico Prize for Literature and was longlisted for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize.

Ben’s Northern Writers’ Award included a cash prize of £5,000 but also access to talent development opportunities to support him progress his writing career. Winning the prize was the start of a close and long-lasting relationship between Ben, New Writing North, and his then publisher, Bluemoose (an award-winning independent publisher based in Yorkshire).

Ben’s success reached new, more mainstream, heights in 2017 with the publication of his historical novel, The Gallows Pole (Bluemoose), which draws on real events that happened in and around the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire in the late 18th century. The story follows a gang of forgers who clip coins and melt the shavings down to make new ones – an offence then punishable by death – to support indebted villagers. The Gallows Pole was widely acclaimed. In 2018, it won the Walter Scott Prize – the world’s leading award for historical fiction. It was later adapted into a three-part BBC TV series by filmmaker Shane Meadows (This Is England). Commercial publisher Bloomsbury acquired Ben’s work – commissioning his next three novels: The Offing, The Perfect Golden Circle, and Cuddy.

Eight years after winning his award, Ben and New Writing North announced the establishment of the Finchale Award, funded by the writer, to help other writers. “I always vowed that if I were in a position to give back the £5,000 prize money via an annual competition, I would…” he said.