The Orwell Prizes 2019: Shortlists announced

Monday 10 June 2019

Shortlists for the 2019 Orwell Prizes were announced today, Monday 10th June 2019, including the inaugural Orwell Prize for Political Fiction sponsored by Richard Blair and A. M. Heath and Orwell Prize for Political Writing.

  • The Orwell Prizes aim to encourage excellence in writing and thinking about politics. Winning entries should strive to meet Orwell’s own ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. They should be of equal excellence in style and content, and the writing must live up to the values of The Orwell Foundation.
  • Shortlists announced for four Orwell Prizes: the Prize for Political Fiction, Prize for Political Writing, Prize for Journalism and the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, sponsored and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  • The winner of each £3,000 Prize will be announced at the Orwell Prize Ceremony, Tuesday 25th June 2019, 20 Bedford Way, London. Each is judged by an independent panel of judges.

The six titles shortlisted for the inaugural Orwell Prize for Political Fiction are:

  • Glen James Brown, Ironopolis, Parthian Books
  • Anna Burns, Milkman, Faber & Faber
  • Diana Evans, Ordinary People, Chatto & Windus
  • Nick Drnaso, Sabrina,  Granta
  • Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, House of Stone, Atlantic Fiction
  • Leni Zumas, Red Clocks, The Borough Press

The judges for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction are chair – broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe, Sam Leith, Literary Editor of The Spectator, Desmond Elliott Prize winning author Preti Taneja and Dr. Xine Yao, Lecturer in American Literature to 1900 at University College London.

The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, sponsored by A. M. Heath and Richard Blair, has been established to reward outstanding novels and collections of short stories that illuminate major social and political themes, present or past, through the art of narrative.

Chair of judges for the Political Fiction Prize, Tom Sutcliffe commented:

I think we’ve produced an excellent shortlist which demonstrates the great range political fiction can have — from sharply polemical works with a clear campaigning spirit to books in which the politics work on you almost without your knowledge. We tend to assume that serious political intent has to be at odds with reading pleasure and entertainment; all these books prove that that needn’t necessarily be the case.

The six titles shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing (previously, ‘Orwell Prize for Books’) are: 

  • Oliver Bullough, Moneyland, Profile Books
  • Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River, Bodley Head
  • Norah Krug, Heimat: A German Family Album, Particular Books
  • David Pilling, The Growth Delusion, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True Story Of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, William Collins
  • Alpa Shah, Nightmarch: Among India’s Revolutionary Guerrillas, Hurst Publishers

The judges for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing are chair Tulip Siddiq MP, Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre, Robbie Millen, Literary Editor at The Times and Helen Pankhurst, author, a women’s rights activist and an international development practitioner.

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing (previously, ‘Orwell Prize for Books’) is for a work of non-fiction, whether a book or pamphlet, first published in the UK or Ireland in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. ‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including (but not limited to) entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects and can include pamphlets, books published by think tanks, diaries, memoirs, letters and essays.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Chair of judges for the Political Writing Prize said:

I’m delighted with our very strong shortlist of books. All the judges agreed that the books this year were of a very high standard and we found it extremely difficult to choose our final six. Congratulations to all the brilliant authors who made it into our shortlist – we have all really enjoyed reading your work.

The seven entries shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils are:

  • ‘Behind County Lines’ by Max Daly, Vice
  • ‘Disabled People and Austerity’ by Frances Ryan, The Guardian
  • ‘Exposed: Hundreds of Homeless Slaves Recruited on British Streets’ by Jane Bradley, BuzzFeed News
  • ‘Glasgow Women’s Strike’ by Eve Livingston, The Pool; Vice; The Guardian
  • ‘Gun No.6’ by Zac Beattie, James Newton, Georgina Cammalleri and Rupert Houseman, The Garden Productions
  • ‘The Presidents Club’ by Madison Marriage, Financial Times
  • ‘The Wolves of Instagram’ by Symeon Brown, Channel 4 News; The Guardian

The judges for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils are Rosie Millard, Chair of BBC Children in Need,  Sarah O’Connor, a co-winner of the 2018 Prize, Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the editor of Elle, Farrah Storr.

The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils is named in recognition of the task Joseph Rowntree gave his organization to ‘search out the underlying causes of weakness or evil’ that lay behind Britain’s social problems. Now in its fifth year, the Prize seeks to reward journalism that has enhanced public understanding of social problems and public policy in the UK today.

Campbell Robb, CE of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, remarked:

At a time when so many domestic challenges are being overlooked by Brexit and Westminster politics, this shortlist shows how journalists are undertaking outstanding work to shine a light on the challenges and injustices people across the country are facing.

When attention is being diverted, there has never been a more important time for fearless, thorough and dedicated social affairs journalism. I am proud we continue to support this vital prize and I’d like to congratulate all the entrants for making the shortlist.

Rosie Millard, Chair of BBC Children in Need, said:

It is clear from the huge range and quality of entrants that the journalism of today is absolutely not stinting in its traditional quest of shining light into dark areas of society. Campaigning journalism never seemed so strong. Being able to write about horror, and injustice, and evil, with panache and flair seems an impossible task, but these journalists manage to deliver both tasks with aplomb. Of course, this makes the journalism all the more powerful.

The six journalists shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Journalism are:

  • Peter Apps, Inside Housing
  • Steve Bloomfield, Prospect
  • Jason Cowley, The New Statesman; Granta
  • Robert Guest, The Economist
  • Lois Kapila, The Dublin Inquirer
  • Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

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

The Orwell Prize for Journalism is awarded to a journalist for sustained reportage and/or commentary working in any medium.

Tim Marshall commented:

Judging this year’s entrants was both challenging and rewarding. Challenging due to having to choose from a wealth of quality and rewarding for the same reason – we could easily have put together the longest short list in history.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Orwell Foundation is a registered charity (1161563) providing free cultural events and resources for the public benefit. Every year, the Foundation awards The Orwell Prizes, Britain’s most prestigious prizes for political writing, to the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. There are four Prizes: for Political Fiction, Political Writing, Journalism and Exposing Britain’s Social Evils.
  2. A. M. Heath celebrates its centenary in 2019. Their clients have won innumerable literary prizes, including the Man Booker five times, the Carnegie, the Costa, the Women’s Prize, the Guardian First Book, the Somerset Maugham, the James Tait Black Memorial and the Orwell Prize.
  3. Richard Blair is George Orwell’s (Eric Blair) only son and was adopted by Orwell and his first wife, Eileen, in June 1944. After Eileen’s death in 1945, Richard spent much time on Jura with his father as he worked on his last novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Following his father’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 46 in January 1950, Richard went to live with his aunt, Orwell’s younger sister Avril.  Richard is a trustee of The Orwell Foundation and The Orwell Youth Prize and Patron of The Orwell Society.
  4. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is an independent social change organisation working to solve UK poverty. Through research, policy, collaboration and practical solutions, we aim to inspire action and change that will create a prosperous UK without poverty.
  5. The Orwell Foundation uses the work of George Orwell to celebrate honest writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives and confront uncomfortable truths. Its aim is to connect with the many constituencies to whom Orwell and his writings are a source of inspiration and to offer a platform for debate and discussion designed to appeal to the widest possible public audience. The Foundation’s partners and sponsors include University College London, the magazine Political Quarterly, Richard Blair, A.M. Heath and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  6. Since 2016, the Orwell Foundation has been based at UCL, which is also home to the world’s most comprehensive body of research material relating to Orwell, the UNESCO registered George Orwell Archive.
  7. The Orwell Book Prize was founded in 1994; in its 25 year history, fiction has won once. In 2006, the prize was awarded to Delia Jarrett-Macauley for Moses, Citizen and Me (Granta). In 2018, The Orwell Book Prize for Political Writing received 217 entries and The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction received 98 entries.