David Cohen Prize and Clarissa Luard Award announced

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On the evening of 8 November 2017 we hosted the awards ceremony for the David Cohen Prize for Literature and the Clarissa Luard Award for Independent Publishers.

Perseverance, courage and innovation triumphed as the Clarissa Luard Award for Independent Publishers was awarded to:

Peepal Tree Press

Peepal Tree Press had been shortlisted along with three other independent publishers: Lantana Publishing, Little Toller Books and Penned in the Margins. The award received many inspiring submissions which showcase the innovation and quality of independent publishing today. The judges were particularly impressed by Peepal Tree Press’ tenacity in a challenging market, and by its innovative proposal for the £10,000 prize money.

Peepal Tree Press was founded in Leeds in 1985 to publish the best of international writing from the Caribbean, its diasporas and the UK, as well as Black British fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Its proposed project is to inaugurate a fortnightly radio-style programme, delivered as a podcast, entitled The New Caribbean Voices, in honour of the BBC radio programme, Caribbean Voices, which was between 1945-1958 and reached a size and diversity of audience that has not been achieved since. We can’t wait to see what they do.

As one of the judges, Sharmaine Lovegrove literary editor at Elle and publisher of Dialogue Books at Little, Brown Book Group, said:

“This award highlights the importance of independent publishing in our society and shines a light on its brilliance and dynamism across the country. The winners Peepal Tree Press are courageous and original in their publishing, bold in their future ambitions and truly deserve this award.”

The David Cohen Prize for Literature is unique in that it is made in recognition of the entire body of work of a UK or Irish writer. The biennial prize, of £40,000, is for a lifetime’s achievement and is donated by the John S Cohen Foundation. The prize was established in 1992 and first awarded in 1993 and is one of the UK’s most distinguished literary prizes. This evening it was awarded to one of our greatest living playwrights:

Tom Stoppard

As chair of the judges Mark Lawson said this evening, “Stoppard’s work is built on foundations of electrifying dialogue, vivid stage-pictures, literary and historical perception, and roles that allow actors unusual verbal and emotional scope. It is another mark of the literary merit of Tom Stoppard that the judges who met his plays mainly on the page were just as enthusiastic as those who had spent numerous evenings with them in the dark. Two decades after Harold Pinter was an early winner of the David Cohen Prize, the award marks its Silver Jubilee by honouring a second giant of contemporary British drama.”

Tom Stoppard was born Tomás Straussler on 3 July 1937 in Zlín, Czechoslovakia. At the age of 29, Stoppard was the youngest dramatist ever to have a play performed at the National Theatre (based at that time at the Old Vic), with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play that was revived at the NT on its 50th anniversary earlier this year. This launched a career that would see him rise to his position as one of the most acclaimed playwrights of the modern age, with works such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul and The Real Thing.

Stoppard has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, and across countless topics: from metaphysics and quantum mechanics to moral philosophy and moon landings, the pain of adultery and the excitement of love, linguistics and philosophy. He has also written passionately across human rights, censorship and political freedom. It is this extraordinary range of writing and quality of work throughout his literary career that made him a overwhelming choice for the judges.

We hope you’ll join us in raising a toast to our respective winners this evening, Peepal Tree Press and Tom Stoppard, as well as to our very worthy shortlisted publishers and both awards’ thoughtful and diligent judges.