Major writer's prize goes global: Eccles Centre at the British Library partners with Hay Festival for 2020 Writer’s Award

British Library at St Pancras (c) The British Library Board
The Eccles Centre at the British Library is delighted to announce a new partnership with Hay Festival for its prestigious annual Writer’s Award, a prize of £20,000 for a current writing project exploring the Americas (North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean).

The Writer’s Award was founded by the Eccles Centre in 2012 as part of its aim to increase awareness and inspire creative new ways of using the British Library’s American collections – one of the world’s foremost and the largest outside of the region. Open to writers of both fiction and non-fiction, it is the only literary prize in the UK to support novelists in the creative stages of the writing process through a substantial £20,000 prize and a year-long residency, which includes privileged access to the British Library’s American collections and curatorial expertise. A number of critically acclaimed books have been published with the support of the Writer’s Award since it began, including Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf, and The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins. The current award holders are Sara Taylor and Rachel Hewitt.

This exciting new partnership builds on Hay Festival’s growing presence in Latin America and the increasingly international reach of the Writer’s Award which, for the first time, will welcome submissions for writing projects in Spanish and languages indigenous to the Americas to mark the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The Eccles Centre and Hay Festival will also collaborate to launch a dynamic new event series, taking place across Hay Festival’s global programmes spanning Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Wales. The Eccles Centre Series will see awardees join forces with celebrated writers and thinkers to explore themes central to the British Library’s Americas collections through bold and original perspectives, championing new ideas to audiences in the UK and Latin America.

The first of this new series will take place at Hay Festival Cartagena (31 January-3 February 2019), where 2015 award-winner Sarah Churchwell will discuss her book Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream.

Submissions for the 2020 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award will open in Spring 2019.

Dr Phil Hatfield, Head of the Eccles Centre, commented: “The Writer’s Award has attracted some of the most promising new writing talent of recent years. At the Eccles Centre we are committed to finding new ways to help this growing community engage with audiences in the very regions that inspire such a tangible sense of place in their creative projects. We are delighted to be working with Hay Festival in what is a natural fit in many ways; our new collaboration will amplify the reach of works inspired by the British Library’s Americas collections and champion new ideas to audiences worldwide."

Cristina Fuentes la Roche, International Director at Hay Festival, commented: “We're delighted to partner the Eccles Centre in taking the Writer's Award and its winners to new audiences around the world, particularly across the Americas. Writers offer us the unique power to imagine the world from someone else’s point of view and we're pleased to offer new platforms and routes of storytelling across borders, helping bridge the global north and south with words."


Unless stated otherwise, media content on the press area of our website, including images, is protected by third-party rights such as copyright or trademarks. The British Library is permitted to make the content available to you for promoting associated British Library’s exhibitions, events or activities. If you are not using images to promote a British Library activity, you must clear all rights for your use of any in-copyright material beyond uses permitted under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  • Dimensions:
  • File size:

Notes to Editors

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The Eccles Centre for American Studies promotes the British Library's North American collections and supports the study of North America in schools and universities. The Centre was founded by David and Mary Eccles in 1991 and is based at the British Library. The Centre works closely with the Library’s curatorial teams to promote awareness of the United States, Canadian and Caribbean collections and offers programmes of financial support for researchers. The Centre also collaborates closely with members of the American, Canadian and Caribbean Studies communities in the UK, and with other partners interested in the advancement of knowledge about North America. It hosts numerous events each year, and its lively and diverse programme includes lectures, discussion panels, conferences, concerts and seminars aimed at academics, university students, school pupils, creatives and the general public.

Hay Festival - - is a not-for-profit organisation that brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. The festivals inspire, examine and entertain, inviting participants to imagine the world as it is and as it might be. Nobel Prize-winners and novelists, scientists and politicians, historians and musicians talk with audiences in a dynamic exchange of ideas. The Festival’s global conversation shares the latest thinking in the arts and sciences with curious audiences live, in print and online. Hay Festival also runs wide programmes of education work supporting coming generations of writers and culturally hungry audiences of all ages. In 1987, the festival was dreamt up around a kitchen table in Hay. Thirty-two years later, the unique marriage of exacting conversations and entertainment for all ages has travelled to editions in 30 locations, from the historic town of Cartagena in Colombia to the heart of cities in Peru, Mexico, Spain and the USA. The organisation now reaches a global audience of hundreds of thousands every year and continues to grow and innovate, building partnerships and initiatives alongside some of the leading bodies in arts and the media. Acclaimed author, actor and writer Stephen Fry is President of the organisation; Peter Florence is Director; and Caroline Michel, CEO of leading literary and talent agency Peters Fraser + Dunlop, is Chair of the Festival board.

Coming up... 

Hay Festival Jerico, Colombia (25-26 January 2019)

Hay Festival Medellín, Colombia (30 January-2 February 2019)

Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (31 January-3 February 2019)

Hay Festival Wales (23 May-2 June 2019)

Hay Festival Querétaro, Mexico (September 2019)

Hay Festival Forum Dallas, USA (September 2019)

Hay Festival Segovia, Spain (September 2019)

Hay Festival Forum Santiago, Chile (November 2019)

Hay Festival Forum Ayacucho, Peru (November 2019)

Hay Festival Arequipa, Peru (November 2019)

Hay Festival Wales Winter Weekend, Wales (28 November-1 December 2019)

For more information:

Ash Khan
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7105

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts