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Press Release: Prizes and Awards
David Cohen Prize For Literature – 'Nobel For UK and Irish Writers' – Returns For 2013

Posted at 12:02AM Thursday 18 Oct 2012

Mark Lawson heads up stellar judging panel for prestigious lifetime achievement award

Booktrust is delighted to announce the launch of the David Cohen Prize for Literature 2013. Awarded biennially, the £40,000 Prize honours a lifetime's achievement in literature. Writer, critic and broadcaster Mark Lawson returns for the second time to Chair a heavyweight panel of judges. Lawson replaced former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion in 2011, who served as Chair for ten years.

The winner of the David Cohen Prize, who will be announced on 7 March 2013, will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of authors, literary critics and academics. This year's judging panel includes:

•Shirley Chew, Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Leeds and current Visiting Professor at the Division of English, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

•Novelist and short story writer, Sarah Hall, whose awards include the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize

•Kathleen Jamie, writer, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Stirling University, who has won the Forward Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award

•Author, journalist and former literary editor of The Daily Telegraph, Sam Leith, who writes for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Spectator, Wall Street Journal Europe and Prospect

•Broadcaster, critic and biographer, Fiona MacCarthy OBE, who won in the biography category in this year's James Tait Black Memorial Prizes

•Poet and critic, Daljit Nagra, who has received Forward Prizes in the categories for best individual poem and best first collection and contributes to BBC Radio, the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Times of India

•Kate Summerscale, writer of fiction and non-fiction, and past judge of numerous literary prizes including the Booker. She won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2008 and the Somerset Maugham award in 1998

•Screenwriter and dramatist, Roy Williams OBE, has won the John Whiting Award, the Alfred Fagon Award and, in 2001, the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. He has prolific theatre credits and has also written drama for Channel 4

Mark Lawson, Chair of Judges:

'In 2011, when Julian Barnes won the David Cohen Prize before going on to take the Man Booker, it was further confirmation of the Cohen's knack of highlighting the writers who really matter. Three previous winners of the David Cohen Prize went on to claim the Nobel Prize for Literature and I think the Prize can properly be seen as a sort of Nobel for UK and Irish writers. I am delighted to be chairing for a second time an award of such distinction and, in the early stages of the 2013 judging, have been excited to see new candidates emerging to challenge those who ran close last time.'

The David Cohen Prize was established in 1992 by David and Veronica Cohen, and Arts Council England, and is recognised as one of Britain's most distinguished literary honours. The Prize is awarded to a writer in the English language who is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. In the past it has been awarded to novelists, dramatists, poets and essayists. The most recent recipient, Julian Barnes, joined a distinguished list of winners, including Seamus Heaney, V S Naipaul, Harold Pinter, Muriel Spark, William Trevor, Doris Lessing, Beryl Bainbridge and Thom Gunn (jointly), Michael Holroyd, and Derek Mahon.

Julian Barnes said upon winning the award in 2011:

'The measure of a literary award's value lies in its list of previous winners. Over the last 18 years the David Cohen Prize has established itself as the greatest honour a British or Irish writer can receive within these islands. It is also conducted with proper secrecy and dignity. So it is a matter of sober delight to be added to the list of prize-winners.'

The winner of the 2013 prize will be announced at a ceremony in central London on 7 March next year.

The John S Cohen Foundation, which was established in 1965 by David Cohen and his family funds the winner's prize.

The winner of the David Cohen Prize for Literature also chooses the recipient of the Clarissa Luard Award, which is worth £12,500. The award, funded by Arts Council England, is given to a literature organisation that supports young writers and readers or an individual writer under the age of 35. Julian Barnes presented the 2011 award to The Reading Agency to support their reading initiatives for young offenders.

The John S Cohen Foundation has supported education and the arts, helping composers, choreographers, dancers, biographers, poets, playwrights and actors among others. Booktrust, which manages and promotes a wide range of prizes, awards and campaigns to celebrate excellence in contemporary literature for all ages, took on the administration of the Prize in 2011.

Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature, Arts Council England said:

'It's really important that artistic excellence is recognised and celebrated alongside our other national achievements. Arts Council England is pleased to once again support the only prize in Britain to recognise a writer's lifetime of achievement in literature. The David Cohen Prize has celebrated many of the greatest writers of our generation, across an impressive range of genres including poetry, biography and fiction, consistently recognising talents that will be a future part of our national literary heritage.'

Viv Bird, Chief Executive of Booktrust said:

'The David Cohen Prize is the ultimate honour for those authors who have written themselves into the nation's literary consciousness. Established in 1993, this biennial Prize, funded by Arts Council England, is for a lifetime's achievement encompassing dramatists as well as novelists, poets and essayists. But one thing unites winners of the David Cohen Prize; their work continues to inspire readers, critics and writers alike. Julian Barnes was a well-deserving winner in 2011 and I have no doubt the judges' task will be a tough one again this year.'

For press enquiries, please contact Will White on

or 020 8875 4583

Follow the Prize on Twitter with #DCP12

Notes to Editors

•Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

•Booktrust is an independent reading and writing charity that makes a nationwide impact on individuals, families and communities, and culture. Booktrust makes a significant positive contribution to the educational outcomes of children from the earliest age. Booktrust is responsible for a number of successful national reading promotions, sponsored book prizes and creative reading projects aimed at encouraging readers to discover and enjoy books. These include the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Children's Laureate, and Bookstart, the national programme that works through locally based organisations to give a free pack of books to babies and toddlers, with guidance materials for parents and carers.

•The David Cohen Prize for Literature is awarded biennially to a living writer from the UK and Ireland whose work, in the opinion of a distinguished panel of judges, merits recognition for a lifetime's achievement in literature. Prize money is made up of £40,000 for the winning author, provided by the John S Cohen Foundation, and £12,500 contributed by Arts Council England for the Clarissa Luard Award. This is awarded to an individual or organisation, chosen by the winner, to encourage writers under the age of 35.

•The John S Cohen Foundation is a private trust set up by David and Veronica Cohen in 1965 to support music and the arts.

•Clarissa Luard, who worked in the Literature Department of Arts Council England, died in November 1999. She had previously worked at the literary agency A P Watt & Co, and was a firm supporter of young writers.

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