The International Anthony Burgess Foundation and the Observer newspaper are delighted to announce the winners of the 2015 Observer / Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism, who were unveiled at a special event at King’s Place, London on Thursday 26 February.
Robert McCrum (Associate Editor) and Andrew Biswell (Director, International Anthony Burgess Foundation) welcomed an expectant crowd to the awards ceremony. The prize, for the best unpublished arts and culture review, is in its third year and received more entries, and on a wider range of topics, than ever before, and the broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, chair of the judging panel, presented the awards.
The winner was Shahidha Bari, whose subject was the National Theatre’s production of Medea that ran between July and September of 2014. The judges said that in a very strong field her insightful take on this ambitious production really stood out, and Mariella remarked that reading the essay had given her ‘the best night at the theatre she’d had all year’.
Shahidha is a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, teaching English and with research interests in literature, culture and philosophy. She says: ‘I’ve reviewed a few films and exhibitions for radio over the last two years, and it’s been a brilliant way to think about what it means to be a critic, and a lovely way of trying to find a voice, but I haven’t had very much writing published, and that’s the form in which I feel most at home (and most thoughtful). I’m currently writing a non-academic book on clothes and philosophy, about why clothes matter, and how they connect us to other people.’
The runners up were Liam O’Brien, who is writing his first novel, for his lively, thoughtful and very funny piece on RuPaul’s Drag Race; and Christopher Hyland for his review of Martin Amis’s novel The Zone Of Interest.
The winner received a cheque for £2000, and all the writers received replica trophies of the ‘Critic of the Year’ award presented to Anthony Burgess in 1979 by Margaret Thatcher, one of the few prizes won by Burgess in the UK.
The 2016 prize will be launched in May, with full details on the Burgess Foundation website and in the press.