The BBC National Short Story Award

I was kindly asked to be involved in the launch of the 2020 BBC Radio 4 Short Story Award by Comma Press and I couldn’t believe my luck! I was gifted a copy of the 2019 anthology and as someone who hasn’t really read that many short stories, what better opportunity to broaden my horizons and fall in love with a form that has been entertaining readers for years.

The Award

The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The stories are broadcast on Radio 4 and published in an anthology. The 2019 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Welsh writer Jo Lloyd, who won for ‘The Invisible’, a timeless story set in Wales and inspired by social divisions and folklore. Previous alumni of the award include Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel and Jon McGregor. 

The 2019 Shortlist

‘The Children’ by Lucy Caldwell – A writer researching the life of 19th-century child custody reformer, Caroline Norton, draws parallels between motherhood then and now.

‘Ghillie’s Mum’ by Lynda Clark – A mother and son struggle to fit into society with their seemingly uncontrollable shape-shifting abilities in this story of mental health stigma.

‘Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’ by Jacqueline Crooks – Three children’s ancestors watch them from the stars, as their mother’s house is haunted by her past on a far-away island.

‘My Beautiful Millennial’ by Tamsin Grey – The story of a young, Leave-voting woman in London who escapes her relationship with the older man taking advantage of her vulnerabilities, and finds friendship on a tube populated with myriad kinds of people.

‘The Invisible’ by Jo Lloyd – The values of a small farming village are challenged by talk of a wealthy community living on the other side of the lake that only one person can see.

The 2019 Short Story Award Winner

Nikki Bedi

The 2019 award with Cambridge University was chaired by Nikki Bedi, a television and radio broadcaster with a passion for making arts and culture accessible. Her introduction in the anthology was highly motivating and discussed the form of short stories and how they aren’t the warm-up act; they are the main event. As she states, short stories are ‘gifts of concision, they demand one’s total attention’ and she ‘relishes in devouring, digesting, being moved and surprised by a perfectly-formed short work.’ 

‘The Invisible’ by Jo Lloyd was crowned as the 2019 winner. Her piece The Invisible was described by judges as a “timeless” and “deeply tender” story influenced by Brexit, social division and folklore.

The BBC Radio 4 Short Story Award 2020

Jonathan Freeland

Radio 4 presenter, journalist and author Jonathan Freedland is chairing the judging panel for this year’s award, which is even more special because it is the 15th anniversary of the prize!

Freedland will be joined by a group of acclaimed writers and critics on the panel. Commonwealth Prize winner Lucy Caldwell who was shortlisted for both the 2012 and 2019 BBC NSSA; British Nigerian writer Irenosen Okojie, a Betty Trask winner and Jhalak Prize shortlistee; Edge Hill Prize shortlistee and Guardian short story columnist Chris Power; and returning judge, Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University will be announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7:15 pm on Friday 11th September 2020. The stories shortlisted will then be broadcasted on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 14th to Friday 18th September from 3:30 pm to 4 pm. Excitedly, the announcement of the winner of the award will be broadcast live from the award ceremony on BBC Radio 4 from 7:15 pm on Tuesday 6th October 2020.

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