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RSL Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction. Featured: Afua Hirsch, Damian Le Bas, Violet Moller. Image: Phill Gammond

RSL Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction announced

01 December 2016

The 2016 RSL Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction, now in their thirteenth year, were judged by John Agard, Daisy Hay and Laurence Scott. The three awards, one of £10,000 and two of £5,000, are presented to authors engaged on their first commissioned works of non-fiction.

The 2016 winners are:

£10,000 Violet Moller – The Geography of Knowledge (Pan Macmillan, 2018) explores how the big ideas of the ancient world found their way into Western culture from 8th century Baghdad to Renaissance Venice. Laurence Scott commended the way in which it traces ‘the beautiful legacy of philosophical exchange between the Middle East an Europe’. John Agard feels it is ‘an epic treasure hunt into the highways and byways of stored knowledge across faiths and continents’ and in Daisy Hay’s view it ‘promises to be an exceptionally bold and important book’. ‘I am over the moon to receive an RSL Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction. It is a great and unexpected honour. It will open up thrilling possibilities for my research.’ – Violet Moller lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and three small children.

£5,000 Afua Hirsch  – BRIT(ish): Getting Under the Skin of Britain’s Race Problem (Cape, 2018) looks at Britain’s failure to allow non-white people a history and makes the case for change. Daisy Hay felt ‘there could hardly be a historical moment more in need of a book like BRIT(ish) than our own’. For Laurence Scott it is a ‘timely interrogation of national identity in the United Kingdom’. ‘The RSL Jerwood Award is a really meaningful boost to my confidence as a first-time author’ – Afua Hirsch is a broadcaster and journalist.

£5,000  Damian Le Bas – Stopping Places (Chatto, 2018), is a Traveller history showing how ‘alien’ culture is an ancient part of the UK and how an urge for freedom co-exists in an increasingly restrictive environment. Laurence Scott looks forward to ‘an erudite and complex account of Britain’s Traveller culture’, John Agard welcomes ‘a multi-faceted approach to an often sidelined community’ and for Daisy Hay ‘Damian Le Bas introduces himself as an exciting new literary voice with a story urgently in need of telling’. ‘It’s immensely heartening to know that the judges share my belief in the book, especially given the calibre of books that have received RSL Jerwood Awards in the past.’- Damian Le Bas, a native speaker of the Romani language, won scholarships to Christ’Hospital and St John’s College, Oxford, where he read Theology. The three authors were presented with their awards on Thursday 30 November 2016 at an event held at John Murray’s house, 50 Albermarle Street, London, W1S 4BD.

The RSL is very grateful to the Jerwood Charitable Foundation for having launched the Non-Fiction Awards and supported them for their first 13 years. From 2017, the awards will be supported in perpetuity by a generous bequest from the Hon. Giles St Aubyn, a writer and Fellow of the RSL who died in 2015. Jerwood Charitable Foundation are thrilled that this legacy secures the future of this unique opportunity in literature, stating that it has been a joy to work with the RSL and each of the writers to date, and that it looks forward to continuing those relationships into the future in other ways.

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