The Orwell Prizes are the UK’s most prestigious prizes 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’.
The Orwell Prizes aim to encourage good writing and thinking about politics. The 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 – the writing must be both political and artful.
In addition to the annual Orwell Youth Prize for young writers, there are currently five prizes:
- The Orwell Prize for Political Writing
- The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
- The Orwell Prize for Journalism
- The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils
- The Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness
The prizes for books and journalism were 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.’
Judges are appointed each year, with a separate panel for each prize (with the exception of The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils and The Orwell Prize for Journalism, which will share a panel as of 2023) and the decisions they make are theirs alone. 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 Foundation is grateful to its partners and sponsors, whose support secures the continued existence of the prizes.
How the Prizes Work
The prize year runs from autumn to July. Each year features four ‘milestones’: the launch and opening of submissions; the closing of submissions; the announcement of the finalists; and the announcement of the winner.
The opening of submissions happens in late autumn. The Foundation aims to tell as many publishers, editors and journalists as possible: please subscribe to our mailing list for the latest updates or contact us to be added to the individual call for entry lists.
Journalists can be entered by themselves or their editors; authors should consult with their publisher. There are no entry fees, though publishers whose books are shortlisted for the book Prizes are asked to make a financial contribution to support promotion, marketing and event costs for each book published.
Between 8-10 finalists (exact number left to the judging panels discretion) will be announced in the early summer. The finalists will be celebrated and invited to participate in events, before winners are announced later in the summer at a public awards ceremony, where the judges may also opt to award a special prize at their discretion.
Please be aware that while our winners and finalists are all announced on the same dates, eligibility periods and closing dates vary across the prizes. See our key milestones for the latest details.
The Orwell Prize for Political Writing
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. ‘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.
The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction rewards outstanding novels and collections of short stories, first published in the UK or Ireland, that illuminate major social and political themes, present or past, through the art of narrative.
The prize is sponsored by the Orwell estate’s literary agency, A. M. Heath, and George Orwell’s son, Richard Blair. The Foundation, which is based at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies, works closely with the Department of English Language and Literature at UCL, who also nominate one of the prize’s four judges.
The Orwell Book Prize, which was previously for both non-fiction and fiction, was renamed The Orwell Prize for Political Writing and is open to non-fiction only.
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.
A submission should consist of a minimum of three and a maximum of four articles in any combination of media. This might consist of, for example, three printed articles, three television or radio broadcasts or a combination of different media.
The Prize is free to enter, with no charges at any point, and entrants may include work published by different organisations.
The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils
The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, previously and for many years sponsored by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is named after the task which Joseph Rowntree set his organisation ‘to search out the underlying causes of weakness or evil’ that lay behind Britain’s social problems. The Prize supports and encourages original, insightful and impactful reporting on social issues in the UK.
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. Entry is free and there are no charges at any point. A single author, or small group of authors may enter.
Rewarding innovative journalism, the prize welcomes reporting that extends the reach of traditional media. Entries may be communicated across any 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)
The Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness
The Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness is awarded for reportage and/or commentary on homelessness. Entries will be encouraged from people who are experiencing or have experienced all forms of homelessness as well as journalists and others writing about or reporting on homelessness. The Prize aims to encourage reporting, whether it be person-centred, data-driven or policy-led, about homelessness and initiatives that could bring an end to it.
A completed submission consists of a minimum of 1 item, and a maximum of 3 items in total. Items may be in any medium, such as written journalism or creative writing, video and audio content including video diaries, photojournalism (which must include text as well as photos) and social media content. Books are not eligible for the Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness.
The Prize is free to enter, with no charges at any point.
Rules are updated every year. The latest rules for all our Prizes can be found here.
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.”