New Welsh Review is delighted to announce the winners of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2019 which this year sought entries across two categories: the Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella which was won by Pontypool-based author JL George with her pacey dystopian novella about a teenage duo, Rhydian and Jonno, which balances big concepts such as ethics, language, propaganda and control with a human story of flight and finding love and trust where you can with The Word. Meanwhile the Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting was won by Norfolk’s Peter Goulding with On Slate, a tautly laid down account of how the quick-drying slate quarries of North Wales offered play, purpose and place to an eclectic, visionary group of jobless climbers in Thatcher’s 1980s.
Both JL George and Peter Goulding were presented at a buzzing ceremony at Hay Festival on Friday 24 May with a cheque for £1,000 as advance against e-publication by New Welsh Review under their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint and they will also receive a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown.
The Awards were run in association with Aberystwyth University who sponsored the Dystopian novella category, and the Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting was made possible thanks to the generous support of long-term subscriber Richard Powell.
Peter Goulding’s On Slate is a tautly laid down account of how the quick-drying slate quarries of North Wales offered play, purpose and place to an eclectic, visionary group of jobless climbers in Thatcher’s 1980s.
While JL George’s The Word is a pacey novella which balances big concepts such as ethics, language, propaganda and control with a human story of flight and finding love and trust where you can…
The other top prize winners announced at the festival were as follows: Second prize went to Penarth resident Sarah Tanburn in the Rheidol category for Hawks of Dust and Wine and Abergavenny’s Rhiannon Lewis for The Significance of Swans; both authors will receive a £300 voucher towards a week-long residential course at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, north Wales.
Penarth scored again with Richard John Parfitt who came third with Tales from the Riverbank in the Rheidol category while Cardiff’s Rosey Brown was placed third in the dystopian novella category withAdrift – both Welsh writers received a voucher for a two-night stay at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, north Wales. The top six shortlisted authors also received a one-year subscription to New Welsh Reviewand a copy of the summer 2019 issue, hot off the press at Hay. In addition, New Welsh Review will publish the highly commended and shortlisted nominees for publication in the autumn and winter 2019 editions of its creative magazine New Welsh Reader with an associated standard fee.
Rheidol Prize sponsor Richard Powell gave this speech at Hay:
“Good afternoon – and thank you very much for coming today, for the New Welsh Writing Awards. I’m the sponsor of the Rheidol Prize for writing on a Welsh theme or subject and I’m going to take a few moments to explain how I come to be here.
I’m from Llanelli originally, but my working life was spent in the Diplomatic Service, which took me around the world. Thirty years ago I was a junior British diplomat in Finland. My job there as I saw it was to get under the skin of Finnish life. I was powerfully struck then by what a relatively small country could achieve culturally.
However, I also recall a friend who knew the Finnish cultural scene better than I did regretting that, despite its strengths, it did not always reflect a response to Finnish conditions and traditions. It wasn’t Finnish enough, in short. That struck a chord with me, in my own thinking on the culture of the country where I had grown up.
Shortly afterwards I met Robin Reeves, at the outset of his mission to turn the NWR into the standard bearer for English-language writing in Wales. I was about to go to Japan and took out a subscription to the NWR to help keep me abreast of thinking in Wales. I remember Robin saying he was amazed that someone had actually followed up on a promise made in a pub! Anyway, I have taken the NWR ever since. It has been an important cultural barometer for me.
Cut forward to 2017. I had begun to feel, after the Brexit referendum, that perhaps there were areas of Welsh life that needed to be understood better, voices that needed to be heard, even if their message might be difficult. I was worried that the NWR was perhaps not as representative as it might be of all strands of Welsh thinking, and I wrote to Gwen Davies with a view to cancelling my subscription. I was perhaps rather acerbic, as sometimes I am in writing. Some of you may have seen extracts from my letter which Gwen included in the NWR.
I have to admire Gwen’s response, which was to challenge me to support the NWR in encouraging a broader range of writing. So I have, and that is the context in which the Rheidol Prize has come to be, and that is how I come to be here today. I should say I was very pleased with the winning entries, and proud of my role in encouraging them; I am glad this initiative has borne fruit. “