Primadonna Prize shortlist unveiled as inaugural festival hailed a success

Primadonna Prize shortlist unveiled as inaugural festival hailed a success

The shortlist for the inaugural Primadonna Prize has been unveiled at the Primadonna Festival weekend, dedicated to championing women writers. 

Around 1,000 people attended the festival at Laffitts Hall in Suffolk with five authors in the running for the £500 prize and offer of representation by British Book Award-winning agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown. 

Becky Docton, Claire Mannion, Elissa Soave, Farah Ahamed and Julie Rea have been shortlisted, with one round of judging to go. Shortlistees now have to submit one more piece of writing before the winner, to be chosen by a judging panel, featuring authors Joanna Harris and Lemn Sissay, HQ executive publisher Lisa Milton and Summerhayes, is announced in December. 

The brainchild of a group of women from publishing and entertainment, who include Sabeena Akhtar, Joanna Baker, Amie Corry, Jane Dyball, Catherine Mayer, Kit de Waal, Shona Abhyankar, Jude Kelly, Alexis Kirschbaum, Lisa Milton, Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Sonia Purnell, Monisha Rajesh, Catherine Riley, Athena Stevens, Summerhayes, Sandi Toksvig and Sioned Wiliam, the festival aims to focus on women’s writers to redress the gender inequality in publishing.

Booker-shortlisted Elif Shafak was among the speakers on a line-up that included Kelly, Toksvig, Raymond Antrobus, Konnie Huq as well as Adele Parks, Louise Doughty, Sarah Winman, Sinead Gleeson, Luke Jennings, Guy Gunaratne, Professor Kate Williams, Alya Mooro, De Waal, Kiran Millwood-Hargrave and Mos-Shogmibabu.

Mayer said: "Our aim was to create the world as it should be, if only for one weekend. I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I have met a lot of very happy people, all of whom tell me they are leaving not just with great memories but with new ideas and fresh hope. We are also very excited to have concluded the festival with a reading from the five shortlisted authors for the inaugural Primadonna prize. They are the future."
Dyball added: "We’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback we’ve had, from more than a thousand people who took part in the Primadonna experience. We’ve shown that there’s a demand for a festival like ours."
Author Julie Rae branded the festival "joyous, inspiring, badass" while writer Louise Mumford tweeted "What did I love? Everything. The talks about feminism and changing the world, the love that had gone into every hand-painted sign, the way my views were expanded but my hand held the whole time. The friendliness. And the loos. Best. Loos. Ever."

After attending the festival author Preti Taneja tweeted: "Just a note to say thank you and the whole Primadonna team for such an outstanding weekend. I felt so welcome, and it was great to be part of a festival where writers at all levels were mixing and meeting readers in such beautiful surroundings."