About the prize

The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, we award prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.

Currently, we award three prizes:

But we do much more: we are a registered charity (number 1161563) dedicated to promoting public understanding of and interest in politics and current affairs through free public events and various other projects. We take political argument around the country (see our events archive and YouTube channel to watch video of previous events) and as the only website officially sanctioned by the Orwell Estate, we also publish work by George Orwell (including our Webby-shortlisted Orwell Diaries blog), articles about Orwell and other online resources.

The Prize was established in its present form by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in 1994, ‘to encourage writing in good English – while giving equal value to style and content, politics or public policy, whether political, economic, social or cultural – of a kind aimed at or accessible to the reading public, not to specialist or academic audiences’.

In the Prize section of the website, using the menu above you can find out more about previous winners, shortlists, longlists and judges; the administration of the Prize; and how to enter the Prize. Visit our George Orwell section for works by and about Orwell, and our events section to see what’s coming up and our video archive of previous events.

HOW THE PRIZE WORKS

Each Prize year features five ‘milestones’: the launch and opening of submissions; the closing of submissions; the longlist announcement; the shortlist announcement; and the announcement of the winners.

The opening of submissions, marked by a launch debate, happens in late autumn. The Prize aims to tell as many publishers, editors, journalists and bloggers as possible – books can be entered by the author or their publisher and journalists by themselves or their editors. We feel it is important to the integrity of the process that someone involved in the creation of and somehow responsible for the entry actually enters it. There is no entry fee, and no restriction on how many entries any organisation (publisher or news outlet) may enter. Entries close in January and are listed on our website to promote as much political writing as possible. All work with a British or Irish connection first published in the calendar year before the date of the Prize is eligible – e.g. for the Orwell Prize 2017, work published between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2016 may be entered.

The longlists (nominally 18 books and 12 journalists) are publicly announced in spring, followed a few weeks later by the shortlists (6 in each category) at a shortlist debate. The winners are announced at a public awards ceremony a few weeks later, where the judges may also opt to award a special prize at their discretion.

New judges are appointed each year, and the decisions they make are theirs alone – the Prize administration and its sponsors have no role beyond appointing the judges. Judges are asked to be as objective as possible and put their own political views aside; they are also presented with a sheet of Orwell’s values for inspiration.

The Book Prize

The Book Prize is for a book or pamphlet, whether fiction or non-fiction, first published in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. For example, the Orwell Prize 2017 is for work first published in the calendar year 2016.

‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including (but not limited to) entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects.

Please see the rules for more information.

The Journalism Prize

The Journalism Prize is awarded to a journalist for sustained reportage and/or commentary working in any medium, first published in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. For example, the Orwell Prize 2017 is for work first published in the calendar year 2016.

A submission for the Journalism Prize should consist of between four and six items. This might consist of, for example, six printed articles, six television or radio broadcasts, six blog entries, or a combination of different media making six items (e.g. three printed articles, one television package, and two blog entries). There should be a written element to all articles and entrants may include work published by different organisations.

For more information, please see our rules.

The Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils

In 2014, The Orwell Prize and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launched The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, a new social issues journalism prize.

Named in recognition of the task Joseph Rowntree gave his organization ‘to search out the underlying causes of weakness or evil’ that lay behind Britain’s social problems, the prize will support and encourage original, insightful, and impactful reporting on social issues in the UK.

In addition to the Prize, The Orwell Prize, together with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), are delivering the Unreported Britain Project as one part of the work of the new JRF-sponsored Prize “The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils”.

Entries should consist of a story that has enhanced the public understanding of social problems and public policy in the UK. The story must be clearly and primarily concerned with an aspect of UK society.

Rewarding a new trend in journalism, the prize welcomes reporting that extends the reach of traditional media.

Entries must be communicated across at least two of the following platforms:

• Journalistic writing (online or in print)
• Video content
• Audio content (including radio programmes, podcasts, audio reports)
• Social media content (for example, reporting via Twitter)
• Photojournalism

Entry is free and there are no charges at any point. A majority proportion of the work entered must have been produced or published in 2014. A single author, or small group of authors (up to three) may enter.

 

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