Costa Book Awards 2020 shortlists announced

  • 20 authors announced today across five categories for the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. 2020 shortlists feature 10 debuts, four previously shortlisted authors, two all-female category shortlists and author ages ranging from 28-74.
  • The First Novel category shortlist includes a ‘highly original’ small-town portrait of the Troubles from Northern Irish author Michelle Gallen and a British Muslim family saga encompassing ‘humour and heartache’ from Sairish Hussain. They’re joined by two writers from fine art backgrounds in Trinidadian-born, award-winning short story writer Ingrid Persaud and US-born nurse-turned-fine art lecturer, Karen Raney.
  • Two authors with a background in activism join the Novel shortlist, in Trinidadian-born writer Monique Roffey, co-founder of Writers Rebel, set up to encourage writers to address the climate change emergency in their work, and Tim Finch, leading campaigner and writer on refugee and migrant issues. They are joined by Susanna Clarke – with her second novel in 16 years, following her multi-million copy bestselling debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – and the Scottish author Denise Mina, whose prolific crime writing has earnt her a place in Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame.
  • The final collection from pioneering Irish poet Eavan Boland becomes the third posthumous collection to be shortlisted for the Poetry category, after Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters and Helen Dunmore’s Inside the Wave. Boland is joined on the list by two new voices: Rachel Long and Martha Sprackland, with their ‘daring’ and ‘spellbinding’ debut collections; and by Caroline Bird, an official poet of the 2012 London Olympics.
  • Memoirs of love and loss from campaigner Lee Lawrence, son of Brixton gun victim Cherry Groce, and palliative care specialist Dr Rachel Clarke are shortlisted for the Biography category alongside a ‘stunningly beautiful’ ode to the city of Liverpool by TV writer Jeff Young and a ‘richly elegant’ study of the life and times of Belle Epoque society doctor and pioneering gynaecologist, Samuel Pozzi, by award-winning author Julian Barnes.
  • Three-times previously shortlisted author, Meg Rosoff, features in the Children’s Book category with her latest coming-of-age novel, alongside children’s writer and literary scout Natasha Farrant for her 12th book. They are joined by two debut authors: Darren Charlton, who works in the voluntary sector for a homeless organisation, and primary school teacher Jenny Pearson, whose shortlisted book was acquired following a major eight-way auction.

Costa Coffee today announces the shortlists for the 2020 Costa Book Awards.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and also, uniquely, recognises some of the most enjoyable books published in the last year across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book.

This year’s Costa Book Awards attracted 708 entries, the most received in one year to date. Judges on this year’s panels (three per category) included the authors Horatio Clare, Jill Dawson, Sadie Jones and Patrice Lawrence; journalist and author Poorna Bell; broadcaster and historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough; poet Zaffar Kunial and blogger and YouTuber Eric Karl Anderson.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Monday 4th January 2021. The overall winner of the 2020 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be announced at a virtual ceremony on Tuesday 26th January 2021.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “These lists represent everything the Costa Book Awards celebrate – here are 20 brilliant books to read, enjoy, recommend and share. Thank you to the judges for their time and dedication in producing such outstanding lists in this most unusual year. And congratulations to the authors who have made it onto the shortlists from such an enormous number of entries. There is truly something for everyone here.”

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, voted for by the public, will also be announced at the ceremony. The three shortlisted stories for the Costa Short Story Award, now in its ninth year, will be revealed on the Costa Book Awards website,, on 1st December 2020.

To be eligible for the 2020 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between 1st November 2019 and 31st October 2020 and their authors resident in the UK or Ireland for the previous three years.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 12 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, eight times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.  The 2019 Costa Book of the Year was The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather.

Riot wins Bishopsgate Institute comms brief

Credit: Bloolips Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Following a competitive pitch, we are proud to partner with Bishopsgate Institute to help design and launch a new communications strategy. The Institute, a beautiful Grade II listed building based opposite Liverpool Street Station in the City of London, is a home for cultural events, conversation, learning and enquiry. Housing a stunning library, worthy of a movie set, and an archive of national importance focusing on London history, activism and protest, and the biggest LGBTQ+ archive in the country, the organisation prides itself on being a welcoming haven, open to all. The values, programming and content of Bishopsgate Institute are what drew us to the organisation.

Preena Gadher Riot MD said: “As an agency specialising in culture, with an emphasis on championing marginalised and diverse voices, Bishopsgate Institute is a perfect fit for us. Our values are very closely aligned, and this is what drives a successful client-agency partnership.”

“We are especially excited to showcase their treasure trove of archives documenting the extraordinary stories of ordinary people, as well as the unique and diverse range of programming and learning opportunities they host. We are looking forward to bringing more attention to the important work of Bishopsgate Institute at a national level.”

Melissa Boxall, Head of Audiences & Communications at Bishopsgate Institute, said “We are looking forward to working with the team at Riot Communications to share our work with a wider audience and shine a light on fascinating stories from our archives. We were impressed by their creative ideas, dynamic approach, and passion for our ethos.”

Image Credits: (1) Bloolips Archive, Bishopsgate Institute; (2) Dan Weill, Bishopsgate Institute

Cheerio and The Estate of Francis Bacon partner to produce books and film that will ‘disturb, thrill and intrigue’

Cheerio Logo

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery” – Francis Bacon

CHEERIO – a new, independent publishing and film production company – has today, Tuesday 10th November 2020, revealed its first commissions, along with a three-year partnership with The White Review Poet’s Prize.

CHEERIO, whose name is a nod to Bacon’s favourite drinking toast, is the brainchild of leading literary agent Clare Conville and celebrated author and curator Harriet Vyner. Partnered by The Estate of Francis Bacon, CHEERIO will commission unexpected and provocative essay collections, books and film from contributors across a broad range of artistic disciplines. Much of its content is inspired by or linked to Francis Bacon’s life and work, although that is not a prerequisite. Its eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction, drama and factual, will appeal to enquiring minds with an artistic bent.

Initial contributors include the authors DBC Pierre and Tade Thompson, the playwright and director Neil Bartlett and art-dealer Anthony Reynolds, the artist and choreographer Holly Blakey, the curator James Birch and the DJ Joe Fletcher. Future contributors include the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller along with the fashion designer Bella Freud, the artist Blondey McCoy, author of cult psycho-geographical classic LIGHTS OUT IN THE TERRITORY, Iain Sinclair, the gallery director Ingrid Swenson and SULK YOUTH (Greta Bellamacina and Robert Montgomery’s production company).

Co-founders Clare Conville and Harriet Vyner said:

“We are honoured and thrilled that The Estate of Francis Bacon has entrusted us to set up CHEERIO. We aim to commission innovative books and films that confound received ideas, open the door to new perceptions and that we believe will intrigue, disturb and thrill audiences, old and new, very much in the spirit of Francis Bacon.”

CHEERIO will release four to six books and up to four short films a year. Kicking off in 2021, CHEERIO will release three short films – TRIPTYCH (April), LADY IN THE LAKE (June) and UBULOGUE (Autumn) – commissioned from Holly Blakey, Joe Fletcher, Neil Bartlett and Anthony Reynolds.

CHEERIO’s first books – BACON IN MOSCOW by James Birch with Barry Miles, LITTLE SNAKE: AN ENQUIRY INTO GAMBLING AND LIFE by DBC Pierre and JACKDAW by Tade Thompson – will be released from 2022 onwards. They will be published in collaboration with Profile Books, independent publisher of inventive books, powerful voices and lively thought.

In addition, CHEERIO enters a three-year partnership with THE WHITE REVIEW on its hugely successful The White Review Poet’s Prize from this month. Established in 2017, the Poet’s Prize is open to unpublished poets, and awards the winner a cash prize, editorial support, and publication in a print issue of THE WHITE REVIEW. It is unique in that it rewards a portfolio of poems, rather than a single work. It also encourages entries which explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and appoints consistently exciting and internationally renowned judges, who later offer the winner editorial feedback and advice. Previous winners of the Prize include Lucy Mercer, Charlotte Geater and Kaleem Hawa.

With CHEERIO’s support, the Poet’s Prize will award £2,500 to the winner, an increase on previous years and equivalent to the award money of the magazine’s long-running Short Story Prize – a recognition of the need to challenge the longstanding undervaluing of poetry against fiction. The 2021 Prize will be judged by three established poets: Jay Bernard (FRSA, FRSL), Emily Berry and Kayo Chingonyi.

Helen Conford, Publisher at Profile, said:

“I’m delighted to be working with Clare and Harriet on such a fizzy, original imprint with such a great range of distinctive voices and bold plans. Cheerio, as Francis Bacon would say.”

Francesca Wade, Editor at THE WHITE REVIEW, added:

“We feel that the White Review Poet’s Prize is unique in rewarding an extended body of work from an unpublished poet, as well as providing them with editorial feedback and a platform, and so we are very excited and encouraged by this new partnership with CHEERIO, as it not only secures the future of the Poet’s Prize but enables us to increase its award money for the winning poet.”