Costa Short Story Award 2020: identities of three finalists revealed

  • Winner decided by public vote and will be announced at the Costa Book Awards virtual ceremony on Tuesday 26th January
  • All-female shortlist includes a Palme D’Or-winning screenwriter/director, a former Man Booker-longlisted author and a multi-nominated Irish short story writer
  • Five additional stories highly commended by judges
  • Watch the Costa Book Awards ceremony from 7pm on Tuesday 26th January here

Costa Coffee is today revealing the names of the three writers shortlisted for the 2020 Costa Short Story Award.

Established in 2012, the Award – run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system – is judged anonymously i.e without the name of the author being known throughout the process.

It is open to both published and unpublished writers for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words by an author aged 18 years or over and written in English.

This year’s shortlisted writers are:

Louise Dean for How Adult Conversation Works: Louise Dean, based in Kent, is the author of four published novels Becoming Strangers, This Human Season, The Idea of Love and The Old Romantic. She was the winner of the Betty Trask Prize in 2004, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Prize and IMAP and the winner of Le Prince Maurice Prize in 2006. She is the founder of the worldwide writing school The Novelry.

Laura-Blaise McDowell for The Lobster Waltz: Laura-Blaise McDowell lives in Dublin and holds an MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including Still Worlds Turning, an anthology of new Irish writing from No Alibis Press. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Benedict Kiely Short Story Award and was runner-up for the Dalkey Creates Short Story Prize. Two of her stories were longlisted for the Short Story of the Year Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards, with Balloon Animals making the shortlist. In 2020, she received an honourable mention for the Cuirt New Irish Writing Prize and her short memoir appeared in the Fish Anthology 2020 as part of the Fish Short Memoir Prize. She is currently working on a short story collection.

Tessa Sheridan for The Person Who Serves, Serves Again: Tessa Sheridan is a London-based writer with tentacles in film, audio and screenwriting. Her short stories have won the Chester Prize and appeared in two published collections to date, and many more lurk on her laptop. As screenwriter/director, her short films have won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and the BBC Award for Best Short Drama, and her feature film scripts have won major development awards. Her audio drama ‘Flotsam’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She’s currently completing another screenplay and has begun work on her first novel, a psychological thriller.

The author of the story that received the most public votes receives £3,500 and will be announced as the winner at the Costa Book Awards ceremony which this year will be broadcast on Tuesday 26th January from 7pm on the Costa Coffee You Tube page. The second place and third place writers receive £1,000 and £500 respectively.

The shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges comprising Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and Senior Lecturer in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University; Radio 2 Book Club producer Joe Haddow; literary agent Simon Trewin; and authors Adele Parks and Kit de Waal, herself a finalist for this Award in 2013.

The judges also had the option to highly commend up to six additional entries.  This year, the judges chose the following five stories for commendation:

  • The Hunt by Niall Bourke
  • Little Palm Tree by Frances Browner
  • Refuge by Aislinn Kelly-Lyth
  • 24 Hours in You & Me by George Rennison
  • Higher Ground by Susan Swan

Previous winners include: Anna Dempsey (2019), a writer and teacher based in London, who won with her first piece of short fiction and is currently completing her debut YA novel; Caroline Ward Vine (2018), a former magazine publisher from Kent; Newham-based primary school teacher Luan Goldie (2017), whose debut novel Nightingale Point was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and whose second novel, Homecoming, was published in August 2020; Jess Kidd (2016) from Richmond in Surrey, the author of two adult novels and one children’s book, Everyday Magic, published in February 2020; former headteacher Daniel Murphy from Stirling in Scotland (2015) and writer and PhD student Zoe Gilbert (2014) from Sydenham Hill, South East London.

2013 winner Angela Readman, a Newcastle-based writer and poet, has had two collections published – a story collection (Don’t Try This at Home, 2015) and poetry collection (The Book of Tides, 2016) – and her first novel, Something Like Breathing, was published in March 2019. Inaugural winner from 2012, Avril Joy – a former prison manager and now full-time writer from Witton-le-Wear in Bishop Auckland – has since published an ebook, From Writing with Love.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. It also, uniquely, recognises the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year.  Originally established by Whitbread PLC in 1971, Costa Coffee announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s prestigious and popular book prize in 2006.

Costa Book Awards category winners announced

  • Award-winning short story writer Ingrid Persaud scoops the Costa First Novel Award for her ‘outstanding’ debut novel set in Trinidad, Love After Love.
  • Writer and memoirist Monique Roffey triumphs in the Costa Novel Award category, winning her first major UK literary prize for her seventh book, The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story.
  • Lee Lawrence, debut writer and son of Brixton gun victim Cherry Groce, wins the Costa Biography Award for his ‘revelatory’ memoir, The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption.
  • The late Eavan Boland, one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature, posthumously wins the Costa Poetry Award with her final collection, The Historians, described by the judges as having ‘some of the finest lines of poetry written this century.’
  • Writer and literary scout Natasha Farrant wins the Costa Children’s Book Award with her 12th book, Voyage of the Sparrowhawk – which the judges called ‘pure heavenly escapism.’

Costa Coffee today announces the Costa Book Awards 2020 winners in the First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book categories.

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

Originally established in 1971 by Whitbread Plc, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s most prestigious book prize in 2006. 2020 marks the 49th year of the Book Awards.

The five winning authors – one of whose books will be named 2020 Costa Book of the Year on Tuesday 26th January – are:

  • Writer, artist and academic, Ingrid Persaud, who wins the Costa First Novel Award for Love After Love, the judges said the story of Trinidadian Betty Ramdin written in Trinidadian prose, was ‘teeming with life’ and ‘full of unforgettable characters.’
  • Writer, Monique Roffey, who wins this year’s Costa Novel Award for her seventh book, The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story; a dark love story between a fisherman and a mermaid torn from the sea based on a Neo-Taino legend which the judges called ‘a story of rare imagination’ and ‘a glorious myth’.
  • Social entrepreneur Lee Lawrence takes the Costa Biography Award for his debut work, a memoir, The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption – described by Hip Hop Artist AKALA as ‘the story of arguably one of the most important, yet least known, events in modern British history’ and by the judges as ‘a terrific story.’
  • Pioneering Irish poet Eavan Boland posthumously wins the Costa Poetry Award – the third writer to do so – with her final collection, The Historians, described by the judges as ‘an extraordinary book.’
  • Bestselling children’s author Natasha Farrant, who wins the Costa Children’s Book Award for Voyage of the Sparrowhawk, which follows an epic voyage from England to France in the aftermath of WW1 and described by the judges as ‘a purely joyful read.’

The authors, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 708 entries and their books are now eligible for the ultimate prize – the 2020 Costa Book of the Year.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “Five outstanding books and five very worthy Award winners – what a wonderful way to start the year.  The Costa Book Awards are all about recognising great writing and a good read and we’re very proud to be announcing such a brilliant collection of books for readers to explore and enjoy.”

The winner will be selected by a panel of judges chaired by historian, author and broadcaster Professor Suzannah Lipscomb and comprising category judges Jill Dawson, Sadie Jones, Horatio Clare, Zaffar Kunial and Patrice Lawrence joined by actor and writer Stephen Mangan, television and radio presenter Angellica Bell and presenter and book vlogger Simon Savidge, and will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by presenter and broadcaster Penny Smith on Tuesday 26th January 2021.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve 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.

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, now in its ninth year, is voted for by the general public and will also be announced at the awards ceremony. Voting is open until Friday 8th January, until which time the identity of the three shortlisted authors remains anonymous.

Riot Director Adele Minchin on how the PR industry can help colleagues thrive, simply by listening to their needs

Aged seven, my son was diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia. Lots of well-known figures also have the condition including Daniel Radcliffe, Cara Delevigne, Florence Welch and Albert Einstein was even believed to have had dyspraxia. You have probably known someone with dyspraxia and been unaware of their condition – the child at school labelled clumsy, messy, not gifted at sport, fidgety. A particularly observant teacher noticed that no matter how many times she asked my son to sit up straight on the mat, to do cursive handwriting or to stop fidgeting in his seat, he just could not do it. DCD means he has issues with coordination, sequencing, motor planning, organising himself and his environment, and because of problems with balance, will fidget and squirm to keep upright. DCD is a neurodevelopmental condition not a learning disorder. It is a lifelong condition.

Every new school year, to help smooth the transition to a new teacher, my husband and I update our son’s ‘passport’ which explains his condition, how it affects him, the consequences of his condition and things that can be put in place in the classroom to help mitigate potential problems. As he grows older, his development, his needs, his behaviour and learning evolves. The passport anticipates potential new issues for the new school year. As he goes into Year 6, for example, the use of a protractor and a compass is introduced and so specialist equipment needs to be considered, as well as instructions broken down into small steps on how to use the equipment. The passport acts as a checklist and a guide.

We’re not apologetic about his condition and his needs. We accept the condition and take practical steps to manage it and help our son grow, careful to work collaboratively and sensitively with the SENCO and his teachers. We encourage our son to ‘own’ his condition and to politely refer to his ‘passport’ when he’s struggling and finding it difficult to articulate his challenges to a teaching professional who he might not be getting quite the right support from. He wears his condition with pride and is learning from a young age to share his needs, to make polite demands of those working with him, for their patience and acceptance.

At Riot Communications, when we recruit, our MD, Preena Gadher, talks in interviews with potential candidates about creating an environment at work where colleagues can be their true selves. The daughter of working class, immigrant parents she has had to code switch in previous jobs to assimilate. She doesn’t want that for anyone at Riot.

Part of being your true self at work does of course involve thinking about your particular needs, personal to your background and circumstances. We ask candidates what their needs are to do their very best work. One interviewee was so stunned by the question tears came to her eyes. She said she’d never been asked that question by an employer before and had to have 24 hours to think about it. She was so grateful. Wouldn’t every professional environment benefit from asking such a simple question? And following through of course.

Needs can range from flexible start or finish times for exercise or a counselling session, to a colleague with dyslexia needing extra time to proofread an email or piece of copy. An employee might need access to a prayer room or extended holidays to do long haul trips to visit family overseas or weekly check-ins with a line manager or Mental Health First Aider on their Wellness Action Plan. When considering a career opportunity, a potential employee might have higher needs such as an informal, non-corporate working environment or a role that is purpose driven and has social impact. I’m a working mother and my needs are based around flexible working so I can be present for my son, as well as the business. Working in an environment where we accept and celebrate that everyone has different physical, emotional, and practical needs, can only mean a happier, more diverse and productive workforce. The better we are as employers at understanding our teams’ needs, empowering and encouraging them to, like my son, create their own ‘passports’ that can be referred to when necessary, the better a working environment we will create.

There’s no mistaking that life in a PR agency is fast-paced, high pressure and full of demands so finding the time to consider your own and your employees’ needs is often easier said than done. The PRCA PR census 2019 showed that, on average, 62% of PR and communications professionals are contracted to work 35 hours a week. However, in reality only 21% of them work those hours. 50% end up working 45 hours a week. This figure reflects trends in previous Censuses, but in 2019 there was a 5% increase in the number of people working an additional 10 hours a week. In addition, 19% of respondents claim to work 55 hours a week. 32% of respondents suffered from or had been diagnosed with mental ill health. The PR industry is waking up to a mental health emergency and the findings detailed in the PRCA’s Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing in Public Relations report, places enormous importance on the industry taking responsibility for employees and finding an alternative to the ‘always on’ culture. Finding time for our needs has never been more important.

This school term, we introduced a notebook into our son’s support plan so he can doodle in it when he needs to focus. Creativity spills from the margins. The school bought him a wobble cushion to help with his balance, posture and core stability. He gets fewer tellings off for fidgeting as a result. He didn’t know he needed a wobble cushion or a doodle pad but both have improved the quality of his work and the experience he has at school. It took the patient observation, acceptance and willingness of the professionals around him to help him discover what he needed. Perhaps we all need a doodle pad and a wobble cushion? Perhaps we just need someone willing to take the time to sit down and talk to us about our needs, someone to take notice, someone to care.

Riot x Costa Coffee Christmas Campaign

  • 100,000 books gifted across the nation by Christmas Eve, in partnership with leading charity The Reading Agency
  • Bestselling authors lend their support to the campaign to share the joy of reading, including Malorie Blackman, Simon Callow, Candice Carty-Williams, Konnie Huq, Michael Morpurgo, Andy McNab, Bobby Seagull and Jacqueline Wilson

Costa Coffee, the Nation’s Favourite Coffee shop (Allegra Strategies, 2019), is partnering with leading charity The Reading Agency to share the joy of reading this Christmas, by gifting 100,000 books to some of the families and communities hit hardest by the pandemic this year.

50,000 book-and-coffee care packages – containing one adult book, one children’s book, and a range of festive Costa Coffee treats – will be distributed to food banks, community hubs, hospitals and care homes across the UK, in time for Christmas Eve. The books in each care package have been selected from the works of six bestselling authors connected to the Costa Book Awards, including Malorie Blackman, Candice Carty-Williams and Michael Morpurgo.

The Costa Coffee Gift-A-Book campaign is inspired by Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books with loved ones on Christmas Eve. Loosely translated, Jolabokaflod means ‘Christmas Book Flood’: it is a Christmas Eve tradition dating back to World War Two, where Icelanders give and receive books and read them through the night with chocolate and a hot drink.

Other high-profile names – including author and actor, Simon Callow; author and TV presenter, Konnie Huq; author and former SAS soldier, Andy McNab; writer and mathematician, Bobby Seagull, and former Children’s Laureate, Jacqueline Wilson – will also lend their support to the campaign by sharing their own favourite book to gift ahead of Christmas Eve, encouraging members of the public to embrace their own Jolabokaflod tradition at home this year and share their top reading choices using #CostaGiftABook.

Michael Morpurgo, author of family favourites War Horse and Kaspar: Prince of Cats, one of the books included in the care packages, said: “Reading is a journey of discovery which set me on the path to writing. Without it, I don’t know where I would be, so I believe it is absolutely vital that every person, whatever age and wherever they live, should have access to books and the doors they allow us to step through. That’s why I’m thrilled with Costa Coffee’s generous book donation and passionate about supporting the work of The Reading Agency.”

Neil Lake, MD, Costa Coffee UK & Ireland, said: “Tradition is a big part of Christmas and, although this year will feel different for many people, we wanted to help some of those hardest-hit to create a new tradition inspired by this heart-warming custom of gifting books on Christmas Eve. As the proud sponsor of the Costa Book Awards, which is almost in its 50th year, we know the power of a great read and a perfect cup of coffee. Our teams are passionate about supporting the local communities they serve and, by gifting these care packages in partnership with The Reading Agency, we hope to give back to those communities with a comforting and joyful experience at the end of a turbulent year.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, added: “We are delighted to be announcing this partnership with Costa Coffee. Books connect and transport us to other worlds, but not everyone can access them: this has been especially true in 2020, which has been so challenging for so many. We have had an extraordinary response to the campaign, and we hope that it will bring some much-needed festive cheer to families and communities from Liverpool to Folkestone, from the Isle of Man to the Isle of Mull. We are working towards a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life, and initiatives like this help our work towards giving every child and adult equal access to the joy of reading.”

In February 2020, Costa Coffee was voted The Nation’s Favourite Coffee Shop for the 10th consecutive year by Allegra Strategies. The Costa Book Awards, one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular book prizes, has been running since 1971 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

Aardman partners with leading games publisher BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment to develop new IP

The multi-award-winning independent animation studio, Aardman, and leading global video game developer and publisher, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe join forces to develop a brand new IP, driven by a shared vision on the future of entertainment.

The collaboration’s first major project exists across multiple media, and the team will be approaching partners in early 2021 with the development materials. Aardman’s talent in creating characters and worlds will be used, in collaboration with BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe’s expertise in publishing and development, to create stories tailored for current and future platforms.

Daniel Efergan, ECD of Interactive suggests “As modern storytellers, the formats we create for are fundamentally changing year on year.  This creates a space bubbling with potential, the chance to weave worlds with many windows, allowing people to play, watch or even perform with the IPs we create.  But no matter what the format, no matter what the platform, the need for characters to fall in love with, epic universes to explore, and ultimately great storytelling, will always be front and centre.”

Sean Clarke, Managing Director of Aardman, commented: “Interactive Entertainment is a huge growth area within the entertainment world, and with new emerging technology blurring the lines of watching and playing, we are keen to develop strategic partnerships with partners such as BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe that share our vision of creating new IP that embraces this new world and cement our studio’s reputation as a multi-disciplinary creative hub.”

“This new partnership with Aardman is a dream come true, as it opens up a world of possibilities,” said Hervé Hoerdt, SVP of Digital, Marketing & Content at BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe, “The teams at Aardman and BNEE are a perfect cultural and creative fit to build a successful long term partnership, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”

More details about this exciting collaboration between Aardman and BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe will be announced at a later date.

Aardman’s work in interactive storytelling includes the 2018 game, 11-11: Memories Retold, and in 2020 it will release Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up, a brand-new immersive AR experience, in collaboration with Fictioneers backed by funding from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).

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.”

Riot announces shortlist for 2020 Royal Society Science Book Prize

  • Six game-changing reads for curious minds are shortlisted for prestigious prize for popular science writing.
  • Previous winners Bill Bryson and Gaia Vince and former shortlistee Jim Al-Khalili join three newcomers with books that take readers on a journey of self-discovery and social awareness.
  • “These books make science intriguing, accessible and exciting. Some raise awareness of the scientific process, and of our understanding that scientists are humans too. Others are a call to arms, asking us to consider our place in the universe and what we can bring to humanity in our various ways.” – Professor Anne Osbourn FRS, 2020 Chair of Judges.

The Royal Society today, Tuesday 22nd September, reveals the shortlist for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2020, sponsored by Insight Investment. This year’s shortlisted books, chosen from over 172 submissions, represent the very best in popular science writing from around the world for a non-specialist audience.

Postdoctoral scientist and debut author, Dr Camilla Pang, is joined on the 2020 shortlist by Oxford scholar and expert in women’s economic empowerment, Linda Scott, who is nominated for her first solo book. Also joining the list for the first time is journalist and author Susannah Cahalan. These three newcomers are up against two previous winners, author Bill Bryson OBE FRS (A Short History of Nearly Everything, 2004) and Gaia Vince, science writer and broadcaster (Adventures in the Anthropocene, 2015) and previously shortlisted author and physicist, Jim Al-Khalili (Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, written with Johnjoe McFadden, 2015).

The full 2020 shortlist is (in order of author surname):

  • The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili (Princeton University Press)
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (Transworld Publishers)
  • The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (Canongate Books)
  • Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang (Viking)
  • The Double X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women by Linda Scott (Faber & Faber)
  • Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time by Gaia Vince (Allen Lane)

The judges praised the six authors on the rigorous scientific content of their books conveyed through engaging storytelling. They reflected that each book showed a unique perspective on a well-known subject or uncovered little known truths about everyday interactions in an accessible way for lay readers.

Chair of this year’s judging panel, Professor Anne Osbourn FRS, Group Leader at the John Innes Centre and Director of the Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology Alliance, comments:

“This year’s shortlisted books represent carefully crafted explorations of the worlds both around and within us: the physical laws of the universe and the search for ultimate simplicity; the innermost workings of the human body (and its ultimate demise); an instruction manual for interpreting human behaviour;  the complex area of diagnosing and defining mental health;  the subordination and exclusion of women in developed and developing countries around the world, and the potential for unleashing women’s economic power for the greater good, and the evolution and potential fragility of the human super-organism Homo omnis , likened to a differentiating slime mould trying to ensure its survival by escaping an unfavourable soil environment.

“These books make science intriguing, accessible and exciting. Some raise awareness of the scientific process, and of our understanding that scientists are humans too. Others are a call to arms, asking us to consider our place in the universe and what we can bring to humanity in our various ways.  There is darkness, revelation and hope. There is inspiration.”

Four books on the shortlist explore the layered intricacies of what it means to be human. These books present unique perspectives and facts on the human body, providing illuminating insights on the history of psychiatry, human evolution, and navigating social norms.

In Explaining Humans, Dr Camilla Pang – diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight – examines life’s everyday interactions through a set of scientific principles, showing how thinking differently can be a superpower instead of a disability. Meanwhile, Bill Bryson’s The Body, explores the human anatomy, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. The book is packed with surprising facts, including the revelation that we blink so many times in a day that our eyes are shut for 23 minutes every day.

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan follows up on her debut, Brain on Fire, in which she described her experience of being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. In this new book, Cahalan investigates the troubled history of psychiatry, using psychologist David Rosenhan’s famous experiment – On Being Sane in Insane Places – as a case study. Cahalan questions whether this famous experiment is deeply flawed and, if so, what this means for our understanding of mental illness. In search of how humans came to be the dominant species, Gaia Vince’s Transcendence takes a fresh look at evolution and argues that the delicate combination of our genes, environments and cultures makes us smart. Vince shows how today we are all part of an unfolding social project leading us to a new chapter in our evolution.

Linda Scott coined the term ‘Double X Economy’ to describe the global economy of women. In The Double X Economy, Scott looks at the systemic nature of women’s economic exclusion, from the villages of Africa and the slums of Asia, to the boardrooms of London and the universities of the United States. Finally, Jim Al-Khalili appears on the shortlist for the second time with The World According to Physics. In this insightful book, Al-Khalili argues that the wonders of the universe should be appreciated by everyone, and that physics gives us the tools to better understand the universe and ourselves.

Half of the books on the shortlist come from independent publishers. Penguin Random House has titles from three imprints (Transworld, Viking and Allen Lane).

Founded in 1988, the Royal Society Science Book Prize exists to promote the accessibility and joy of popular science books to the public. For 32 years, the Prize has celebrated some of the very best in science writing, with topical subjects tackled by the Prize winners ranging from gender stereotyping (Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, 2019, and Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine, 2017) to works exploring humanity’s impact on the environment (Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince, 2015, and Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, 2008). At a time when science communication forms a central part of our daily discourse, the aim of the Prize is more relevant than ever.

Alongside Professor Anne Osbourn, the 2020 judging panel comprises: Blackwell’s Trade Buying Manager, Katharine Fry; journalist, Katy Guest; Royal Society University Research Fellow, Dr Kartic Subr, and actress and author Sophie Ward.

The winner of the 2020 Prize will be announced via a virtual awards ceremony streamed on the Royal Society website on 3rd November 2020. The winner will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.