Winners of Orwell Prizes 2019 revealed

Tuesday 25 June 2019

The winners of The Orwell Prizes 2019 were announced this evening, Tuesday 25th June, at a special event at 20 Bedford Way celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. 

Two panels of distinguished judges, entirely independent and working independently of one another on the inaugural Orwell Prizes for Political Fiction and Political Writing have chosen two books about the Troubles.

This year’s winners are:

  • The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction: Milkman, Anna Burns (Faber & Faber)
  • The Orwell Prize for Political Writing: Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe (William Collins)
  • The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils: ‘Behind County Lines’ by Max Daly (Vice)
  • The Orwell Prize for Journalism: Steve Bloomfield & Suzanne Moore

The Orwell Prizes, each worth £3,000 to the winners, reward the writing that comes closest to achieving English writer George Orwell’s ambition to ‘make political writing into an art’. Each winner was presented with a Folio edition of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, signed by Richard Blair, George Orwell’s son, in the month the novel celebrates its seventieth anniversary. Prior to the announcement, Foundation trustee Arifa Akbar chaired a discussion of the novel’s legacy with Richard Blair, 2018 Journalism winner Carole Cadwalladr and journalist Dorian Lynskey, author of The Ministry of Truth.

The winner of The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, sponsored and supported by Richard Blair and A. M. Heath, is Anna Burns for Milkman (Faber & Faber). Milkman won the Man Booker Prize in 2018 the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2019. Burns, born in Belfast, is the author of two other novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella, Mostly HeroNo Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Milkman is a remarkable book — recording a specific time and a specific conflict with brilliant precision but universal in its account of how political allegiances crush and deform our instinctive human loyalties. Its tone of voice — wry and funny, furious and compassionate — is a marvel.

Tom Sutcliffe, Chair of Judges

The winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing is Patrick Radden Keefe for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (William Collins). Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine and the author of two critically acclaimed books, The Snakehead and Chatter. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014, was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016 and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at the New America Foundation.

This haunting and timely portrait of The Troubles opens with the disappearance of a mother of ten and radiates outwards to encompass the entire conflict, giving voice to characters and stories often shrouded in silence, and leaving an indelible and nuanced impression of the human cost of this unstable chapter of history.

Ted Hodgkinson, Judge

The judges for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing are Tulip Siddiq MP (chair); Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre; Robbie Millen, Literary Editor of The Times; and Helen Pankhurst, author, women’s rights activist and international development practitioner. The judges for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction are– broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe (chair); Sam Leith, Literary Editor of The Spectator; award-winning author Preti Taneja; and Dr. Xine Yao, Lecturer in American Literature to 1900 at University College London.

The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils 2019, sponsored and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was won by Max Daly, Global Drugs Editor at Vice for ‘Behind County Lines’, a ‘street-level investigation into the causes and nature of rising youth drug selling and violence’. Daly’s investigations highlighted the link between missing children and the drugs trade, and the way County Lines has fuelled, and been shaped by, the housing crisis.

The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils is awarded to a story which has enhanced the public understanding of social issues and public policy. Rewarding innovative story-telling, the Prize encourages entries which report across a variety of media, including online, broadcast and print media.  The judges for the 2019 Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils are Rosie Millard OBE, Chair of BBC Children in Need, Sarah O’Connor, Investigations correspondent at the Financial Times, Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and Elle editor, Farrah Storr.

Max Daly’s reporting has brought us the best of journalism – getting under the skin of a difficult issue, giving a voice to people who are not often heard and challenging the assumptions of readers. By showing us the reality and the history of the drugs trade in our towns and cities, he has exposed the complex interactions between familiar problems, such as the housing crisis, violent crime and poverty. JRF is proud to support this prize for exposing Britain’s social evils, which recognises the importance of journalism that unlocks hidden or ignored stories and the ways in which poverty can take a grip of communities.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The Orwell Prize for Journalism was awarded to Steve Bloomfield (Deputy Editor at Prospect) and Suzanne Moore (columnist at The Guardian). Steve Bloomfield’s submitted articles included ‘the inside story of the Foreign Office’s losing battle to find post-Brexit Britain a place in the world’ and profiles of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, while Suzanne Moore’s columns considered attitudes to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the wake of #metoo, the politics of remembrance and the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

This is the third time in its twenty-five-year history that The Orwell Prize for Journalism has been awarded twice in a single year, most recently in 2016 when FT columnist Gideon Rachman and freelance foreign reporter Iona Craig both received the award.

The journalism that has won these two prizes represents the best of the Orwell tradition, incisive, relevant and human. It also represents the two sides of his journalism: There is Suzanne Moore’s stubborn and brave commentary, and Steve Bloomfield’s forensic research and reporting.

The Judges

The judges for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Journalism are Tim Marshall (journalist, former Diplomatic Editor Sky News and author of Prisoners of Geography and Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls) Sam Taylor (Editor, The Lady) and the freelance video journalist and founder of the Frontline Club Vaughan Smith.