The Orwell Prizes aim to encourage excellence in writing and thinking about politics, in fiction, non-fiction and journalism (including commentary and/or reportage). 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, and the writing must live up to the values of The Orwell Foundation.
The Orwell Prize for Political Writing is open to non-fiction first published in the UK in any calendar year. The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, sponsored by A.M. Heath and Richard Blair and currently in its inaugural year, is open to fiction first published in the UK in any calendar year. Rules of entry for all prizes can be found on The Orwell Foundation website.
George Orwell’s writing spanned a huge range of viewpoints, issues, problems, and concerns which The Orwell Foundation hopes will be reflected, over time, by the winners of The Orwell Prizes.
The Orwell Foundation, which administers The Orwell Prizes, is politically independent. The Prizes do not promote the political purposes of any particular writing or take account of the political orientation of the writing.
The prize process, including the appointment of the judges, should encourage and recognise diversity of political/ideological standpoints, expertise, professional skills and experience as well as gender and ethnicity. Judges are required to put aside any personal political beliefs and assess submissions purely on their merit and on whether they meet the prize criteria.
Prize criteria and rules are reviewed annually by the Board of The Orwell Foundation.
- Appointment of judges
The Orwell Foundation strives to achieve a balance of judges across political/ideological standpoints, expertise, professional skills and experience as well as gender and ethnicity. Judges are appointed each year, with separate panels for each prize. The book prize co-administrators, both of whom are Trustees of The Orwell Foundation, nominate suitable candidates in accordance with the Foundation’s policies for approval by the Board of The Orwell Foundation. Judges for The Orwell Prize for Journalism and Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils are nominated by the Director, in accordance with the Foundation’s policies for approval by the Board of Trustees.
Throughout the judging process, the decisions made by the judges are theirs alone: the Trustees, prize co-administrators, the Director and administrative team of The Orwell Foundation, and sponsors, have no role in decision making. Judges are required to be as objective as possible and to put their own political views aside. They are also asked to take into account the criteria, including the values of The Orwell Foundation, and to observe The Orwell Foundation’s equality and diversity policy.
- Call for entries
The call for entries is sent out to publishers in the early autumn and publicised widely through social media and via The Orwell Foundation website. The deadline for entries to the 2020 Journalism and Exposing Britain’s Social Evils Prizes, for work published in the calendar year 2019, is Monday 13th January 2020.
The Orwell Foundation is committed to ensuring entries come from a wide range of writers and publishers; there is no charge for entry and no limit to the number of books a publisher or imprint can submit. Individuals may enter one or more Orwell Prize in a single year.
Authors may also enter their own works provided their book is published by a recognised publisher, is not self-published or published by a company set up by the author.
The purpose of sifting is to agree a manageable number of books to be considered, by selecting books that should not go forward to the judges.
Sifting is purely advisory. Judges are encouraged to call in titles both from the complete list of submissions should they wish to consider books that have not passed the initial sift, and direct from publishers if they have not been submitted, provided the books meet the prize rules.
The Orwell Foundation is committed to ensuring a diverse range of sifters, to provide a balance in political/ideological standpoints, expertise, professional skills and experience as well as diversity of gender and ethnicity. Sifting is by invitation only and sifters will be asked to declare any conflict of interest. The invitation list is drawn up by the Director and administrative team of The Orwell Foundation, the prizes’ co-administrators and the Foundation’s Trustees. It is updated regularly to ensure that the sifting process remains dynamic, diverse and current.
Criteria and background information on submitted titles will be sent to sifters at least a week ahead of the sifting evening. As volunteers, sifters will be asked to observe the Foundation’s equality and diversity policy.
Sifters are divided into teams each chaired by a non-participating Orwell Foundation Trustee. Each team is configured for the best possible balance of professional expertise.
In considering which books should not go forward for consideration by the judges, sifters are asked to score entries according to the judging criteria. To arrive at a consensus, scores from all the teams are amalgamated, checked and double checked by The Orwell Foundation administrative team to produce the final list which is sent on to the judges.
There is no sift in the case of The Orwell Prize for Journalism and The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils: the judges read every entry.
The judges should abide by the key principles detailed above and take into account the values of The Orwell Foundation. They are tasked with agreeing a longlist of around twelve entries at a meeting at which the administrators of the Prize (whose role is solely to ensure due process and who play no part in the judging) will be present.
- Shortlist and winner
The judges should abide by the key principles listed above and take into account the values of The Orwell Foundation. They are tasked to agree a shortlist of no more than six entries at a meeting at which the administrators of the Prize (whose role is solely to ensure due process and who play no part in the judging) will be present.