Four Colman Getty has been handling PR for the Man Booker Prize since Roddy Doyle won the prize with Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in 1993. So for me, the prize is a constant, amongst the plethora of other cultural highlights in October.
As you’ll know from the unprecedented level of media coverage, Hilary Mantel scooped the 2012 prize with Bring Up The Bodies, the second in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Not only is she the first Brit to win the award twice but also she’s the first woman. And a brilliant winner too!
However something else has been happening with the Man Booker Prize this year which won’t necessarily attract global media coverage but which is nevertheless significant. Over the last year The Booker Prize Foundation and The Man Charitable Trust have been working with the National Literacy Trust on a project to inspire prisoners to read through providing a bridge between literacy and literature.
Literacy is a significant issue in prisons with 60% of prisoners having difficulties with basic literacy skills. Stephen Kelman, who was shortlisted for the prize with Pigeon English in 2011, got the project off to a terrific start by visiting HMP Lewes a few weeks ago to talk about his work to around 50 prisoners and staff. 250 copies of the book will be available for prisoners to borrow from HMP Lewes Library and over the coming weeks 41 prison reading groups will be reading Pigeon English, reaching a third of England and Wales’ prisons. Prison radio will also be serialising it, taking it to thousands of other prisoners. Early feedback is that enthusiasm for the project in Lewes prison was ‘palpable’.
October is a bumper month for prizes. We’ve had the announcement of the winners of the Forward Poetry Prizes for 2012 - Jorie Graham, who won the £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection, for Place, is the first female recipient of the prize since Kathleen Jamie in 2004 and the first American woman ever to win.
Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy was the British winner of The PEN Pinter Prize, which is awarded to a writer whose work reflects on society and the world. Carol Ann was asked to choose an international writer - someone who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs - to share the prize with her: she chose Syrian writer Samar Yazbek, the author of A Woman in the Crossfire, a harrowing account of the revolution from inside Syria. Samar has publically spoken out against the Assad Regime and now lives in exile, making occasional secret visits back to the country.
There’s a distinctly female flavour to our October this year and our campaigning team has been busy with a few women too. The Duchess of Cambridge, in her role as Patron of Action on Addiction, visited a Stockton on Tees recovery centre where she met staff and spent time talking to families about their addiction, recovery and working together, as her fourth visit in her whistle-stop day-tour of the North East.
And then there was the Women of the Year lunch – a wonderful annual occasion which brings together more than 400 women – both famous and unknown – from all walks of life, all of whom have achieved something of significance. 2012 was the 57th year of the lunch where P.D. James, Zainab Salbi, Doreen Lawrence and Team GB’s Olympic & Paralympic medallists were all honoured with awards. Dame Mary Archer was also a guest in advance of her investiture at Buckingham Palace this month.
Another glittering affair was the launch of Charles Saumarez Smith’s new book The Company of Artists at a party at the Royal Academy of Arts attended by stars such as Grayson Perry, Julian Barnes, Edmund de Waal, Lloyd Grossman, Julia Somerville and Sir John Tusa. We began the publicity campaign for Charles’ book back in May, and are delighted with the wide-ranging coverage it has achieved. It’s the perfect Christmas present so do look out for it…
Overseas, following a critically acclaimed run of eight shows in Belfast Zoo as part of the London 2012 Festival, Benjamin Britten’s much-loved children’s opera, Noye’s Fludde, will tour to Beijing for an exclusive performance as part of the Beijing Music Festival - the first time that Britten has been performed in China.
To end on a real high, I was delighted to be invited to the ‘Friends and Family’ premiere of Skyfall, the new Bond movie this week. I loved every moment of it – and I hope you do too!
All best and more next month