A specially selected judging panel drawn from the world of literature and criticism have chosen this year’s awardee. Mark Lawson was chair of the judges for his fourth term.


Kate Bassett

Kate Bassett is the Literary Associate at Chichester Festival Theatre, a freelance script consultant and dramaturg, an author and an academic. She has been a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Reading and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow there. As an arts journalist and former theatre critic, she has written for The Times, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Telegraph and the TLS. She has hosted platform talks at the Barbican, the National Theatre, the British Library and elsewhere, and has served on judging panels for awards including the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and Verity Bargate Award – twice chairing the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Her book In Two Minds: A Biography of Jonathan Miller (published by Oberon Books) was shortlisted for the HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize, the Theatre Book Prize and the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography.

Gillian Clarke

Gillian Clarke was the National Poet of Wales 2008-2016. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2010 and the Wilfred Owen Award 2012. Her books include At the Source: A Writers Year (prose) and her tenth collection of poems, Ice, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Award 2012. The Gathering, a poem-sequence for The National Theatre of Wales performed on Snowdon 2014. A new collection, Zoology, is published in 2017.

Simon J. James

Simon J. James is a Professor of English and the Head of Department at Durham University. He is an expert on British literary culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries, and has published on H. G. Wells, George Gissing and the Victorian bestseller. He is currently editing Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall and writing a book on Charles Dickens and memory. He is the academic curator of the exhibition Time Machines: The Past, the Future, and How Stories Take Us There.

Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson was born in May 1950. He is a British Labour Party politician who served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary. Until 20 January 2011 he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Johnson was the Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle from 1997–2017. His first book, This Boy, won the RSL Ondaatje prize and the Orwell Prize in 2013. His second, Please Mister Postman, won the National Book Award for Autobiography of the Year in 2014. His latest book is The Long and Winding Road (2016).

Mark Lawson (Chair)

Mark Lawson has published five novels: Idlewild, Going Out Live, Enough Is Enough, The Deaths and The Allegations. His work as a broadcaster includes BBC Radio 4's Front Row, Foreign Bodies – A History of Crime Fiction and BBC4's Mark Lawson Talks to.... He also writes for the Guardian, the New Statesman and The Tablet.

Denise Mina

Denise Mina left school early, after a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth. She worked in a number of dead end jobs, all of them badly, before studying at night school to get into Glasgow University Law School. Denise went on to study for a PhD at Strathclyde, misusing her student grant to write her first novel. This was Garnethill, published in 1998, which won the Crime Writers Association John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel. She has now published 12 novels and also writes short stories, plays and graphic novels. In 2014 she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame. Denise presents TV and radio programmes as well as regularly appearing in the media, and has made a film about her own family. She regularly appears at literary festivals in the UK and abroad, leads masterclasses on writing and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2014.

Anita Sethi

Anita Sethi is an award-winning journalist, critic and writer who has written for the Guardian and Observer, Sunday Times, Independent, Telegraph, New Statesman, Granta, and Times Literary Supplement, among others. In broadcasting she has appeared as a critic and commentator on several BBC programmes and is a regular speaker and chair at festivals in the UK and around the world. She has interviewed authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Louis de Bernières, and Ian Rankin. Her short stories and essays have been published in several anthologies. She was born in Manchester, UK.

Past judges


Gillian Beer

Adam Begley

Melissa Benn

Susannah Clapp

Mark Lawson


Blake Morrison

Leo Robson

Kamila Shamsie

Michael Symmons-Roberts


Shirley Chew

Sarah Hall

Kathleen Jamie

Mark Lawson


Sam Leith

Fiona MacCarthy

Daljit Nagra

Kate Summerscale

Roy Williams


Ellah Allfrey

Simon Armitage

Michael Billington

Sarah Churchwell

Tobias Hill

Kathryn Hughes

Mark Lawson


Karl Miller

Michael Prodger


Rachel Bowlby

Robert Crawford

Lavinia Greenlaw

Maya Jaggi

Alberto Manguel

Jack Mapanje

Andrew Motion


Rose Tremain

John Walsh


Liz Calder

Anne Enright

Jackie Kay

Hilary Mantel

Andrew Motion


Chris Smith

Peter Stothard

Boyd Tonkin

Jeremy Treglown


Antony Beevor

Caroline Gascoigne

Maggie Gee

Martyn Goff

Jennifer Johnston

Doris Lessing

Andrew Motion



Pat Barker

Gillian Beer

John Carey

Ciaran Carson

Walford Davies

Anne Enright

Andrew Motion


Paul Muldoon

Michael Ondaatje

Philip Pullman

Michèle Roberts

Ali Smith

Stephen Tumim

Erica Wagner


Claire Armitstead

Gillian Beer

Stevie Davies

Romesh Gunesekera

Catherine Lockerbie

Deborah Moggach

Andrew Motion


Alistair Niven

Glenn Patterson

Stephen Tumin


Alain de Botton

Walford Davies

Abdulrazak Gurnah

Roy Foster

Clare Francis

Tess Hurson

Hermione Lee

Catherine Lockerbie

Derwent May

Andrew Motion


Alan Ross

Janet Suzman


Gillian Beer

Charles Brett

Simon Brett

Iain Crichton Smith

James Fenton

Miriam Gross

Griff Rhys Jones

Andrew Motion


Ben Okri

Peter Porter

Keith Thomas

M. Wynn Thomas

Claire Tomalin


Joan Bakewell

Marilyn Butler

Donnell Deeny

James Fenton

Wilson Harris

Michael Holroyd


Miroslav Holub

The Lord Morris of Castle Morris

Blake Morrison

John Mortimer

Anthony Sampson

Mary-Kay Wilmers

Harriet Harvey Wood


Eleanor Bron

Seamus Heaney

Michael Holroyd


Karl Miller

John Mortimer