Orwell Prize 2010 winners announced

Wednesday 19 May 2010

  • Andrea Gillies wins Book Prize for Keeper, an account of living with Alzheimer’s
  • Peter Hitchens wins Journalism Prize for his foreign reporting in the Mail on Sunday
  • Pseudonymous social worker Winston Smith wins Blog Prize for ‘Working with the Underclass’
  • Documentary-maker Norma Percy awarded Special Prize for Lifetime Achievement

The winners of the Orwell Prize 2010 were announced on Wednesday 19th May 2010 from 7pm at a ceremony at Church House, Westminster.

Book Prize

Andrea Gillies’ Keeper (Short Books) was the unanimous choice of this year’s Book Prize judges. The book chronicles the author’s experience of caring for her mother-in-law, Nancy, as her Alzheimer’s disease accelerates, while running a bed and breakfast, being a mother of three children and failing to write a novel. Keeper also won the inaugural Wellcome Prize for medicine in literature. This year’s Book Prize judges were Jonathan Heawood (director, English PEN), Andrew Holgate (literary editor, Sunday Times) and Francine Stock (writer and broadcaster). The judges said: “Andrea Gillies’ extraordinary first-hand account of caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease rises beyond memoir – although it is a startlingly honest and vivid one – to deliver a radical exploration of identity and memory. She argues powerfully for change in the way we deal with age and senility, a looming political issue for the 21st Century.” The winner will appear in conversation at the Buxton Festival on 12th July 2010.

Journalism Prize

The Journalism Prize judges have awarded this year’s Prize to Peter Hitchens, for his foreign correspondence in the Mail on Sunday. Shortlisted for the third time in four years, Hitchens’ winning selection of articles included reports from Prague, South Africa, Tokyo, Ottawa and China, as well as a counterfactual piece asking ‘What if the Berlin Wall didn’t fall?’ This year’s Journalism Prize judges were Roger Graef (writer and filmmaker) and Peter Kellner (journalist, president of YouGov). The judges said: “In choosing this year’s winner, we went back to Orwell. In one of his essays, he wrote of Charles Dickens: ‘When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page… It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.’ It is with this in mind that we award the Orwell Prize to Peter Hitchens.”

Blog Prize

Pseudonymous social worker, Winston Smith, is the winner of this year’s Blog Prize for his blog, ‘Working with the Underclass’ (http://winstonsmith33.blogspot.com/). Named after the central character of Orwell’s 1984, the blog relates the experiences of Winston, a care home worker. This year’s Blog Prize judges were Richard Horton (police officer and winner of the Blog Prize 2009 as ‘Jack Night’) and Oona King (head of diversity at Channel 4). The judges said: “Of course, we knew that we were picking another anonymous public sector blog with a name that would have the irony meter pegged in the red zone. We could have agonised for hours and then passed Winston Smith over as too difficult, too dark, too much of a risk but we were charged with judging the best. Winston Smith’s blog was the clear and unanimous choice of the judging panel. There is a directness and clarity to his philippics that left them in our thoughts long after we had finished reading, but that was not enough. What carried the day with us was his passion and conviction that we should know what wrongs had been done in our names in some of those places where most of us choose not to look. “There will be an inevitable interest in Winston Smith now that he has won an Orwell Prize but it is our hope that wider attention will fall on improving the situations that he describes so vividly rather than on the writer himself.”

Special Prize

A Special Prize for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to documentary-maker Norma Percy. Executive producer at Brook Lapping, Percy’s most recent work was Iran and the West for BBC Two, with previous documentaries including The Death of Yugoslavia, The Second Russian Revolution, Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace, Endgame in Ireland and Watergate. She was awarded (jointly, with Brian Lapping) the BAFTA Alan Clarke award in 2003 and the RTS Judges award in 1996, and her work has won a number of other major prizes (including an Emmy). She was presented with the Trustees’ Award at the Grierson Awards 2009. Previous winners of Special Prizes are Tony Judt, Clive James, Hugo Young, Lord (David) Lipsey (for his Bagehot columns in The Economist) and BBC Newsnight. The judges said: “We felt Norma Percy deserved the Prize because of her unflagging commitment, energy and resourcefulness over some three decades of important work that reframed key events in contemporary history by showing the human face of history: that mortals were involved.”

The Orwell Prize

The winners came from shortlists of six books, seven journalists and six bloggers, which had been whittled down from longlists of 18 books, 14 journalists and 14 bloggers. This followed a record number of entries – 212 books, 85 journalists and 164 bloggers. The Book Prize, Journalism Prize and Blog Prize winners all receive £3000 prize money. All four winners were also presented with a plaque bearing Orwell’s ambition: ‘what I have most wanted to do… is to make political writing into an art.’