2016 Judges

Poetry Judge: Patience Agbabi

Patience Agbabi was born in London to parents from Nigeria and grew up in Wales. One of the UK’s foremost poets, she studied English Language and Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford University, and is a former Poet Laureate of Canterbury. Her writing and performance has been featured on radio and TV worldwide. In 2015 she was a recipient of The Cholmondeley Award and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Prize for New Work in Poetry.

Patience is the author of four books, R.A.W, Transformatrix, Bloodshot Monochrome and Telling Tales (Canongate, 2014). Telling Tales is a retelling of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales for the 21stcentury. Mining the Middle-English masterwork for its performance as well as its poetry and pilgrims, her boisterous and lyrical collection gives one of Britain's most significant works of poetry thrilling new life. Following a book launch at Southwark Cathedral, Patience has toured the book with literature producers Renaissance One to a range of literary festivals and venues. She lives in Kent.

“A poem is a spell, a potent, living language. Free verse or fixed form, I’m looking for poems with a pulse, that celebrate the rhythm of words as well as their visual impact. Poems that elicit a visceral response. I want to feel a sense of urgency,  that the poem simply had to be written. Poems are often fettered by the autobiographical: may the imagination run riot. I’m excited by poems that take risks in form, content, or idea. I’m looking for poems that yield on more than one level, that continue to echo long after they’re read.”

Photo credit: Lyndon Douglas courtesy of Renaissance One


Short Story Judge: Tessa Hadley 

Tessa Hadley has written six novels including The London Train and The Past, and two collections of short stories. She publishes stories regularly in the New Yorker, reviews for the London Review of Books and the Guardian, and is a Professor at Bath Spa University.

“I'll be looking for intensity (even if it's comic intensity - intense doesn't necessarily mean tragic), and point (often you read a decent story but you think: what for?). And then I'll be looking for that crucial something - in the detail, in the language, in the thought - which makes me feel that the story has its own truth, that it bypasses cliche and stereotype. Even if the story is fantastical, or set in another universe, even if the writer made every bit up, the reader ought to feel, oh, she knows this, she's been there, she saw it.”

Photo credit: Mark Vessey

Flash Fiction Judge:  Tim Stevenson 

Tim Stevenson lives near Winchester. He was the winner of the 2013 National Flash-Fiction Day 100-Word competition and has been published in the anthologies Jawbreakers, Scraps, Eating My Words, Landmarks, Guided By Surprise and War, Conflict and Resolution as well as in Synaesthesia Magazine, The List Magazine and online at 1000Words amongst others. His collection of flash-fiction ‘The Book Of Small Changes’ was published in 2014, and a short story collection ‘On Cleanliness and Other Things’ was published in 2015.

See www.timjstevenson.com for more, and follow him on Twitter @tallfiction

"The small universes we each inhabit can change in a moment, whether it is the far-distant rumble of catastrophe, or the tiny, meaningful gestures that can irrevocably change a life. I hope to see the mundane become significant, the obvious become surprising, a place where anything can happen as a wink, a smile, or a single word ripples through the fabric of the story. Show me allegories with the ring of truth, fables that spring from the everyday, stories that tell of larger narratives being played out, just out of reach but, most of all, I hope to finish reading and be able to infer what happened before the story began, and what will happen afterwards, a world, complete and new, with breath, purpose, clarity, and elegance."


Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel Judge: 
Kerry Young 

Kerry Young is the author of two novels ‘Pao’ (Bloomsbury, 2011) and ‘Gloria’. (Bloomsbury, 2013).  ‘Pao’ was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Book Prize and the East Midlands Book Award. ‘Gloria’ was longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award and nominated for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her third novel ‘Show Me A Mountain’ will be published by Bloomsbury in June 2016. Kerry is a Reader for The Literary Consultancy and a tutor for the Arvon Foundation. She is currently writer-in-residence at The University of Sheffield as a part of the Royal Literary Fund Fellowship Programme. She is also Honorary Assistant Professor in the School of English at The University of Nottingham and Honorary Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leicester.

“I will be looking for work that is carefully observed and well written in terms of voice, structure and narrative style. I want a novel to grab my attention from the outset and make me want to turn the page. I want a story that intrigues me with interesting themes and authentic characters I want to care about. I want the author to be insightful and have something to say about us as human beings, socially and politically. Most of all, I want them to speak to and from the common heart.”

“The news that I’d won the Bridport Poetry Prize took months to sink in with a mixed feeling of responsibility and assurance. After such a prestigious vote of confidence I feel I have a duty to continue writing no matter how much I might doubt myself in future.

"Yet at the same time, I feel that the cure for any future doubt is hard work – for this prize has also given me the belief that I have some potential to create writing of worth”.

Mark Pajak (UK), winner, Poetry competition 2016

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