Northern Writers’ Awards 2011: 16 writers share £28,000 prize pot

Posted by

A bumper crop of Northern writing talent has been unveiled at the annual Northern Writers’ Awards ceremony, recognising promising new writers from the north east of England. The awards were announced at a special ceremony at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland on Tuesday 12 July. The venue was chosen to celebrate the Awards’ new sponsor, Sunderland University, which joins The Leighton Group and Arts Council England in funding the prestigious talent-spotting programme.

The awards are given to both new writers of promise and to established writers.

Poetry was particularly praised this year, with published poets Peter Bennet from Hexham, Northumberland, and Colette Bryce and Anna Woodford, both from Newcastle, winning Time to Write awards to support them in finishing their next collections.

The established poets are joined by five new poetry talents, who each win a Northern Promise Award, intended to recognise raw talent in writers at the early stages of their career. The winners in this category are Luke Allan, from Newcastle, Daniel Hardisty, from Newcastle, Wendy Heath, from North Shields, Amy Mackelden, from Gateshead, and Andrew Sclater, from Embleton in Northumberland.

The final poetry winner is Jake Campbell, from South Shields, who wins the Andrew Waterhouse Award, given in honour of the talented Northumberland poet who died in 2001.

The amount shared between the poets totalled £14,000.

Judging the poetry, award-winning poet Jacob Polley underlined the importance of support in a poet’s career: “The art of poetry in the North East has done extremely well this year, and in these very difficult times – when poets are not only losing their publishers, but seeing these suddenly unfunded publishers unable to continue any publishing at all, when the Poetry Book Society has had its funding cut, when writers and artists across the country are facing questions not only about the quality but the very necessity of their work – we can be proud that poets are thriving and supported in this place, or are growing up here and discovering, along with their talent, just how this place thrives.”

The awards entries for prose were judged by literary agent Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates in Edinburgh, and Costa award-winning novelist Catherine O’Flynn. Fiction writers between them shared the remaining £14,000 in prize money.

Both prose judges were particularly impressed with the standard of submissions of books for children and teenagers. Three of the six winners are authors writing for this age group: Niel Bushnell, from Hartlepool, Danny O’Connor from Marton on Teesside and Newcastle-based Gavin Williams.

Adult fiction writers Alan Remfry, from Stanhope in County Durham, and Alison Gangel, a teacher from Gateshead, were also given awards for their novels. Short story writer Paul O’Neill, from Whitburn, was given a Time to Write award in order to help him finish his short story collection.

The final award was given to Shelley Day Sclater, who this year wins the Andrea Badenoch Award for Fiction. This annual award was established by the family and friends of Andrea Badenoch, a gifted novelist who died of breast cancer at the height of her literary career. It supports women writers over the age of 42, the age Andrea was when she submitted her first novel to a publisher.

This year’s awards were made possible thanks to a new sponsorship deal with Sunderland University, supporting the awards and wider writing activity on Wearside. They join Sunderland-based technology firm The Leighton Group, which came on board as sponsor of the Northern Writers’ Awards in 2009.

“This year, the awards have been more popular than ever, with nearly 300 submissions,” said New Writing North director Claire Malcolm. “Writing talent is clearly alive and thriving in the North East and all the judges commented on the high quality of the submissions of all genres. I’m delighted, too, that this year, the winners hail from all across the region – from north Northumberland to Weardale and Teesside.”

The awards have a strong reputation for introducing new writers to the publishing industry. This year’s winning prose writers will be attending a networking drinks event in London this week, hosted by New Writing North, where they will be introduced to agents and editors looking for new writing talent. The first of these annual networking events was held in 2009, and within weeks, two of the authors, Mari Hannah and Carolyn Jess-Cooke, had been signed to Blake Friedmann and Darley Anderson literary agencies respectively. Many other writers are still in talks with agents and editors about developing their work.