EVENT REVIEW: The Gordon Burn Prize 2016

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Friday 7th October 2016

Durham Town Hall

Review by Gabriel Brown

Having attended the Gordon Burn Prize last year, it was nice to come back for what was once again a fantastic evening.

The whole atmosphere of the event bubbles with the ecstatic energy of the authors, which in turn makes it great for anyone in attendance. This year had something I do not remember from the year before, in the form of a video piece in tribute to Gordon Burn himself. It showed off the cottage that the winner could stay in, as well as general compliments paid towards the prize’s namesake, with one interview subject describing him humorously as “a geordie renaissance man.”

I have loved coming to this event, and this year was just as wonderful as last. The authors are all given the opportunity to read from their works, and for the audience, it’s amazing to hear a book being read aloud as it should be. It was also weird, but very interesting to have And The Sun Shines Now by Adrian Tempany, read by the chairman Peter Guttridge. It was quite something to see the reaction of the authors and audience, especially since Guttridge was at Hillsborough himself.

Both historical and contemporary concerns were addressed by the shortlisted books, and it was nice to see a particular emphasis placed upon immigration and diversity. Indeed, eventual winner David Szalay commented that such concerns in books would be probably what ‘Gordon would have liked.’

The music by Richard Dawson was also something nice to break up the reading, and while it was stylistically quite ‘out there’, it was also incredible in its own right.

Having heard extracts from all the nominated books, I’ll admit I was surprised when David Szalay won, but I’m positive that the award was well deserved. The overwhelming feeling from the ceremony was that most in attendance would be planning on reading both his book and the rest of the shortlisted authors.

It was great to be back for the prize, and to be in attendance for what was an excellent evening, and a great way to kick off the festival as a whole.