Just three years since they were founded, the Belfast Book Festival Mairtín Crawford Awards for Poetry and Short Story have gone international, attracting entries from countries including the US, Finland and New Zealand for this year’s competition.
Organised by the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast, the Awards are aimed at writers working towards their first full collection of poetry, short stories, or a novel. The 2020 Awards attracted a record number of entries, with 441 submissions for the Poetry Award and 324 entries for the Short Story Award.
Sophie Hayles, CEO of The Crescent Arts Centre, reflects on running this year’s Awards in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic:
“Despite all the challenges which the lockdown has presented us with – both personally and professionally – we were determined to continue to host the Mairtín Crawford Awards this year. Arts and culture have played a central role in helping many people navigate the lockdown period and the quality and variety of entries to this year’s Awards were a real tribute to what artists can produce under challenging circumstances.
The winner of the short story category is Sarah Gilmartin with her piece ‘The Wife’, which explores a #MeToo-themed episode from the point of view of the perpetrator’s partner. Sarah explains:
“Since the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, there has been a necessary shift in how society listens to women regarding sexual assault, but we very rarely hear the story from the perspective of the wife or partner of the abuser. With ‘The Wife’, I wanted to explore that. Awards like the Mairtín Crawford are great because they give you the impetus to write. Writing can be a tough old business, with lots of ups and downs, and very little certainty. The recognition from winning the Award is good for the soul, and the money affords you time and space away from other work to persist with writing projects, to go deep into the draft.”
The winner of the poetry category is Alan Weadick, whose works were inspired by a summer job he had in an ice-cream factory and watching his father engrossed in his workshop:
“The Workshop’ is an attempt to describe the world of work from a very young child’s perspective, the thing which he both mythologises and at the same time resents for its constant separating him from his father. As with Sarah’s story, my poem ‘Vespucc Ice Cream’ also addresses harassment in the workplace, only this time from the perspective of bystanders who are feeling helpless.”
Sarah and Alan will each receive a cash prize of £1,000 and a 3-night stay at the wonderful writing and reading retreat The River Mill. The runners-up for each Award will be given a cash prize of £250.
The judges for the 2020 Awards were: Short Story Lucy Caldwell (Chair)and Rachael Kelly; Poetry: Moyra Donaldson (Chair) and Naomi Foyle.
The Crescent Arts Centre and Belfast Book Festival are supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council..