Amy Liptrot’s debut and memoir The Outrun (Canongate) has been named the winner of the £5,000 Wainwright Golden Beer Prize 2016, an award celebrating UK nature and travel writing.
Publisher Frances Lincoln, in association with the National Trust, made the announcement today (5th August) at a special BBC Countryfile Live event in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.
The winning book, about reconnecting with her native Orkney after a decade away, was chosen following a unanimous vote from the judges, who praised it as "brave and searingly honest".
First published in January this year, it is a memoir about overcoming alcohol addiction and the healing power of nature. The book's title is taken from a field on her father's sheep farm in Orkney where she grew up and to which she returns to make the "slow journey towards redemption".
It overcame competition from an "extraordinarily strong shortlist" which the judges said marked the "continued resurgence of nature and travel writing in the UK". It comprised authors Rob Cowen for Common Ground (Hutchinson) about parenthood and the Yorkshire woodland; Katharine Norbury for The Fish Ladder (Bloomsbury Circus), an account of a life spent walking Britain’s rivers; James Rebanks (aka Twitter's Herwick Shepherd) for A Shepherd’s Life (Allen Lane), about shepherding in the Lake District; Robert Macfarlane for Landmarks (Hamish Hamilton), a "meditation on words and landscape", and Michael McCarthy for "moving memoir" The Moth Snowstorm (John Murray) encouraging environmentalism.
Chair of judges Dame Fiona Reynolds said: “We felt bowled over by the quality of the entries this year and this year’s shortlist is the best yet. We struggled with the task of judging it and although our winner was our unanimous choice we were torn by the process and commend all the shortlisted authors for their contributions.
“Our winner, Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun, is brave and searingly honest. Profoundly contrasting London’s underbelly and Orkney’s wild, windy and remote harshness, Amy discovers herself and her route to freedom through nature, including through its harshness, grit and honesty. She writes bravely, unsettlingly and with a self-revelatory exposure that can shock; but she also writes beautifully. Amy’s is an unforgettable voice: she did not seek nature but nature sought her, and her spare, lyrical prose is both powerful and tender.”
The prize was judged by a panel comprised of chair Dame Reynolds; Julia Bradbury, TV presenter; Sally Palmer, publisher of National Trust Magazine; Bill Lyons, executive producer of Coast & Countryfile; Dan Lewis, Marketing Manager of Stanfords; and Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine. Assisting in the judging process are Eric Robson and Jane King from The Wainwright Society.
The competition, now in its third year, and sponsored by Wainwright Golden Beer, is awarded annually to the work that best reflects renowned nature writer Alfred Wainwright’s core values of celebrating the great British outdoors. It is supported by partners Stanfords and The National Trust.