The winners have been announced in the Ian Bell ‘New Writing’ competition for an unpublished piece by a writer under 30.
The award was set up in memory of the radical journalist Ian Bell, who died in 2015, by his family and the Edinburgh branch of the National Union of Journalists, of which Ian was a member.
The awards will be presented at ‘The Importance of Good Journalism’, at Glasgow’s Aye Write! Book Festival, 6.30pm on 17 March at the Royal Concert Hall.
The event is a panel discussion among the judges of the Ian Bell award – Iain Macwhirter, Melanie Reid and Michael Gray – and it will close with the awards presentation by Ian Bell’s widow, Mandy, and his son Sean.
The judges were highly impressed by the quality of the 40-plus entries, and decided to award three prizes to reflect this.
First prize of £500 goes to A K Thaysen (pictured) for her piece ‘In Defence of of the Hitchhiking Woman’. A K is an artist, cartoonist, writer, and poet. She has an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University of Glasgow, and is currently a project manager for the charity, Uncovered Voices, which runs creative writing workshops for survivors of sexual and domestic abuse in Glasgow.
She said: “I am delighted to accept this award in the name of one of Scotland’s most beloved journalists. Ian Bell was an uncompromising writer. His piercing, surgical vision cut through and dismantled the fallacies and empty rhetoric that often dominate and obfuscate political discourse. His taut elegance and his unwavering sense of morality endeared him to his readers and set a high standard for those of us following in his footsteps.
“I would like to thank the National Union of Journalists as well as Bell’s family for such a lovely award, which came at a time when I was experiencing what seemed to be a wave of relentless, unsurmountable rejections.
“Such prizes are unspeakably encouraging to a young writer. Not only has it paved the way for me to pursue other projects in the future, it has rekindled that feeble, dying flame of my career in writing. It would have been a pity if it had been extinguished prematurely, as so many today are. I thank you for your generosity!”
Douglas O’Neill, a part-time teacher, musician and writer, won the second prize for his piece, ‘Straight Outta Govan’.
He said he was ‘absolutely delighted: “I never get podium placed except that one time when I entered a three person diving competition when on holiday and came third.
“I would just like to pay tribute to Ian Bell who was a beacon of fiery hope in an age where the art of good journalism was (and sadly still is) dying. I used to read his articles on Sundays when studying for Higher English in order to improve my vocabulary! Thanks to the competition organisers and congratulations to A K Thaysen!”
The judges also awarded a student prize to Florence Breitstadt, who is studying Film, Media and Journalism at Stirling university, for her piece on ‘The Woes of a Theatre Usher’.
Florence said: “I am absolutely ecstatic to have won the student prize. It is encouraging to be able to take part in such an event and to receive recognition for it. Thank you to the judges for creating the student category. I also want to give a big thank you to my Journalism lecturer, Tom Collins, for motivating his students to submit their entries.”