Lauren Stevenson and Maeve Clarke have been awarded the top prizes at the Creative Future Literary Awards 2016.
Hosted by poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, the awards recognise writers who lack opportunities due to mental health, disability, race or other debilitating social circumstances such as homelessness and unemployment.
Sissay said: “It’s time for us to turn our focus to writers who’ve long been overlooked due to lack of access, contacts or in some cases confidence; and who can do so much to enrich British literature given the right opportunities. Since its inception in 2013 I’ve worked with the Creative Future Literary Awards which has done some vitally important work for its community as the only programme of its kind in the country. It spotlights a diverse group of underrepresented writers whilst celebrating and nurturing their extraordinary talents, spreading the message that their voices are heard and appreciated.”
The awards are split into six categories: platinum, gold, silver, bronze, highly commended and commended, for poetry and short fiction. This year’s platinum winners were Lauren Stevenson, 27, for poetry and Maeve Clarke, 53, for prose.
Stevenson, who won for her poem "Murlough Beach", said: “Winning the Creative Future Literary Award means a lot to me. It’s helped to give me the confidence to continue with my writing, despite the challenges that I face. An award like this felt like an unmissable opportunity and a real lifeline for marginalised writers.”
Clarke explained how the submission criteria helped her craft her short story, "Sewing Flowers": “The competition gave me a theme, forced me to meet a deadline and made me stick to a word limit - it was just the incentive I needed. I’m so glad I entered and tried what is for me, a new form of writing. As a result of this competition, I have a piece of work that is the springboard, I hope, for a bigger and bolder piece of writing.”
The ceremony took place as part of Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival – a bi-annual celebration of the creative achievements of disabled artists. A total of £1,000 is awarded to the winners, as well as guaranteed writing development from training groups and publishers including The Literary Consultancy, New Writing South, Myriad Editions and Penned in the Margins.
Dominique De-Light, co-founder and creative director of the Creative Future charity, said: “I’m incredibly proud of all of this year’s winners. The level of talent we’ve been able to unearth over the years - from people who’ve overcome some of life’s most challenging obstacles - is beyond anything I could have imagined. We want to give our writers a platform and help increase their chances of getting published by proving that having a mental illness, disability or challenging social circumstances doesn’t diminish a person’s talent.”
Joining De-Light and Sissay on the judging panel were Candida Lacey, publisher and managing director of Myriad Editions; Aki Shilz, writer and editorial services manager for The Literary Consultancy; John Prebble, chief executive of New Writing South; and Fergus Evans, awards project manager, poet and performer.
Creative Future is a registered charity based in Brighton. It was established by De-Light and Simon Powell in 2007 with the aim to "inspire aspiration and artistic excellence amongst marginalised artists and writers".
Full list of 2016 winners:
· Poetry – Platinum: Murlough Beach byLauren Stevenson
Poetry – Gold: Morphoses byOlivia Scott-Berry
· Poetry – Silver: Kircaldy byBarry Carter
· Poetry – Bronze: Serotonin by Gareth Strachan
· Poetry – Highly Commended: Ferry back from the Isle of Man by Owen Lowery
· Poetry – Commended: Inventing Brother in Batangas Port by Romalyn Ante
· Prose – Platinum: Sewing Flowers by Maeve Clarke
· Prose – Gold: A Belated Invasion by Michelle Porter
· Prose – Silver: Ground by Stephen Riley
· Prose – Bronze: A Picture of you by Peter Jordan
· Prose - Highly Commended: New Water by John Attridge
· Prose – Commended: The Green and the Sea by Kaori Crawford