New award for disabled writers

The Berbellion Prize, a new award dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing will recognise the work of an author whose “work has best spoken of the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.” 

The Berbellion Prize will be awarded for the first time in February 2021 for a book published in 2020, with a cash prize of £600. The judges have yet to be determined. Jake Goldsmith, the author of the disability memoir Neither Weak Nor Obtuse, started the award to promote disabled voices, which so often go unheard. The prize is named after W.N.P. Barbellion, whose diary The Journal of a Disappointed Man, published in 1919, chronicles his life with multiple sclerosis.

Submissions close end of October

The awarded work can be of any genre in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world – whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published. Submissions are open now and end October 31st, 2020.

Eligibility for the prize consists in the author’s presentation of life with a long-term chronic illness or disability, whether that be in the form of blindness, MS, cystic fibrosis, dwarfism, or another comparable condition that may substantially define one’s life.

Authors who themselves deal with illness or disability

Authors – such as those in a carer’s capacity – who themselves are not ill may be considered for the prize if their work is truly exceptional as an articulation of life with illness, but authors who themselves deal with illness or disability will take priority in the expression of their experiences and in selection for the prize.

What is important is not any particular moral or message in a given work but rather visibility for, and a genuine illustration of, life with illness, disease, or disability

The Barbellion Prize is intended for people with chronic, life-long conditions – whether congenital, or acquired as adults. It’s never easy to define exactly who’s in, and who’s out. But there are already prizes for people with cancer or people with mental health conditions, and this prize is not intended to duplicate or overlap with those. Nor is it intended for those with disabilities that do not much affect their participation in society. Many, but not all of those eligible will live shortened lifespans, due to CF, MD, MS and other conditions.




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