SARAH Hall and Jean Sprackland have been named the 2012 winners of the north’s leading book award, the Portico Prize for Literature at a Gala Dinner in Manchester Town Hall.
The Portico Prize for Literature is awarded biennially to two works – one fiction and one non fiction – that are based wholly, or largely in the north of England.
Hall’s The Beautiful Indifference (Faber & Faber 2011, £12.99) won the fiction prize and Sprackland’s Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach (Jonathan Cape 2012, £16.99) was victorious in the non-fiction category. Each received a cheque for £10,000.
Sarah Hall is no stranger to the award, taking home the last biennial prize in 2010 for How To Paint A Dead Man. This time she came out on top from a 13-book shortlist which included fellow past winner Val McDermid and Joan Bakewell, both of whom were present at the awards dinner in the Great Hall.
The Beautiful Indifference is a series of seven short stories exploring erotic and sometimes violent relationships between men and women in settings ranging from Hall’s native Cumbria, London and the Finnish wilderness. Her four novels have garnered an array of nominations and awards.
Strands has been described as a series of meditations prompted by walking on the wild estuarial beaches of Ainsdale Sands between Southport and Liverpool over the course of a year. From sea potatoes and messages in bottles to prehistoric footprints and a cup from a Cunard liner, every object found on the shifting sands tells a tale.
Its author, award-winning poet Jean Strackland is senior lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and has published three books of verse and a a collection of short stories.
Her rivals for the non-fiction prize included literary heavyweights such as Simon Armitage and Jeanette Winterson. Judge Stuart Maconie told the gathering the10-volume shortlist covered an amazing range of subject matter.
The Portico Prize for Literature is awarded biennially to two works – one fiction and one non fiction – that are based wholly, or largely in the north of England. It has been running since 1985 and previous winners include Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess, who famously complained about the meagre £1,500 prize fund he received in 1989, calling it an insult.
This time the reward for the prize, which is supported by Arts Council England and The Zochonis Charitable Trust, leapt from £4,000 to £10,000. It is awarded by the Portico Library, an independent Georgian library based in the heart of Manchester. The library also runs annual poetry and young writers’ prizes.
Portico LibraryPortico Library and Gallery
Free to visit, Mon-Fri 9.30am-4.30pm; Sun (third every month) 1pm-4pm.
The Portico Library is bathed in the afterglow of the Age of Enlightenment. It was completed in 1806 in the Grecian style to the designs of Thomas Harrison. Built and stocked through private subscription, it originally comprised a library and a newsroom. The Portico remains perhaps the oldest subscription library in the UK. Early members included John Edward Taylor, founder of The Manchester Guardian, the scientist John Dalton and William Gaskell, chairman of the library and husband of Elizabeth Gaskell, one of the most famous 19th century novelists. Elizabeth was a frequent user and was accompanied on occasion by her friend Charlotte Brontë. A more recent member was Eric Cantona, the Manchester United and France footballer. The reading room is a lovely space with a sweet saucer dome and an original wind dial by the still surviving Thwaites of London, who would later make the clock for Big Ben. The reading room holds art exhibitions, for local and national artists, and book-related exhibitions. The first secretary was Peter Mark Roget and it is here where he started to compile his famous Thesaurus. (JS)
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