Winner of BBC National Short Story Award revealed

Lucy Caldwell has won BBC National Short Story Award with All The People Were Mean And Bad, taken from her collection Intimacies.

The writer, who has been nominated three times for the prize, was praised for her “masterful storytelling”, “deep truthfulness” and “deft precision” by the judges.

Caldwell, from Belfast, was previously shortlisted in 2012 and 2019.

lucy Caldwell (Tom Routh)
lucy Caldwell (Tom Routh)

All the People Were Mean And Bad tells the story of a woman navigating a long-haul transatlantic flight alone with her 21-month-old daughter after a family loss in an exploration of parenthood, marriage, religion, kindness and the seductive power of an alternative life.

It was influenced by Frank O’Hara’s poem Sleeping On The Wing, Walt Whitman’s journey-poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Sofia Coppola’s film Lost In Translation and Adrian Tomine’s Translated From The Japanese.

Caldwell has previously won has won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

She defeated stories by novelist, playwright and screenwriter Rory Gleeson; Orange Prize shortlisted writer Georgina Harding; former postal worker and creative writing lecturer Danny Rhodes and journalist, novelist and Mastermind finalist Richard Smyth.

Novelist and chair of Judges James Runcie said: “Lucy Caldwell’s story has a confidence, daring and authenticity that is wonderfully sustained.

“All five of the stories on our shortlist were excellent, but this totally assured and moving piece of storytelling commanded the award.”

The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University was established in 2005 and is recognised as the most prestigious prize for a single short story.

The winning writer receives £15,000 and the four shortlisted writers are given £600 each.

The 2020 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Sarah Hall, who won for The Grotesques.