Cambridge University and First Story unveiled as BBC short story awards partners

Cambridge University and First Story unveiled as BBC short story awards partners

First Story and the University of Cambridge are the new partners of the BBC’s short story awards, replacing BookTrust, in a three-year collaboration starting in 2018.

The University of Cambridge will be supporting all three of the awards - the BBC National Short Story Award, the BBC Young Writers’ Award and the BBC Student Critics’ Award - while charity First Story will be supporting the latter two awards in addition to further activity that will engage young people with reading, writing and listening to short stories.

Cambridge University lecturer Dr Sarah Dillon said the combined strengths of Cambridge and the BBC with First Story would make this "a powerful and productive partnership", while Mónica Parle, executive director at First Story, said the partnership presented "an unparalleled and exciting opportunity" to encourage more young people to engage in writing for pleasure. The two new partners replace BookTrust, which has been working with BBC since 2006.

According to BBC Radio, the new partnership with First Story and the University of Cambridge heralds an expanded programme of activity around the awards, although the prizes for both the BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers’ Award remain the same. 

The BBC National Short Story Award for a single short story, supported by Cambridge University, is worth £15,000 to the winning author. The five writers shortlisted for the award, as well as receiving £600 apiece, will all be celebrated individually on Radio 4 and, as in previous years, and the authors will be interviewed on Front Row, followed by a live edition of the programme where the winner is announced.

The BBC Young Writers’ Award, with First Story and Cambridge University, is designed to find the best new writing from teenagers, aged 14-18 years old, on the basis of quality and originality of prose and narrative voice, and this year Cambridge University Library will open up its digital archives for writerly inspiration. The shortlist will have their stories published on the BBC Radio 1 website and the winning story will be broadcast on Radio 1.

The Student Critics’ Award, with First Story and Cambridge University, will meanwhile see selected 16–18 year olds around the UK read, listen to, discuss and critique the five stories shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. They will have access to discussion guides and teaching resources created with BBC Learning, and in-school events with writers, judges, First Story networks, and staff and students from the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.

A short story symposium aimed at new writers, including writing workshops and author talks, will also be hosted by the new University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing, at the Institute of Continuing Education’s Madingley Hall campus. Cambridge will host the 2018 prizegiving, with a special short story edition of Front Row broadcast live from the University Library, and the Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities will host First Story’s Young Writers’ Festival for 600 young people in 2018.

The awards will open for entry in December 2017.

Bob Shennan, director of BBC Radio & Music, said the awards are "very much part of our commitment to bring our listeners the best new writing both from established and emerging talent", welcoming the support of new partners First Story and the University of Cambridge and thanking BookTrust for its work with BBC Radio over the past decade.

Di Speirs, books editor for BBC Radio, added: “The launch of our new three-way partnership with the University of Cambridge and First Story is a hugely exciting moment. The BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers’ Award have made a genuine difference to individual writers and to the literary landscape over the past twelve years. The Student Critics’ Award will foster a new generation of readers alongside our exciting plans for writers of all ages. We share with our partners a commitment to inspiring new writers and readers and to championing the very best short story writing in the UK.”