2019 Highland Book Prize awarded collectively to short-listed authors “as a celebration of life, literature and community.”
On the 9th of May 2020, we were supposed to be at the Ullapool Book Festival, with a glass of Highland hospitality, awaiting the announcement of the winner of the Highland Book Prize. But it was not to be. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we are living in a world of walls where we dance a two-metre rule around our neighbours.
There is solace in the knowledge that literature is a constant. Great books endure and new books are being created all around us. In a time like this, it seems more important than ever to collectively celebrate books that resonate with place and community. With lockdown comes a yearning for a sense of belonging. When we are told to stay indoors, it removes us from our connection to the Highlands or wherever we call home. Therefore, more than ever, we feel extremely grateful to the shortlisted authors and for all the books that were submitted, for bringing this strong sense of place back into our hearts.
The Highland Book Prize celebrates the finest published work which recognises the rich landscape and cultural diversity of the Highlands. This judging is reliant on our community. The first round of judging saw 105 volunteer readers devoting their time to critique the 80 submitted titles. Without this dedicated reading panel, we would not be able to take on the task of shortlisting. Over the last few weeks, new volunteer readers have offered their support. We are extremely grateful and feel honoured that we can bring people closer to the Highlands while they are physically unable to travel here. It’s hoped that the broad nature of the prize, being open to so many different types of creative works including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, environmental science, nature, adventure, history and much more offers a way to engage with the Highlands from many perspectives.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit us, life changed in a matter of days. In amongst the confusion, we were bowled over when the shortlisted authors approached us with an idea: to be awarded the prize together and equally as a collective, as a celebration of life, literature and community. This is absolutely the spirit of the times; collectively we are stronger in the face of this unique challenge.
We are thrilled to announce that the joint winners of the 2019 Highland Book Prize are:
The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel by David Gange (William Collins)
Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Sort of Books)
Spring by Ali Smith (Penguin Random House)
Moder Dy by Roseanne Watt (Polygon)
Furthermore, our joint winners have donated the prize money to the Highland Food Bank, supporting families across the Highlands. We wholeheartedly thank the authors for their generosity. Every year at this time, it feels special to announce the winner of the Highland Book Prize, but this year will be unique: a celebration of connection in a time of isolation.
In a joint statement the authors said: “We were all delighted and honoured to be shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize. We have enjoyed the excitement and the publicity and were all very disappointed that the Ullapool Book Festival had to be cancelled, along with so much else. We are living in extraordinary times, and to reflect this, the four shortlisted authors have decided we’d like to be awarded the prize together and equally as a collective – as a celebration of life, literature and community. Further, we would like to donate our £1000 prize to the Highland Food Bank.”
Hear from some of the winners:
Find out more about each author by visiting their bio pages, listed here.
We would like to thank everyone who supports the Highland Book Prize, with special mention to:
All the publishers and authors who took part.
Everyone who read and reviewed a book.
The William Grant Foundation who fund our public engagement and enable our events programme.
Judges Alex Ogilvie, Kevin MacNeil and Liz Beer.
Eilidh Smith, Rachel Humphries, Mirren Rosie, Richmond Clements, Heather Clyne and Angela Cran.
Joan Michael, Effie Mackenzie and the Ullapool Book Festival Committee.
Thank you for joining us.