The 2023 RSL Christopher Bland Prize winner is Paterson Joseph for The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho (Dialogue Books).
Paterson Joseph said: “I am happier about receiving the Christopher Bland Prize 2023 than I could have imagined. As a fledgling actor I wanted to be respected by my peers and to be looked upon as ‘one of us’. The granting of this award is more than the equivalent of that, as the work on the page is somehow more personal. All my love and much of my life has gone into the creation of The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho and my reward has been this accolade. Sancho would be pleased, if not a little surprised, that his short life has leant itself to such attention two-hundred and forty-three years after his passing. We bring him to life a little more every time we remember him in music, image and word. This novel is my small contribution to that remembrance and I hope it leads to many creative echoes of the life of a great Black Briton. I thank the Royal Society of Literature for welcoming me into the fold with such a wonderful gift. And my special thanks go to the judges who have paid such a practical compliment to my attempt to join their ranks. Finally, I celebrate with my dazzling co-nominees, who are wonders, every one.”
This year’s judges were Lemn Sissay (Chair), Meena Kandasamy and Simon Savidge.
Lemn Sissay said: “The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho is historical fiction, bursting with the wit and perspicacity of its protagonist Ignatius Sancho. Paterson Joseph, an actor by trade, is clearly a writer in an actor’s body. Many thespians feel the urge to inhabit the world of a writer, but few can fulfill it to the degree of Paterson Joseph. He inhabits characters and scenes as Dickens does, through the character and story. The Secret Diaries… leaves the reader frowning at the audacity of history for leaving out such a brilliant character. Equally we are slightly in awe of the author for turning history around.”
Paterson Joseph is a beloved British actor and writer. Recently seen on Vigil and Noughts and Crosses, he has also starred in Peep Show and Law & Order UK and he plays Arthur Slugworth in the forthcoming Wonka movie. The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho is his debut novel.