Myers and Benson win £10k Portico Literature Prize

Myers and Benson win £10k Portico Literature Prize

Benjamin Myers has won the £10,000 Portico Literature Prize 2015 for Fiction while Richard Benson won the £10,000 Portico Prize for non-fiction.

Myers' title Beastings is published by independent press Bluemoose Books Ltd.

The winner was announced at a gala dinner hosted by Val McDermid at the Mercure Hotel in Manchester on Thursday night (26th November).

All entries for the Portico Prize are based largely or wholly in the North, in celebration of "the strong regional and literary identity of the North of England". The prize, awarded biennially, was established by the Portico Library, Manchester, in 1985 and is supported by the Arts Council England and The Zochonis Charitable Trust. 

Durham-born Myers, 39, was also the recipient of the Northern Writers’ Award and shortlisted for a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award for the book, described as “a brilliant, brutal novel, told sparsely but with huge strength”  by Robert Macfarlane in The Big Issue.

He fought off competition from a shortlist comprised of both fiction and poetry collections Rebecca Goss' Her Birth (Carcanet); Toby Martinez de las Rivas' Terror (Faber & Faber); Katrina Porteous' Two Countries (Blood Axe Books)Michael Symmons Roberts' Drysalter (Jonathan Cape); and Alan Garner's Boneland (Fourth Estate).

Myers’ published work includes novels, poetry collections and short stories, set predominantly in the North of England depicting rural life. Heathcliff Adrift, his most recent poetry collection, exhibited at Durham Cathedral and at The Bronte Parsonage alongside landscape photographs; while his novel Pig Iron (2012) won the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize 2013 and his short story ‘The Folk Song Singer’ was awarded the Tom-Gallon Prize in 2014 by the Society Of Authors. 

The winner in the £10,000 non-fiction category was Richard Benson for The Valley, published by Bloomsbury. The Valley is the author's second book and memoir of a century in the life of his South Yorkshire family, described by Rachel Cooke for The Guardian as "a masterpiece of empathy and good writing". It came top of a shortlist including Jenny Uglow for The Pinecone (Faber & Faber); James Rebanks for A Shepherd's Life (Allen Lane); Rob Cowen for Common Ground (Hutchinson) and The Bookseller's own Cathy Rentzenbrink for The Last Act of Love (Picador).

Richard Benson is the author of the number one bestseller The Farm, which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award in 2005 and a 2006 Richard and Judy Book Club choice. 

The panel of judges included historian Professor Michael Wood; writer and broadcaster CP Lee and journalist Neil Sowerby for the non-fiction category. Poet and priest, Rachel Mann, award-winning novelist Joe Stretch, and former Portico Prize winner and director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Professor Andrew Biswell, for the fiction category.

Fiction judge professor Andrew Biswell said: "The books have provoked a variety of emotions - as all great writing should - of which pleasure has been the strongest.”

Non-fiction judge CP Lee said: “Judging this year’s Portico Prize with Neil Sowerby and Michael Wood has been an experience worth celebrating for the joy and pleasure of sharing all the different authors’ wonder, love, despair and joy at the world that surrounds us and them, particularly here in the North. The books selected present us with a North not only of crags, moors, lakes and mountains, towns and cities, factories and mines, but above all of people and the region that has shaped them.”