2017 Theme: Identity

The theme for the Orwell Prize 2017 is IDENTITY

Take as your starting point any aspect of identity. It could be your own identity, the identity of another, or the sense of identity of a community or group.

In the past year, the debate about the UK’s membership of the European Union has made many people think deeply about issues of ‘identity’ in modern Britain. For some, identity is about place: a particular town, England, Britain, Europe or the World. What does it mean to be ‘British’ or ‘English’ or ‘European’ or a ‘Citizen of the World’?

Orwell wrote about English identity in The Lion and the Unicorn:

But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own”.

For others, the EU referendum has stirred feelings about their identity as a young person. And it has made some think about other forms of identity in modern Britain, such as their class identity, their identity as a man, woman or neither, as a gay person, a black person or as an eco-warrior.

In The Lion and the Unicorn, Orwell also wrote:

“I have spoken all the while of ‘the nation’, ‘England’, ‘Britain’, as though 45 million souls could somehow be treated as a unit. But is not England notoriously two nations, the rich and the poor?

This Year’s Orwell Youth Prize seeks to inspire writing that explores any form of identity that is important or to you or to other people you wish to write about. Which of these forms of identity matter to you and why? Why do you think they matter to others? Are identities fixed? Can they change?

Keep an eye on our website – periodically we will upload examples of writers and journalists that have explored these questions themselves. Lots of Orwell’s work is already available on our website, and we also have a guide to some of our resources.