Mark Lawson chairs the UK and Ireland's answer to the Nobel Prize

Mark Lawson chairs the UK and Ireland's answer to the Nobel Prize
18 October 2012

Book Trust is delighted to announce the launch of the David Cohen Prize for Literature 2013. Awarded biennially, the £40,000 prize honours a lifetime's achievement in literature. Writer, critic and broadcaster Mark Lawson returns for the second time to Chair a stellar panel of judges.


The David Cohen Prize was established in 1992 by David and Veronica Cohen, and Arts Council England, and is recognised as one of Britain's most distinguished literary honours. The Prize is awarded to a writer in the English language who is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. In the past it has been awarded to novelists, dramatists, poets and essayists. The most recent recipient, Julian Barnes, joined a distinguished list of winners, including Seamus Heaney, V S Naipaul, Harold Pinter, Muriel Spark, William Trevor, Doris Lessing, Beryl Bainbridge and Thom Gunn (jointly), Michael Holroyd, and Derek Mahon.


Julian Barnes said upon winning the award in 2011:

'The measure of a literary award's value lies in its list of previous winners. Over the last 18 years the David Cohen Prize has established itself as the greatest honour a British or Irish writer can receive within these islands. It is also conducted with proper secrecy and dignity. So it is a matter of sober delight to be added to the list of prize-winners.'


The John S Cohen Foundation, which was established in 1965 by David Cohen and his family funds the winner's prize. The winner of the David Cohen Prize for Literature also chooses the recipient of the Clarissa Luard Award, which is worth £12,500. The award, funded by Arts Council England, is given to a literature organisation that supports young writers and readers or an individual writer under the age of 35. Julian Barnes presented the 2011 award to The Reading Agency to support their reading initiatives for young offenders.


The John S Cohen Foundation has supported education and the arts, helping composers, choreographers, dancers, biographers, poets, playwrights and actors among others. Book Trust, which manages and promotes a wide range of prizes, awards and campaigns to celebrate excellence in contemporary literature for all ages, took on the administration of the Prize in 2011.


The winner of the David Cohen Prize, announced on 7 March 2013, is selected by a panel of judges comprised of authors, literary critics and academics. This year's judging panel includes:


  • Shirley Crew, Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Leeds
  • Award-winning novelist Sarah Hall
  • Kathleen Jamie, writer, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Stirling University
  • Writer and critic Sam Leith
  • Broadcaster, critic and biographer Fiona MacCarthy, OBE
  • Award-winning poet and critic, Daljit Nagra
  • Kate Summerscale, award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction, and judge of numerous literary prizes
  • Screenwriter and dramatist, Roy Williams

Mark Lawson, Chair of Judges said:

 'In 2011, when Julian Barnes won the David Cohen Prize before going on to take the Man Booker, it was further confirmation of the Cohen's knack of highlighting the writers who really matter. Three previous winners of the DCP went on to claim the Nobel Prize for Literature and I think the David Cohen Prize can properly be seen as a sort of Nobel for UK and Irish writers. I am delighted to be chairing for a second time an award of such distinction and, in the early stages of the 2013 judging, have been excited to see new candidates emerging to challenge those who ran close last time.'


Read more about the David Cohen Prize for Literature

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