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Manchester Writing Competition winners

Manchester Writing Competition 2021 winners revealed as Peter Ramm and Leone Ross

  • Peter Ramm and Leone Ross are crowned winners of the Manchester Writing Competition 2021
  • Writers take home £10,000 cash prizes
  • More than 200,000 in prize money has been awarded since the start of the competition

Peter Ramm and Leone Ross have won the Manchester Writing Competition 2021, the UK’s biggest awards for unpublished writing.

Poet Ramm took home the Manchester Poetry Prize and Ross, a three-time novelist, short story writer and editor, was awarded the Manchester Fiction Prize at a gala prize-giving ceremony on Thursday evening (May 26). Each winner receives £10,000 prize money.

The prizes are organised and awarded by Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Set up by then Poet Laureate and current Creative Director of Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University Professor Carol Ann Duffy in 2008, the two awards celebrate Manchester as an international city of writers, finding diverse new voices and creating opportunities for writer development. 

Poetry Prize

Ramm was chosen as the Manchester Poetry Prize winner by a judging panel chaired by award-winning poet Malika Booker, who is Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan, alongside Romalyn Ante and Zaffar Kunial.

Ramm, a poet who writes on the Gundungarra lands of the New South Wales Southern Highlands, has previously won the South Coast Writers Centre Poetry Award and the Harri Jones Memorial Award, and shortlisted in the Bridport, ACU, Blake, and Newcastle Poetry Prizes.  

In 2021 he placed third in The Rialto's Nature and Place Competition and was awarded residencies at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens and WestWord’s Daffodil Cottage. His debut poetry collection Waterlines is forthcoming in 2022 with Vagabond Press.

Ramm’s collection of poems Landfall were praised by judges for “luxuriating in the musicality of the language” and for the “richness and beauty portrayed”.

Ramm said: “It is with immense gratitude, thanks, and a lot of surprise, that I accept this prize. I feel deeply honoured just to be counted alongside the amazing poets on this year’s shortlist and a great sense of debt to the esteemed judges Romalyn Ante, Malika Booker, and Zaffar Kunialc who spent so many hours poring over the entries and who saw something in my work. My many thanks to Carol Ann Duffy and the Manchester Metropolitan University for pioneering and persevering with this prize. We are all here tonight, as a result of what was begun all those years ago. 

“Writing, and poetry in particular, is not an easy road to tread. There are many rejections, little acclaim, and almost no income, but we are stubborn bunch us poets; who seek to not only observe our own lives, but also to honour language, and let it unlock so much more than an ordinary existence. It is truly wonderful to have journey from the other side of the world to be in this room tonight, to celebrate words that have been forged in all corners of the globe, on many roads, and through many lives.”

Booker said: “In Landfall we the judges were delighted with the sublime poetics, where the poet’s language cartwheels with lyrical dexterity. Each poem in this submitted portfolio pulsated and bewitched us judges into reciting lines to each other, while luxuriating in the musicality of the language, and the richness and beauty portrayed. Ordinary domestic scenes between a family walking or driving were explored against a boisterous natural backdrop, were nature pulses with panoramic vitality. These filmic poems portray the love and specialness of a place reminiscent of writing by the poet John Burnside. 

“We were impressed with the poet’s ambitiousness and confidence, and seduced by the opening lines. Our winning poet’s masterly controlled line breaks contrast sharply with the majestic woodland portrayed. We felt that this was contemporary poetry at its best.”

Ramm was shortlisted alongside Courtney Conrad, Laura Paul Watson, Alyza Taguilaso, Jane Wilkinson, and April Yee.

Fiction Prize

Ross was awarded the Manchester Fiction Prize by the judging panel which was chaired by novelist and short story writer Nicholas Royle, who is Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan, alongside Hilaire and Simon Okotie.

Ross’ work has previously been nominated for the Edge Hill, Jhalak, OCM Bocas and Goldsmiths awards and her most recent novel This One Sky Day (Faber) was longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Ross is the editor of Glimpse, the first Black British anthology of speculative short stories, out with Peepal Tree Press in 2022.

Judges commended Ross’ short story When We Went Gallivanting for taking “the biggest risks” and which “seared the most startling images in our minds”.

Ross said: “I have such affection and respect for the Manchester Prize - one of few in the UK that celebrates the short story so very generously. Whether subversive, experimental or just thumpingly good old fashioned story-telling, the Fiction Prize reminds us that the short story is a fluid space for amusement, beauty and politics alike. 

“‘When We Went Gallivanting’ is about the increasing gap between rich and poor, about dancing in the face of injustice, and it imagines a reclamation of joy in the very architecture around us. The story celebrates every-day miracles, not least its lead character, Athena Righteous-Fury, a fat, Black woman, surviving and thriving and inspiring just as she is. 

“My deepest thanks to the judges, for their time and consideration in the name of Carol Ann Duffy, who established the prize. To know that you’re trying and becoming a better writer, for that effort to be acknowledged, is a very special experience.”

Royle said: “It was almost impossible to pick a winner from the fiction shortlist because it would mean certain other stories could not then win. It was extremely tight and we were comparing stories that had nothing in common apart from the quality that made picking a winner so hard. But in the end we went for the one that took the biggest risks and seared the most startling images in our minds.”

Ross was shortlisted alongside Danny Beusch, Shelley Hastings, Sarah Hegarty, Nicholas Ruddock, and Naomi Wood.

Ceremony

Each of the shortlisted authors and poets performed readings of their work at the gala prize-giving ceremony which took place in Manchester Metropolitan’s new home for Arts and Humanities, Grosvenor East. 

Since its launch, the competition has awarded more than £200,000 in prize money and has helped to accelerate the careers of previous winners and finalists including Mona Arshi, Helen Mort, Alison Moore, Pascale Petit and Momtaza Mehri. 

Shortlisted writers and poets for this year’s competition are from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Jamaica and the Philippines, underlining Manchester’s status as an international centre for creative writing.

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