Peepal Tree Press has won the Clarissa Luard Award for Independent Publishers for its "tenacity in a challenging market". The £10,000 prize money it will receive has been earmarked to launch a fortnightly podcast.
Founded in Leeds in 1985, the press is specialised in international writing from the Caribbean, its diasporas and the UK, as well as Black British fiction, poetry and non-fiction.
New Writing North, which manages the biennial award, said the prize judges had been impressed by its "innovative" proposal for the £10,000 prize money that promised to have "immediate impact, demanding attention from the industry and readers at large, as well as creating an enduring legacy of a unique showcase for Caribbean and Black British writing".
Peepal Tree Press' project is to launch a fortnightly radio-style programme, delivered as a podcast, entitled "The New Caribbean Voices", in honour of the BBC radio programme, "Caribbean Voices", which aired between 1945 and 1958. The size and diversity of the audience has not been achieved since, it has argued.
The award was judged by writer Jenn Ashworth, arts professional Gary McKeone, literary editor and publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove, and bookseller Helen Stanton, who agreed Peepal Tree Press made "a deserving winner".
McKeone, programme director of St George’s House and former literature director at Arts Council England, praised the "strong" shortlist, also comprising Lantana Publishing, Little Toller Books and Penned in the Margins, he said was "testimony to the quality of independent publishers on these islands".
He added of Peepal Tree Press: "[It] has been a stand-out feature of the literary landscape of this country for over forty years. Many of those years have been a struggle; the need to adapt to a changing ecology has been ever present. But Peepal Tree survives and flourishes, bringing terrific literature to as wide an audience as it can possibly reach. Quality, perseverance and innovation are the watch words. This award will enable Peepal Tree to use new channels to expand the readership for Caribbean and Black British writing. Clarissa would have been delighted."
Lovegrove, publisher of Dialogue Books at Little, Brown Book Group, added: “This award highlights the importance of independent publishing in our society and shines a light on its brilliance and dynamism across the country. The winners Peepal Tree Press are courageous and original in their publishing, bold in their future ambitions and truly deserve this award.”
The winner was announced alongside the David Cohen Prize for Literature at a ceremony at BAFTA in London.