Earlier this month, armed with awards in the form of fresh prints and chases from the wonderful Phil Cleaver, we gathered over Zoom to find out who would be crowned our Project and Emerging Writer winners for 2022.
The Project Awards
Each year 26 runs collaborative projects that challenge writers to engage with new subjects in creative ways. The Project Awards celebrate the breadth, quality and diversity of the writing generated, and this year the judges sat down to read some truly wonderful work from the 26 Habitats, 26 Pledges and 26 Shining Light (Bloomsbury Festival) projects.
The over 80 entries were various, surprising and beautiful and it was no easy task to narrow them down to a shortlist of six writers: Sinéad Keegan, Jude Bird, Galen O’Hanlon, Nikita Chadha, Julia Webb-Harvey and Sue Heggie.
Now we had to agree on our winner and two runners-up, but we were, in the end, unanimous. The two Highly Commended writers are:
Sometimes we need raw anger, and Nikita gives it to us straight. It’s a long poem, and when we reach ‘Y is for You/You are responsible’, we’re already feeling rightly battered – but this moment really hits hard – thank you, Nikita, for laying it on the line so unflinchingly.
A pastoral yet unblinkered poem with a great use of form, the repetition perfectly mirroring the subject. As one of the judges said, ‘The cyclical nature of nature, seeing beauty in blight, life through death – the repetitions chimes with me, and the foxy eyes follow me.’ And it has an excellent title that contrasts nicely with the relative formality of the poem itself!
A beautiful poem that is deceptively simple yet carries a weight of meaning. Galen’s use of such a powerful central image stayed with us long after we read it, his delicate rhyming scheme holds the poem tight, and his language is pitch perfect, from the playful ‘Three miles wide, all eel-slither and beetle-creep’ to the audible despair of ‘As pump slurps fen,/Pools become sludge, then dust.’ Just gorgeous.
Thank you to everyone who wrote this year and gave us such pleasure!
– Sarah Jane Butler, on behalf of all the judges
26 Emerging Writers Award – The winners
On Wednesday 13 July, we celebrated the winners of the 26 Emerging Writer Award 2022. Our evening of celebration showcased the finalists’ work and we welcomed guests from all over this hot rock, from Kampala to Kennington.
This year, I had the privilege of pondering entrants’ articles, projectively laughing at witty poems and being submerged into new worlds. All whilst sitting under Sicilian lemon trees at the foot of Mount Etna. Sometimes life is good. But less reminiscing over my holiday antics. For me, 3 people stuck out like the golden dimpled skin of the ripening fruit surrounding me in the gleaming sun.
As someone who’s fairly new to the gig themselves, I was looking for inspiring work, engaging topics, and content to plagiarise. And I definitely found that in our winners.
Introducing the winners
Winner – Carolyn McMurray
Carolyn’s commercial writing does exactly what it should do. You’d giggle along to the quick remarks and buckets of personality she shows, but without her copy ever being compromised. Her work is packed full of energy and personality tailored to each different person. And her ability to take on different clients’ personas is flawless. Her ‘Brand FOMO’ article is one of the best copywriting 101 articles I’ve read. And for that she is 26 Emerging Writer 2022’s winner.
Highly Commended – Lloyd Harry-Davis
The first thing that jumped out about Lloyd’s work was his themes. In many of his articles, he writes about the socio-economic challenges young people face. He explores each topic insightfully and purposefully – from his emotive storytelling, to writing about far-flung families for the Financial Times. The thoughtfulness behind his work makes an impact, but his words deliver the final blow.
Highly Commended – Mugabi Byenkya
Mugabi is who the world needs – someone who is undoubtedly themself, a performer and a captivating writer. Their work was dark and beautiful, funny and inspiring. Not only did their interest in hip-hop pioneers shine through, but also their relationship to their disability, their family and their home. Altogether, Mugabi’s work was undeniably Mugabi’s work.
Storytelling is truly an artform. All the entrants showed personality and passions through their work, and it has been an absolute honour reading each and every one. I can’t imagine where all these writers will be in another 5 years. They’ll probably be theorising world change or curating words with such influence they inspire a whole generation of rising writers. Whatever it is, I hope to be an avid reader.