The Virago New Statesman Award for a new woman economic and political writer has gone to Durham graduate Frances Weetman.
Weetman, from Newcastle, won the prize following a unanimous decision from the four judges: Gillian Tett, author and US managing editor of the Financial Times, Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, Tom Gatti, cuture editor of the New Statesman and Lennie Goodings, publisher at Virago.
The judges, who devised the prize to address the "under-representation" of women in the field, praised Weeman for showing "originality and rigorous thinking" and for writing with "real wit and engagement".
Her essay, entitled "Economics is a Religion: Now it Needs its Reform", likens economics to religion in a bid to challenge the true scientific credibility of current thinking. Weetman said, "It is time for a reformation in economics. Or even an enlightenment."
The award will give Weetman a contract with Virago for an extended essay, to be published as an e-book this Autumn, while an extract from the final essay will also appear in the New Statesman.
Weetman overcame competition from shortlisted entrants: Fatima Ayub, for "Death of dignity: Modern threats to being human"; Maya Goodfellow for "Racism: The Myth of Equality"; Virginia Moffatt for "The Rise of the Death Eaters: how the neoliberal consensus has corrupted public life"; Barbara Ridpath for "Trust: Where has it gone? How can we get it back?"; and Sarah Waite for "Why do we still fall for it? An account of statistical spin in politics".
Weetman graduated from Durham University, where she studied economics and politics, in 2013. She developed her writing there at the Royal Court Theatre as part of its Young Writers’ Project as a regular contributor and editor of political articles for the university’s newspapers. Despite having had paid internships with HSBC and the investment bank Nomura, instead of taking up a graduate banking job offer she has decided to concentrate on film-making and writing. After making educational films for Durham University, she is now setting up an independent documentary film-making project to increase political engagement among young people. She is also a Fabian Women mentee.