A new literary prize celebrating boldly original fiction

The New Statesman supports the launch of the Goldsmiths Prize.

A £10,000 literary prize rewarding boldly original fiction has been launched by Goldsmiths, University of London in association with the New Statesman.

The Goldsmiths Prize has been established to celebrate creative daring and to recognise published fiction that opens up new possibilities for the novel form. The annual prize will be awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best.

Jonathan Derbyshire, Culture Editor of the New Statesman, says: “The New Statesman is delighted to be supporting a prize that rewards invention and innovation in fiction – qualities that the magazine has long promoted in its literary pages. We are especially pleased to be entering into partnership with an institution as forward-looking as Goldsmiths.”

The prize will be officially announced today at a reading by Booker Prize-winning novelist James Kelman, part of a series of author talks organised by the new Writers’ Centre at Goldsmiths. After the reading, Kelman will discuss the art of the novel with Derbyshire.

Blake Morrison, poet, author and Professor of Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths, commented: “We hope [the prize] will encourage more risk-taking among novelists, editors and agents alike. There’s an idea that innovative and genre-busting books are bound to be inaccessible. We don’t believe that’s the case.”

Tim Parnell, Head of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, added: “Serious discussion of the art of fiction is too often confined to the pages of learned journals and we hope the prize and the events surrounding it will stimulate a much wider debate about the novel.”

Publishers are invited to submit their entries from Friday 25 January 2013 to Friday 22 March 2013. The Prize is open to novels published in 2013 and there is no limit to the number of titles that may be entered by a publisher or bona fide imprint, provided the works entered meet all other entry requirements. 

The entries will be judged by an expert panel consisting of British novelists Nicola Barker and Gabriel Josipovici, Jonathan Derbyshire and Dr Tim Parnell.

For more details, terms and conditions, or to download The Goldsmiths Prize submission form, visit http://www.gold.ac.uk/goldsmiths-prize/

Reading material: the Goldsmiths Prize rewards innovation in fiction (Photo: Getty Images)
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Don’t worry, Old Etonian Damian Lewis calls claims of privilege in acting “nonsense!”

The actor says over-representation of the privately educated at the top of acting is nothing to worry about – and his many, many privately educated peers agree.

In the last few years, fears have grown over the lack of working class British actors. “People like me wouldn’t have been able to go to college today,” said Dame Julie Walters. “I could because I got a full grant. I don’t know how you get into it now.”

Last year, a report revealed that half of Britain’s most successful actors were privately educated. The Sutton Trust found that 42 per cent of Bafta winners over all time were educated independently. 67 per cent of British winners in the best leading actor, actress and director categories at the Oscars attended fee-paying schools – and just seven per cent of British Oscar winners were state educated.

“That’s a frightening world to live in,” said James McAvoy, “because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody but of one tiny part. That’s not fair to begin with, but it’s also damaging for society.”

But have no fear! Old Etonian Damian Lewis is here to reassure us. Comfortingly, the privately-educated successful actor sees no problem with the proliferation of privately-educated successful actors. Speaking to the Evening Standard in February, he said that one thing that really makes him angry is “the flaring up recently of this idea that it was unfair that people from private schools were getting acting jobs.” Such concerns are, simply, “a nonsense!”

He elaborated in April, during a Guardian web chat. "As an actor educated at Eton, I'm still always in a minority," he wrote. "What is true and always rewarding about the acting profession is that everyone has a similar story about them being in a minority."

Lewis’s fellow alumni actors include Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne – a happy coincidence, then, and nothing to do with the fact that Etonians have drama facilities including a designer, carpenter, manager, and wardrobe mistress. It is equally serendipitous that Laurie, Hiddleston and Tom Hollander – all stars of last year’s The Night Manager – attended the same posh prep school, The Dragon School in Oxford, alongside Emma Watson, Jack Davenport, Hugh Dancy, Dom Joly and Jack Whitehall. “Old Dragons (ODs) are absolutely everywhere,” said one former pupil, “and there’s a great sense of ‘looking after our own’." Tom Hollander said the Dragon School, which has a focus on creativity, is the reason for his love of acting, but that’s neither here nor there.

Damian Lewis’s wife, fellow actor Helen McCrory, first studied at her local state school before switching to the independent boarding school Queenswood Girls’ School in Hertfordshire (“I’m just as happy to eat foie gras as a baked potato,” the Telegraph quote her as saying on the subject). But she says she didn’t develop an interest in acting until she moved schools, thanks to her drama teacher, former actor Thane Bettany (father of Paul). Of course, private school has had literally no impact on her career either.

In fact, it could have had an adverse affect – as Benedict Cumberbatch’s old drama teacher at Harrow, Martin Tyrell, has explained: “I feel that [Cumberbatch and co] are being limited [from playing certain parts] by critics and audiences as a result of what their parents did for them at the age of 13. And that seems to me very unfair.”

He added: “I don’t think anyone ever bought an education at Harrow in order for their son to become an actor. Going to a major independent school is of no importance or value or help at all.” That clears that up.

The words of Michael Gambon should also put fears to rest. “The more Old Etonians the better, I think!” he said. “The two or three who are playing at the moment are geniuses, aren’t they? The more geniuses you get, the better. It’s to do with being actors and wanting to do it; it’s nothing to do with where they come from.”

So we should rejoice, and not feel worried when we read a list of privately educated Bafta and Oscar winners as long as this: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dulwich College), Emilia Clarke (St Edward’s), Carey Mulligan (Woldingham School), Kate Winslet (Redroofs Theatre School), Daniel Day-Lewis (Sevenoaks School, Bedales), Jeremy Irons (Sherborne School), Rosamund Pike (Badminton), Tom Hardy (Reed), Kate Beckinsale (Godolphin and Latymer), Matthew Goode (Exeter), Rebecca Hall (Roedean), Emily Blunt (Hurtwood House) and Dan Stevens (Tonbridge).

Life is a meritocracy, and these guys were simply always the best. I guess the working classes just aren’t as talented.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

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