Friday, October 17, 2008

Manchester Poetry Prize Gala

Last night saw the first ever Manchester Poetry Prize Gala. The event took place in the Haden Freeman Concert Hall at the Royal Northern College of Music. Though the venue is usually associated with musical performances and concerts, it provided a surprisingly intimate location.

The Manchester Poetry Prize was launched in March 2008 by the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. By the closing date of 1st August the competition had attracted more than 1,000 entries. The judges, Gillian Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy and Imtiaz Dharker had a painstaking task of short-listing to six finalists.

The event began with readings from each of the judges. Carol Ann Duffy treated us to three humorous poems from her collection, 'The World's Wife'. This was followed by Imtiaz Dharker who led us through a number of thought-provoking poems including ‘Living Space’ and ‘One Breath’. And lastly, Gillian Clarke, the National Poet for Wales, took to the stage to read some of her work and provide us with a sneak preview of the soon to be published 'A Recipe for Water'.

What really came across was the support and enthusiasm for this prize and for new writing in general. Imtiaz Dharker remarked that she felt honoured to be reading amongst the nominees.

Next it was the turn of the short-listed poets to read two pieces from their submitted portfolios and they came to the stage one by one. Subjects ranged from love, travel and history, with language featuring widely.

The shortlist is as follows:

Mike Barlow
Mandy Coe
Allison McVety
Helen Mort
Rose Shepperd
Lesley Saunders

And finally Gillian Clarke took the stage one last time to read out the names of the winners, remarking that it was a ‘delight to give money to poets’. Sheffield poet, Helen Mort took the Manchester Young Poet Prize, receiving £2,000. However, in deciding on a winner for the Manchester Poetry Prize the judges were torn and the £10,000 prize fund was shared between winners Lesley Saunders and Mandy Coe.

This prestigious award will alternate annually between fiction and poetry. Next year we can look forward to the Manchester Prize for Fiction.


Jenny Hudson also blogs at and

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