About the prize

The Orwell Prize is Britain’s is the UK’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, The Orwell Foundation awards prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.

Currently, we award three prizes:

The prize was originally established by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in 1994, ‘to encourage writing in good English – while giving equal value to style and content, politics or public policy, whether political, economic, social or cultural – of a kind aimed at or accessible to the reading public, not to specialist or academic audiences.’

The Orwell Prizes are awarded by The Orwell Foundation (registered charity EW1161563).

HOW THE PRIZE WORKS

The prize year runs from autumn to June. Each year features five ‘milestones’: the launch and opening of submissions; the closing of submissions; the longlist announcement; the shortlist announcement; and the announcement of the winners.

The opening of submissions, traditionally marked by a launch debate or lecture, happens in late autumn. The Prize aims to tell as many publishers, editors, journalists and bloggers as possible: please subscribe to our mailing list for the latest updates. Journalists can be entered by themselves or their editors: authors should consult with their publisher. There is no entry fee, and no restriction on how many entries any organisation (publisher or news outlet) may enter. Entries close in the winter: please be aware that the closing date may vary across the prizes.

All work first published in the UK or Ireland in the calendar year before the date of the prize is eligible – e.g. for the Orwell Prize 2019, work published between 1st January 2018 and 31st December 2018 may be entered. In addition, articles written by UK citizens or residents for international publications may be submitted for The Orwell Prize for Journalism.

The longlists (nominally 14 books and 12 journalists but subject to the discretion of the judges) are publicly announced in spring, followed a few weeks later by the shortlists (6 in each category) at a shortlist debate. The winners are announced at a public awards ceremony in the summer, where the judges may also opt to award a special prize at their discretion.

New judges are appointed each year, and the decisions they make are theirs alone: the Foundation which administers the prize and its sponsors have no role in decision making. Judges are asked to be as objective as possible and put their own political views aside; they are also asked to take into account Orwell’s values for inspiration.

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing (previously, ‘books’) is for a book or pamphlet. ‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including (but not limited to) entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects. Poetry, drama and works in translation are not eligible.

The Orwell Prize for Journalism

The Orwell Prize for Journalism is awarded to a journalist for sustained reportage and/or commentary working in any medium, first published in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. For example, the Orwell Prize 2018 is for work first published in the calendar year 2017. Entry is free and there are no charges at any point.

A submission should consist of three items. This might consist of, for example, three printed articles, three television or radio broadcasts, three blog entries, or a combination of different media. There should be a written element to all articles and entrants may include work published by different organisations.

The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils

In 2014, The Orwell Prize and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launched The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, a new social issues journalism prize.

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, the prize supports and encourage original, insightful, and impactful reporting on social issues in the UK.

In addition to the Prize, The Orwell Prize, together with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), are delivering the Unreported Britain Project as one part of the work of the new JRF-sponsored Prize “The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils”.

Entries should consist of a story that has enhanced the public understanding of social problems and public policy in the UK. The story must be clearly and primarily concerned with an aspect of UK society.

Rewarding innovative journalism, the prize welcomes reporting that extends the reach of traditional media. Entries must be communicated across at least two of the following platforms:

• Journalistic writing (online or in print)
• Video content
• Audio content (including radio programmes, podcasts, audio reports)
• Social media content (for example, reporting via Twitter)
• Photojournalism

Entry is free and there are no charges at any point. A single author, or small group of authors (up to three) may enter.

“The Orwell prize is the prize for political writing, the one you really covet as an author, and getting the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils feels a wonderful affirmation, especially if you are reporting from outside the Westminster bubble.”

Felicity Lawrence, winner The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils 2016