Competitions & Awards in Wales
Competitions and awards fulfill an important dual purpose. They promote individual writers, of course, but also, more generally, they promote writing itself. The enhanced profile of Welsh writers and writers currently resident in Wales, and the ever increasing interest in Welsh Writing in English, are today matched by a truly impressive array of competitions and awards, which help to put both emergent and established talent in the spotlight, as well as continue to draw attention to the Welsh literary renaissance.
Literature Wales Competitions
Cardiff International Poetry Competition
The Cardiff International Poetry Competition annually awards £5000 for a best poem, with £2000 worth of runners-up prizes. These sums now equal those of the National Poetry Competition and the Arvon International. As well as offering a very generous purse, the competition also possesses genuine prestige. Past judges of the prize include major names in contemporary poetry, such as Gillian Clarke, Jo Shapcott, U A Fanthorpe, Roger McGough and Wendy Cope. The competition has a history of unearthing exciting new talent, such as Tiffany Atkinson, and continues to draw in entries from leading poets, such as the 2007 winner, Picador poet Colette Bryce. Entries must be in English. Click here for further details of this year’s competition and how to obtain an entry form.
The Rhys Davies Short Story Competition
Sponsored by the Rhys Davies Trust and administered by Literature Wales, the annual Rhys Davies Short Story Competition awards £1000 for the best short story by a Welsh born writer or a writer currently resident in Wales. There are ten runner-up prizes of £100. The prize plays a key role in promoting the short story in Wales, as well as the achievement of the late Rhys Davies, a distinguished practitioner in the short story genre. The competition has established a strong track record in significant discoveries. Jo Mazelis, Penny Simpson and Tristan Hughes are all previous winners. Click here for details of this year’s competition and how to obtain an entry form.
Developing Dylan's Prologue to an Adventure
Prologue to an Adventure is an international competition open to all budding writers aged between 7 and 25. The competition offers a special chance for entrants to have their work published in a literary magazine and read on national radio by some of Wales’ most prominent figures. The competition forms part of Developing Dylan an education programme for young people administered by Literature Wales and funded by Welsh Government. The competition welcomes entries in any form of creative writing from as long as it has been inspired by the Welsh writer Dylan Thomas and is no longer than thirty lines or 500 words. Judges include Mark Watson, Joe Dunthorne, Elen Caldecott and Hannah Ellis. Click here for further details and how to enter.
The John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry
In tribute to John Tripp, a legendary performer of his work, the biennial John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry offers a £500 prize for the best performer in Wales of their own work. Entrants are judged on both their delivery and the artistic merit of the poetry itself. Regional heats take place throughout Wales and culminate in a grand final before an audience. Judges have included Philip Gross and Sheenagh Pugh, and past winners include two of Wales’s most promising younger performers, Emily Hinshelwood and Clare Potter. A special prize is awarded for the audience’s choice.
Key Awards in Wales
Wales Book of the Year
The annual Wales Book of the Year prizes, administered by Literature Wales are awarded to the best Welsh language and English language works in the fields of creative writing and literary criticism and remain the most covetable prizes to win within Wales. An increase in prize money in recent years has ensured that the Wales Book of the Year’s media profile in both Wales and the wider UK continues to increase..
Past winners of the prize include Dannie Abse, Robert Minhinnick, Lloyd Jones, Owen Sheers, Niall Griffiths, Stevie Davies and Sheenagh Pugh.
For further details on eligibility, past winners and judges click here.
The Dylan Thomas Prize
The last 10 years has seen an increase in prodigious literary talent across the globe. Dylan Thomas, the most famous writer to have come out of Wales, wrote much of his most famous work at an early age. The biennial Dylan Thomas Prize was established in 2007 to encourage and promote young writers, with an award of £60,000 going to the best young writer under 30 in the world working within the genres of the novel, short story, poetry, screenplays, radio or theatre plays. Work must have been either published or performed in English within the last two years.
The inaugural winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2008 was Nam Le for his collection of short stories, The Boat (Rough-Cut, 2008). Current nominees for the 2009 prize from Wales include novelist Joe Dunthorne and poet Zoe Brigley. A young writing category, sponsored by Swansea Life, was established in 2008, offering £1000 for the best emerging writer under 21. Patrons of the Prize include many of Wales’s most famous names including Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins.
To obtain further details on eligibility, rules for both prizes and key dates in the Dylan Thomas Prize calendar click here.
Other UK Prizes
Across the UK, prizes such as the Man Booker and Baileys Prize for fiction, the T S Eliot Prize and the Forward Prizes for poetry, and the Costa Awards, which cover the genres of children’s writing, poetry, fiction and biography, largely dominate the attentions of UK Arts broadsheet pages.
The Society of Authors also maintains a high profile, however, with its annual prizes of over £100,000, which celebrate both the achievement of established authors and the promise of emergent talent. In recent years, Wales has had an increasingly healthy showing at the Society of Authors with high profile wins for Lloyd Jones (the McKitterick Prize for Mr Cassini) and Owen Sheers (a Somerset Maugham Award for Skirrid Hill).
While the majority of awards do focus on published work and the recognition of writers of significant stature and experience, there are two awards of particular note to unpublished young authors of fiction or poetry.
The highly prestigious Betty Trask Prizes are awarded for first novels by an author under 35 years old. Novels may be published or unpublished. Cynan Jones’s The Long Dry (Parthian, 2006) received a Betty Trask in 2007. Prize money must be used for foreign travel. Other past winners include Zadie Smith, Nick Laird, Sarah Hall and Alex Garland. For further details of this year’s competition, eligibility and how to obtain an entry form click here.
The Eric Gregory Awards offer cash prizes for the support and encouragement of poets of outstanding promise under 30, whether published or unpublished. Past winners include Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Michael Longley and Carol Ann Duffy. Welsh poets have featured prominently in the Eric Gregory Awards. Tony Curtis, Nigel Jenkins, Robert Minhinnick, Paul Groves, Gwyneth Lewis, Oliver Reynolds, Frances Williams, Owen Sheers and Zoe Brigley are all past winners. For further details of this year’s competition, eligibility and how to apply click here.
New awards continue to be established annually and by a wide range of organisations, literary trusts and authors’ estates, so it’s important to keep in touch with the culture. Literature Wales regularly publishes details on upcoming or new competitions or awards of interest to both emergent and more established writers working across the genres of creative writing. You can also subscribe to the Literature Wales free e-newsletter, which also provides timely reminders of current competitions and awards. It’s also useful to get hold of a copy of the latest edition of the Writers’ and Artists Yearbook which carries details of a variety of prizes open to writer across the genres in the UK.