The UK’s Young Writer Award Gains Charlotte Aitken Trust Sponsorship

In News by Porter Anderson

The annual competition led by the Sunday Times in the United Kingdom now is sponsored by the Charlotte Aitken Trust.

At London’s Kensington station, May 9. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Alena Kravchenko

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Holgate: ‘A Huge Boost’
Today (June 18), the Sunday Times young writers’ prize in the United Kingdom has announced that its annual dates of operation and is purse will change with the arrival of a new sponsor. In addition, submissions for the 2022 cycle have opened, with a deadline of August 31.

It was in April 2019 that we announced that the UK’s Sunday Times Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award would become the Sunday Times University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. The Warwick sponsorship now has run its scheduled course, opening the opportunity for a new sponsor.

The Charlotte Aitken Trust will double the winnings carried by the program and will also change the dates to a more felicitous position in the early part of the year.

The prize money for the program’s winner now doubles to £10,000 (US$13,901) and for the shortlisted authors doubles to £1,000 (US$1,390).

Gillon Aitken and daughter Charlotte

The change in dates will see the shortlist announced in January and the winner in February instead of the previous pattern which brought out the finalists in November and the winner in December.

The Charlotte Aitken Trust takes its name from the late daughter of the literary agent Gillon Aitken, who died in 2016 at age 78.

In his will, Gillon Aitken instructed that his estate create a new literary charity to encourage literary talent in memory of his daughter, who died at 27. The partnership with the Young Writer Award is the charity’s first such announcement.

Andrew Holgate

In a prepared statement, Andrew Holgate, the Sunday Times‘ literary editor, who leads the award program, is quoted, saying, “This is a significant moment for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.

“We have a heritage that any literary award would be proud of, but joining with the Charlotte Aitken Trust in the goal of supporting and championing young writing in the UK and Ireland is a huge boost.

“We share so much with the trust, and together we will be able to significantly increase what we can offer to new young writers.”

Sebastian Faulks

The trust is led by the writer Sebastian Faulks, who’s quoted, saying, “To be encouraging young writers in Charlotte’s name is absolutely the sort of thing we want to be doing.

“The prize itself, with its previous sponsors, the University of Warwick and Peters Fraser & Dunlop, has a fantastically good track record, not just for picking up writers of promise, but writers of achievement, people who have gone on to have very good careers.

“It has great history and value to us.”

Gillon Aitken founded what now is known as Aitken Alexander Associates, the literary agency, in 1976.
Clare Alexander would join in 1998, and the company’s name became what it is today in 2005.

Clare Alexander

Clare Alexander

Alexander, in a statement today, says, “The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award is without equal in discovering new writers and in giving them vital encouragement in the early stages of their career.

“I know how happy Gillon would be that one of our first sponsorships is of a prize that fulfils his intentions so fully, not only in enabling talent to flourish, but in supporting youth and literary ambition.”

The Society of Authors, Switzerland to the English book awards scene, administers the Young Writer Award as it does so many others, and a jury announcement is anticipated soon.

What’s in a Name?

As in many world markets, the United Kingdom frequently sees sponsor names on its landmarks. At one point, Wincham Park in England was renamed the Bargain Booze Stadium. In the United States, sports fans congregate at Louisville’s KFC Yum Center (Yum being the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken). In New Orleans, citizens gather at the Smoothie King Center.

In recent years, there’s been a shift in British awards programs away from the sponsor-branded title trend, seen in two of the market’s highest-visibility programs.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction moved first in this direction, in 2018 leaving its “Orange” and “Baileys” eras of branding behind (while retaining Baileys as one of several continuing sponsors).

The Booker Prize Foundation then made a similar adjustment, as its 18 years of Man Group sponsorship concluded in 2019, regrouping as the Booker Prize and International Booker Prize and welcoming its new funding from the US charity Crankstart was announced.

Perhaps the phrase “Crankstart Booker” was just too much to contemplate.

The tradition of embedding the name of the Young Writer Award’s current sponsor into is formal title continues, however, retaining for the program a special status: It has what may be the lengthiest name in world publishing contests, at 64 characters and spaces: The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award. A good clue to how to refer to it in conversation lies in its URL: YoungWriterAward (.org).

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, this is the awards program based at the Sunday Times for British and Irish writers who are 35 and younger. Since fading from view during a seven-year hiatus until 2015, the Young Writer Award has been regaining traction with winners including Raymond Antrobus, Adam Weymouth, Sally Rooney, Max Porter, Sarah Howe, and, in 2020, Jay Bernard.

In the combative world of publishing and book awards programs–they sometimes jostle for press visibility more aggressively than do authors and publishers for the actual awards–the Young Writer Award’s main competition for attention is the £20,000 (US$27,793) Dylan Thomas Prize at Swansea University. That one’s age cutoff is 39, the age at which Thomas died.

The Coronavirus in the United Kingdom

As you’ll know, the announced month-long delay to July 19 for a full reopening in the UK has been met with understandable disappointment but a clear demonstration of need.

The Guardian’s carriage of PA Media reporting (formerly the Press Association) sees cases “rising exponentially across England, driven by younger and mostly unvaccinated age groups, according to scientists.”

COVID-19 cases are thought to be doubling every 11 days, per the report, the “delta” variant first observed in India now having overtaken the “alpha” variant B.1.1.7 to become dominant.

On Thursday, the UK reached 11,007 new cases, according to Axios working with government figures. That’s the highest total since February 19, “when 12,027 cases were reported in the country.”

David Rovella, writing for Bloomberg: “The delta variant may also present more of a threat to people who have had only one vaccine dose, according to initial research, a nod to fears that uneven global vaccination may lead to strains impervious to existing drugs. In the UK, the current crisis comes as eight in 10 people there have had at least one shot.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book prizes is here, more on the Young Writer Award is here, more on the Dylan Thomas Prize is here, and more from us on the UK market is here

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.