“Essays,” wrote Simon Schama, “are the last, heroic stand for the seriousness of prose entertainment”. That was six years ago, when The Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House, and the Financial Times launched the first edition of our prize for the brightest and best new voices in long-form essay-writing.
We believe the sentiment is as true today as it was then, and are delighted to announce that we are now welcoming submissions for our 2018 prize.
The competition is open to anyone between 18 and 35 years old. Our judges are looking for a dynamic, authoritative and lively essay of no more than 3,500 words in English. It can be wide-ranging or minutely focused and, in keeping with the ethos of both sponsors, it can address any topic — from finance and current affairs to history and scientific discovery.
The winner will receive:
● £1,000 and an e-publication with The Bodley Head
● Publication in the FT and on the FT.com of their winning essay
● A mentoring session with The Bodley Head and FT
● A subscription to FT.com, and a selection of books from The Bodley Head
Two runners-up will win:
● £500 each and an e-publication with The Bodley Head
● A digital subscription to Weekend FT, and a bag of books from The Bodley Head
“FT Weekend is immensely proud of its sponsorship of the essay prize,” says Alec Russell, editor of FT Weekend. “The essay and long-form journalism have happily defied many doom-laden predictions and are flourishing. But in our age of ‘churnalism’ the quest to find new writers is all the more important.”
Below, read the winning entries from previous years, and find out more about their authors.
2016 winner: ‘Cash and curry’
Chris Newens on how demonetisation and a TV chef inspired an unlikely Indian pilgrimage
2015 winner: ‘Dreams of the sea’
Laurence Blair’s winning essay looked at Bolivia’s battle to reclaim its lost coastline — and the extraordinary back-up plan taking shape 2,000km away from the ocean. His first book, which expands on ‘Dreams of the Sea’, will be published by The Bodley Head in 2020.
2014 winner: ‘Upside of down’
Edward Posnett won in 2014 for his essay ‘Eiderdown’, exploring the links between Icelanders, ducks and capitalism. His first book, Harvest, is due for publication with The Bodley Head in 2019.
2013 winner: ‘British Muslim Soldier’
As a British Pakistani boy growing up in Burnley, Lancashire, Adnan Sarwar endured racial abuse. Here he explores what led him to join the Army. Sarwar is now Community Editor for The Economist, and recently presented ‘Dangerous Borders: A Journey Across India & Pakistan’ for the BBC.
2012 winner: ‘Getting past Coetzee’
Hedley Twidle is a regular contributor to the FT. His essay looked at his life as a South African academic working in the shadow of the Man Booker-winning author.
Simon Schama: ‘Why I write’
To launch the inaugural Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize, Simon Schama reveals why Dickens’ abundance and Orwell’s severity are equally inspiring.
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