“This means the absolute world to me”: Kathryn Aldridge-Morris and Sara Hills win the 2022 QuietManDave Prize

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Featured image: Maisie Dickinson

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris and Sara Hills win award honouring much-loved Manchester critic QuietManDave.

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris and Sara Hills were announced winners of the 2022 QuietManDave Prize at an awards ceremony at the Manchester Poetry Library on Thursday.

Awarded £1000 in prize money, Katheryn Aldridge Morris took home the first prize for flash fiction for her story Double Lives, and Sara Hills took the first prize for flash non-fiction entry Door Slam, 1980.

“This means so much to me,” said Kathryn Aldridge-Morris as she collected her award. “It’s going to help me with my writing career. It feels like a really important milestone for me.”

The annual competition began in 2020 to celebrate the memory of Manchester critic, writer and blogger David Murray who passed away in 2019.

Murray embraced writing later in life, but he did so with great enthusiasm. The prize, run by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met in conjunction with the Manchester School of Theatre, is keen to discover and encourage new and emerging writers.

This year, the competition received 500 entries and the judging panel shortlisted nine entries for each of the two categories, flash fiction and flash non-fiction. 

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

Prizes were also awarded to runners-up Niamh Mac Cabe and Stuart Cavet for flash fiction and Ruby Martin and Peter Scales for their flash non-fiction pieces.

Collecting her award, winner Sara Halls thanked those behind the competition: “This is such a beautiful tribute to [David’s] life. This means the absolute world to me.”

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

The award ceremony saw judges, shortlisted writers, and members of the public come together to celebrate writing and recognise the achievements of all the shortlisted entrants.

Following a short welcome reception complete with food and drinks, guests were invited to take a seat inside Manchester’s Poetry Library, where the celebration was to be held.

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

James Draper, Manager of the Manchester’s Writing School, provided the opening speech of the evening. “The QuietManDave prize is named in honour of much-loved Manchester critic and writer Dave Murray and has been supported by the generosity of Dave’s family and friends,” he said. “In his memory, this prize seeks to encourage, discover, and celebrate new writers.”

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

Next on stage was Shane Kinghorn, chair of the judges’ panel. After an entertaining introduction, Shane explained the meaning and potential of short-form writing. He highlighted the challenge of selecting a winner from 500 entrants and thanked the other judges for their work and support.

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

Shane explained: “The stories we shortlisted would be as likely to whisper, to tease, to stalk us, to lurk in the shadows as to vie for the limelight.

“The short story doesn’t need or want to be your friend. It has scant regard for genre, and it can cause disquiet as much as offer comfort.

“As judges of both categories, we came to the task with no preconceptions, no expectation of style or subject,” he continued.

He added how they instead were drawn to “strong daring voices” or “that wicked and dark humour that often informs sudden flashes of understanding”.

All shortlisted entrants were then applauded for their hard work and achievements.

Vanda Murray, former chair of Manchester Metropolitan University’s board of governors and David Murray’s wife, took to the stage to share more about Dave and explain what the prize would have meant to him. 

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

“A common thread through Dave’s life was creativity,” she explained in her speech. “He had that creative spark inside of him. He came to writing much later in life – in his late forties and into his fifties.

“He felt he had discovered something that really fulfilled him and he loved meeting new people and inspiring them to write and to try.”

Speeches were followed by readings from the three finalists in each category. The flash fiction readings came first and included the winning entrant Double Lives by Katheryn Aldridge-Morris, What Happened by Stuart Cavet, and A Marram Grass Cradling by Niamh Mac Cabe.

For the flash non-fiction category, readings included the winning story Door Slam, 1980 by Sara Hills, House Fire by Peter Scales, and A Review of Big Boys in One Impossible Act by Ruby Martin.

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

Then came the time to announce the winners. James Draper had the honour of declaring first the winners of the fiction category, with Niamh Mac Cabe taking third place, Stuart Cavet second and Katheryn Aldridge-Morris first. 

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

He then announced Ruby Martin as the third-place winner of the flash non-fiction category. Peter Scales took second place and Sara Hills first.

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

In an interview with aAh!, non-fiction winner Sara Hills said, “The flash community is so welcoming, everyone is really kind, and it is made up of such a wide variety of people. I think we all have something to say, we all have different experiences, and it [writing] is a way that we can all come together to understand each other.”

Photography: Maisie Dickinson

Runner-up Peter Scales said: “It’s great just sitting in your office and writing, but for it to be recognised- and I think this is a very recognised prize and becoming more so is great.”

The ceremony ended with a closing speech from Draper thanking the entrants and judges once again.

Watch our celebration video below featuring readings from some of this year’s shortlisted writers.

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