It’s a double celebration as February gets underway, with the Manchester Poetry and Fiction Prizes marking 10 years at their annual award ceremony and gala, taking place in the atmospheric medieval Baronial Hall at Chetham’s Library; the School of Music itself hitting the big 5-0 in 2019 with a special series of concerts, exhibitions and events.
Manchester Writing Competition, encompassing the Manchester Poetry Prize and the Manchester Fiction Prize, was established in 2008 by Professor Carol Ann Duffy DBE, Creative Director of the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, after she took up the mantle of Poet Laureate (this year is her last in the role). Aiming to encourage new work and seek out the best creative writing from across the world, it has established Manchester as the focal point for a major international literary award and is the UK’s richest prize for unpublished writing. Each year £10,000 each is awarded to the winning poet and prose writer and, since its launch, Manchester Writing Competition has attracted more than 17,000 submissions from over 50 countries and awarded more than £155,000 to its winners.
The competition has helped to accelerate the careers of many now established writers, including poet Dr Helen Mort – who now teaches at Manchester Writing School and who used her 2008 Poetry Prize money to buy a car and travel to poetry events around the country – and Man Booker Prize shortlistee Alison Moore, who finds herself on the judging panel this year. She says: ‘Being shortlisted for the inaugural Manchester Fiction Prize in 2009 remains a highlight of my writing career, and it was a pleasure to be invited to join the judging panel for the tenth anniversary year of the competition.’
Her fellow judges are Livi Michael and Niven Govinden, with chairmanship duties falling to Nicholas Royle, Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Writing School, and editor of the annual Best British Short Stories anthology for Salt Publishing and founder of Nightjar Press. Entries were invited of unpublished short stories of up to 2,500 words and a six-strong shortlist was drawn up, with a further 28 entrants highly commended, demonstrating the strength of submissions to this year’s Fiction Prize. The shortlisted writers hail from both sides of the Atlantic, and are Allison Alsup, KM Elkes, Kate Hamer, Rae Meadows, Gabriel Monteros and Chloe Wilson.
The 2018 Manchester Poetry Prize, meanwhile, features a shortlist of five, with three UK-based poets, and one each from the US and Australia: Zillah Bowes, Katie Hale, Libby Hart, Maggie Millner and Molly Underwood. The judging panel of each portfolio of poems for this year’s Poetry Prize was chaired by Dr Adam O’Riordan, Academic Director of Manchester Writing School, and includes the original 2008 judges, Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker and Carol Ann Duffy. Carol Ann says: ‘It was fitting that we returned to judge the Manchester Poetry Prize again this year, alongside long-standing panel chair Adam, marking ten years of this competition.’
The 10th anniversary edition of the UK’s biggest literary awards for unpublished writing will feature a drinks reception followed by readings from each of this year’s poetry and fiction finalists and, of course, the nail-biting envelope-opening by regular hosts James Draper and Matthew Frost announcing the two (or more – sometimes there has been a split) winners.
Poetry chair Adam says: ‘The Prizes have brought brilliant new writers into the spotlight while inspiring established writers to produce and share some of their finest work. Collectively, the work on all of the shortlists from 2008 to this latest batch makes for a thrilling read, demonstrating the full breadth and range of contemporary poet at its absolute best. We invite and encourage you to look back, read and enjoy.’