Joanne Keys has won the Nature Writing Prize for Working Class Writers 2021 with her poem "Birdwatching".
The prize, now in its second year, is organised by writer and working-class activist Natasha Carthew, who aims to break down class barriers in writing. It was free to enter and encouraged self-identifying working-class writers from all over the UK to submit 1,000 words to the competition.
Keys will receive a year's subscription to Little Toller Books worth more than £100, editorial feedback and mentoring from Carthew, plus publication of her work in Countryman Magazine.
The winner said she was" absolutely stunned and honoured" by the prize, adding: "It means the world to me. It has given me confidence to say the things I want to say in the way I want to say them. It has encouraged me to explore the 'buried' side of myself, releasing a voice that is more open, organic."
Carthew said: "I set up the prize to burst the stereotype of what it means to be a nature writer and to celebrate the diversity of authentic voices in our country, the kind of working-class voice that doesn't just come from the country but the towns, cities, housing estates, parks and the areas in between.
"Nature writing exists because we, as individuals, want to understand our own engagement and our place within it. It decentralises us and reminds us that we are not the only focus or thing of importance on the planet. The best nature writing conveys a clear sense of place and focuses on the natural world and our human relationship with it."
Celia Richardson, director of communications at the National Trust, said: "Like nature, writing is for everyone. We’re very pleased to support this prize which supports nature writing by people who see themselves as working class, giving a platform to unsung writers and untold stories. The pandemic has thrown into focus the everyday human relationship with the natural world. Now more than ever we need a breadth of voices exploring that enduring connection."
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