RSL Literature Matters Awards

Annual project awards of £20,000 in total, rewarding and enabling literary excellence and innovation.

History

The RSL Literature Matters Awards were launched in 2018 with the aim to reward and enable literary excellence and innovation, providing funding to writers and creatives. Following an open call for proposals, each year a total of £20,000 is awarded across a number of projects.

Priority is given to proposals which (a) will help connect with audiences or topics outside the usual reach of literature, and/or (b) will help generate public discussion about why literature matters.

The 2023 Awards

The eight recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2023, as selected by judges Polly AtkinAlycia Pirmohamed and Charlie Swinbourne, are:

£2,900 – Pragya Agarwal –  Writing Eco-grief uses writing workshops and masterclasses to document the experience of living and parenting in the time of the anthropocene.  Through this project, Pragya wants to help people articulate these feelings of bereavement for the planet, about the loss of home and sense of belonging, and the anxieties surrounding bringing up children or caring for the next generation in this period of immense global change.

£2,300 – Susmita Bhattacharya – Flash Fusion: An Anthology and Craft Book of South Asian Flash Fiction is a book showcasing the best of South Asian flash fiction, and includes interviews discussing the craft of writing flash fiction and prompts. This diverse collection will serve not only readers, but also teachers who would like to diversify their reading and teaching practice.

£3000 – Rachael Boast – Apothecary: 100 Poems by Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent Poets. International in scope, Apothecary is a poetry anthology which will showcase a selection of authors from the deaf, disabled and neurodivergent communities. The anthology will be published by Bloodaxe Books and complemented by online readings. 

£2,500 – Stephanie Conn – Living Illness, Writing Illness and Grief is a project combining literary essay, memoir, found texts and poetry, exploring the lived experience of illness and grief. How does one navigate the complexities of being chronically ill, a carer, bereaved? What spaces can the creative act of writing carve out? What experiences can different literary forms effectively hold?  

£2,100 – Gayathiri Kamalakanthan – Queering Lit Collective. Queering Lit Collective is a creative writing space for trans and queer writers of colour offering workshops and low-pressure, non-generative time to allow writers to grow sustainably within a creative community. This project will facilitate a space where individuals can chat about process, publication, production and ‘all things getting paid’.

£1,500 – Wanja Kimani – Weight of Shadows will be a chapbook of poetry based on poems that Wanja has been developing over the past few years. Whilst some of the poems have developed into visual artworks or films, others remain as text. She will be producing a chapbook to experiment with how the text can work independently.

£2,900 – Ellen Renton – The PALS workshop series is a series of workshops that will seek to engage blind and visually impaired young people in the act of writing creatively on the subject of friendship. A particular aim of the project is to open up conversation around the sometimes complex nature of relationships where access and care are significant factors. This series is part of a larger project – the creation of an accessible musical called PALS.

£2,800 – Helen Thomas – SIMITY will be a project that blends poetry, dance and music to dramatise the migration of black subjects between British America, Sierra Leone, Nova Scotia and Britain through the eyes of its young, female slave protagonist SIMITY. 

Past Winners

2022

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2022, as selected by judges Melanie AbrahamsSophie Collins and Ian Duhig, were:

£2750 – Rachael Li Ming Chong – Multiplicative Adventures
A ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ writing project that connects literature to mathematics for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

£2000 – Margaret Connell, Michael Dunne and John Maguire – Irish Creative Writing Summer School will be a creative writing summer school for children aged 9-12 of Irish, Irish Traveller, and Roma ethnicity.

£3800 – Dr Livia Franchini and Dr Lucy Mercer – Too Little/Too Hard: writers on the intersections of work, time and value will be a quarterly online publication and bi-monthly podcast of new writing and discussions of literary work, time and value.

£2640 – Sarah Hesketh – ‘Boo Do’ – A hybrid work of poetry/oral history that explores experiences of breastfeeding will explore breastfeeding experiences through poetry and oral history, interviewing women about their personal experiences and working creatively with the transcripts of those interviews to explore issues such as physical intimacy, the relationship between mums and their babies, and the female body in public and private spaces.

£2400 – Ian Humphreys – ‘Tormentil’ will be a sequence of poems exploring loss, the West Yorkshire moorlands, and Ian Humphreys’ mother’s mixed Asian and African heritage.

£3800 – Nick Makoha – BPM: The Black Poets Masterclass series will be a 12-month Black Poet Masterclass series to equip Black poets with knowledge of the Black canon looking at four areas of poetic literature.

£2610 – Naomi Westerman – Crip-ligraphy is a series of free playwriting workshops for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent playwrights who consider themselves early career stage, and an opportunity to pitch a monologue or short piece for inclusion in a paid showcase at a major theatre.

2021

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2021, as selected by judges Adjoa AndohHannah Berry and Ian McMillan, were:

£2000 
– Saleh Addonia – The Feeling House
Short story collection focusing on time, remembering, and forgetting, exile and alienation and hearing.

£3500  Sawad Hussain – Bila Hudood: Arabic Literature Everywhere
An online literary festival showcasing Arabic literature. 

£2800  Carolyn Jess-Cooke – The Stay-At-Home! Literary Festival
A virtual literary festival dedicated to developing writers and readers.

£1990 – Axe Marnie – Fisher Cats of Newhaven
A children’s comic, set in the historic fishing town of Newhaven in the mid-19th century recasting the fishing community as cats.

£2500  Richard O’Neill – Bridges to Literature
Connecting Roma Gypsy pupils to literature through their cultural and oral history.

£3600  Anita Sethi  I Belong Here – Northern Nature Writers Network & Workshops
For northern writers from BAME and low-income backgrounds. 

£3610 Elspeth Wilson – Un/Natural 
Accessible workshops for D/deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse writers on nature writing.

2020

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2020, as selected by judges Tessa HadleyDavid Morley and Roy Williams, were:

£3,000 – Charlotte Ansell and Janett Plummer – Chosen
Writing workshops, performance and pamphlet for Generation Z adopted young people.

£3,000 – Alison Armstrong – The Lost Voices of Morecambe Winter Gardens
A play based on the real and fictional voices of characters that have worked and performed at Morecambe Winter Gardens. To be performed at the semi-derelict theatre.

£2,000 – Zillah Bowes and Jonathan Edwards – Night Riders
Documenting the experiences of passengers on the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff train line in a series of poems.

£3,800 – Judith Bryan and Carol Russell – Raised Voices: recovering the voices and vision of black women playwrights over 45
A series of public script-in-hand play-readings at the Young Vic, showcasing new writing by black women playwrights over 45.

£2,700 – Eva Edo – A Mother’s Courage
A play project inspired by the testimonials of mothers whose sons have been victims, perpetrators and survivors of youth violent crime and incarceration, and what it means raise sons of colour in British society today.

£2,500 – Jennifer Johnstone and Annie MacDonald – Radical Mountain Women
A podcast series exploring the beauty, strength and resilience of the relationship between women and the environment in rural Scotland. It will be published on the established podcast Stories of Scotland.

£3,000 – Rebecca Sharp – Rough currency: the poetics of oil and the imagination
A hybrid poetic text for publication, exploring the imaginative properties of crude oil and its role in the world of ideas.

2019

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2019, as selected by judges Menna ElfynAbdulrazak Gurnah (chair) and Barney Norris, were:

£3,000 – Will Eaves and Sophie Scott – The Neuromantics
A monthly podcast of discussion and readings on the intersection of literature and neuroscience.

£3,500 – Rosemary Harris – Word Bridges

A series of creative writing workshops for young refugee and migrant participants, culminating in a live reading/performance.

£2,000 –  Mab Jones – At the City’s Edge: The Wetlands of Wales

A podcast of poems, stories and sound art to explore the importance of the Welsh wetlands, which are now under threat.

£4,000 – Winnie M Li and Clare Shaw – Clear Lines: Writing About Trauma and Gender-Based Violence
A touring event of author readings, writing workshops and panel discussions, focusing on trauma and gender-based violence in novels, poetry, memoir, plays, and graphic literature.

£2,500 – Gregory McCartney– A Magazine for Revolution? An exploration of the Honest Ulsterman magazine
A print and online publication exploring different facets of the Northern Irish poetry magazine Honest Ulsterman magazine since its inception in 1968, inviting readers, writers, artists, editors and historians to compose a series of essays exploring the Honest Ulsterman and its context throughout its history.

£2,000 – Sian Northey – Food Bank Stories / Straeon y Banc Bwyd
Creation of a collection of short stories, in both Welsh and English, based on a residency at a food bank using techniques borrowed from verbatim theatre.

£3,000 – Alycia Pirmohamed and Jay G. Ying – Scottish BAME Writers’ Group & Showcase
A series of writing workshops and two masterclasses for BAME writers in Scotland, culminating in a showcase event at the Scottish Poetry Library, where a pamphlet of work will be distributed. Building a network for writers of colour who are often isolated and under-represented in the literary community.

2018

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2018, as selected by judges Jonathan KeatesImtiaz Dharker and Gillian Slovo, were:

£2,320 – Matt Bryden – Lost and Found
A pamphlet of poetry based on a residency at Bristol Temple Meads train station’s Lost Property Office.

£3,000 – Michael Caines – Brixton Review of Books
A free literary newspaper to be published and distributed on a regular basis.

£3,800 – Kate Clanchy   The Young Person’s International Dictionary of Rare and Precious Words
Working with schoolchildren, especially those from disadvantaged and refugee backgrounds, to collect precious words for ‘dictionary’ entries and an anthology.

£2,800 – Owen Lowery – R. S. Thomas for a New Generation, The Poet Prevails
A production of poetry, music and film, inspired by the poetry of R. S. Thomas.

£3,000 – Pascale Petit – Tiger Girl
A sequence of poems exploring foreignness, in the context of Brexit Britain and her grandmother’s Indian heritage.

£5,000 – Evan Placey – Cat A
A new stage play exploring dementia and ageing in prisons.

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Become a Member

Our Members are champions of literature. Their support makes our engagement work in schools and prisons possible and they enable us to celebrate literature in all its wonderful diversity. As a thank you, we give them all the joys of a literary festival and book club rolled into one, all year round.