“I am so grateful to all the judges, to Carol Ann Duffy and the whole of Manchester Metropolitan University Writing School. This has completely changed my life.”
– 2014 Manchester Fiction Prize Winner, Martin MacInnes
“It is a really special competition that has given me such a boost to my confidence.”
– 2014 Manchester Poetry Prize Co-Winner, Mona Arshi
By Abi Lillicrap
The sixth Manchester Writing Competition revealed its Poetry and Fiction prize winners in the stunning surrounds of Chetham’s School of Music on Friday.
With £20,000 of prize money to present, The Manchester Writing Competition was set up by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy to encourage the best writers across the world to share their work.
This year’s judges for the Poetry Prize were Adam O’Riordan, Adam Horovitz and Clare Pollard. The judging panel for the Fiction prize consisted of Nicholas Royle, Christopher Burns and Claire Dean.
After a drinks reception, which saw all those shortlisted intermingling with the judges and public, the awards began with an introduction by James Draper representing The Manchester Writing School and Matthew Frost representing the Manchester Literary Festival.
With six writers shortlisted in both the Fiction Prize and Poetry Prize categories, prior to the prize giving, the audience had the opportunity to hear the creators of these pieces share a reading from their work.
Readings were then shared from all six finalists of the Poetry Prize, Mona Arshi, Guy Carter, Michael Derrick Hudson, Wayne Price, Lesley Saunders and Tracey Saughter.
The Fiction Prize finalists, David Grubb, Avril Joy, Martin Macinnes, Robert Mason, Davey Moore and Adrian Wakeling, also shared a section of their writing.
You can read all of the shortlisted pieces here.
The readings were beautiful to hear and echoed around the incredible setting. All the writers were considerate in their address to the audience, explaining the origins of their ideas and portraying the extremely high standard of work that both prizes attract. I personally considered the evening to be a celebration of outstanding talent and I am sure other members of the audience would agree.
Nicholas Royle, as head poetry judge ended the evening with an overview of the competition and he shared a few thoughts on the state of short stories at Manchester Fiction Prize.
“It’s great that it has become a bit of a cliché in speeches like this one to talk about the revival of the short story, great because people are saying it enough times it must be true. How many competitions are there now? I have lost count. I have to say there is an element to these ceremonies that I don’t like and that is that shortlisted writers will go away disappointed. I do feel their disappointment. On behalf of all of you, I know that in this competition the likelihood is that you will not win but nevertheless reaching the shortlist in this competition is I think an achievement to be proud of.”
The judges of the Poetry prize 2014 decided to name two finalists as winners, Mona Arshi for her poems ‘Bulbul’, ‘The Gold Bangles’, ‘Large and Imprecise Baby’, ‘My Father Wants to be a Rooftop Railway Surfer’ and ‘Mr Beeharry’s Marriage Bureau’ and Michael Derrick Hudson for his poems, ‘Down at the Circus of Self-disgust’, ‘The Archaeologist’, ‘Feeling sorry for myself at the Museum’s Blue Whale Heart Exhibit’ and ‘Back in College, Two of my Girlfriends.’
Winning poems can be read here.
Adam Horovitz collected Michael Derrick Hudson’s prize on his behalf and said,
“Michael says, it might be reasonable to suggest that almost all poets crave affirmation. By affirmation, I only mean the evidence that somebody somewhere is actually reading your poems and that the effort put into making rhymes is not an all-together futile one. To make the shortlist for the Manchester Poetry Prize was an enormous affirmation, to win the prize surpasses even the most unrealistic hopes I ever had for my work.”
Mona Arshi spoke to me about her reaction to winning,
“I’m really overwhelmed, I am just really grateful that the three judges liked the poems enough and what is really great is that it is a really special competition because you don’t just send in one poem – you send in, well, I sent in five poems. It gives you a real range and opportunity to show them a cross-section of your work and they liked it enough and that has given me such a boost to my confidence.”
“I am really shocked and feel a bit sheepish about having that huge sum of money given to me. I feel bad that the other writers didn’t come away with something but I have worked for eight years, minimum wage, part-time and it has been really hard and I could probably get two years of working restricted hours and I intend to write like never before. I am so grateful to all the judges, to Carol Ann Duffy and the whole of Manchester Metropolitan University Writing School. This has completely changed my life and I feel good pressure on me now. I am not going to disappoint the faith that the judges have shown in me.”
Everyone shortlisted proved to have an exceptional passion and talent for writing, which echoed around the hall for everyone attending to see and hear. Both judges and audience members agreed the evening was both entertaining and professionally run. The atmosphere was relaxed but exciting; a fun event with a serious purpose and an event Manchester Metropolitan University can be proud of. Well done to everyone involved in this event, as it was certainly inspirational to witness.