Introduction: This blog aims to describe the major arts prizes and provide the most recent winners. You’ll find almost all you need to know about the arts in 2020, 2021 and beyond—although I’ve had to omit some things in the interests of space. For instance, there’s no otter art.
Upcoming/Latest (10 Jul 2022): The impending and latest awards (with selected results) are below. May and June have been so busy with prizes, I’ve almost had to hire an assistant. Further details of all the awards can be found further down—there are links in the Contents section, just below. Although the New Zealand–filmed Western Power of the Dog won best film in the BAFTA Film awards and Golden Globes, it was beaten by CODA for the Oscars in March—I think that’s fair enough, a Western should always end in a gunfight.
- Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards (29 Jun, Leonardo City Hotel, London)
- Results: Sunset Swing by Ray Celestin won both the Gold Dagger award for best overall UK-published crime novel and the Historical Dagger for best historical crime novel (set more than fifty years ago). It’s set in 1960s Los Angeles and is the final of the City Blues series of four novels, set in four US cities from 1919 to the 1960s and with a strong jazz-based backdrop.
- Summer Exhibition: this art exhibition runs from 21 Jun to 21 Aug at Burlington House in Piccadilly, London and has done every year since 1769; at some point the Charles Wollaston Award for the most distinguished work will be awarded.
- Women’s Prize for Fiction (15 Jun, Bedford Square Gardens, London)—inspired by the all-male Booker shortlist of 1991, this is awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best English-language, UK-published novel of the preceding year.
- Results: The winner is The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, a US-Canadian author who is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
- Tony Awards (12 Jun, Radio City Music Hall, New York) for excellence in Broadway theatre. Admittedly, you have to go to New York to see these, or wait for them to tour elsewhere (such as Otterbourne Village Hall).
- Results: The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini (relating to the 2008 financial crash) won Best Play and A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson (about a young artist at war with a host of demons writing a musical about someone like himself writing a musical about …) won both Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. The latter means the text used in a musical separate from the composed music (known as the libretto), and the words from A Strange Loop can be purchased here.
- Hot off the press (reported 10 Jun): A surprise announcement from Costa Coffee said, “After 50 years of celebrating some of the most enjoyable books written by hugely talented authors from across the UK and Ireland, Costa Coffee has taken the difficult decision to end the Costa Book Awards.” You can see my write-up of the Costa awards below.
- Cannes Film Festival (17-28 May, Cannes)—the main awards including the most prestigious, the Palme d’Or for best film, will be revealed on the final day and will be chosen from the Official Selection shortlist. Sunglasses are compulsory.
- Results: Triangle of Sadness, directed by Ruben Östlund and starring Woody Harrelson won the Palme d’Or.
- 2022 International Booker Prize (26 May)
- Results: The winner was Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, a novelist and short-story writer based in New Delhi, India, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell. Paraphrased from Wikipedia, “the book traces the transformative journey of 80-year-old Ma, who becomes depressed after the death of her husband, and travels to Pakistan, confronting unresolved trauma from her teenage years at the time of the Partition riots.”
- British Book Awards (23 May, Grosvenor House, London)
- Results: You Are a Champion by Marcus Rashford, the Man United footballer, won overall Book of the Year as well as the Children’s Non-Fiction category. Subtitled How to Be the Best You Can Be and written with the journalist Carl Anka, it’s a kind of self-help guide for kids (and probably adults, too) on the themes of “building confidence, setting goals and finding your passion.” Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason won the Fiction prize and The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin won the Crime and Thriller prize.
- Nebula Awards for science fiction published in the US (21 May, virtual ceremony)
- Results: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark won Best Novel.
- Ivor Novello Awards (19 May, Grosvenor House, London) for UK and Irish songwriting and composing
- Results: Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender (writer and performer) won Best Song Musically and Lyrically; Pink Noise by Dann Hume and Laura Mvula (performed by Laura Mvula) won Best Album; and Dave won Best Songwriter (the awards are for the songwriters not the performers, although they may coincide)
- Bram Stoker Awards for horror writing (14 May, Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado)
- Results: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones won the Superior Achievement in a Novel award, the author winning for the second year running.
- Pulitzer Prizes (9 May, livestreamed on YouTube)
- Results: The extravagantly titled The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family by Joshua Cohen won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; there were also, as usual, fifteen prizes for journalism and six others for various forms of literature such as biography (the winner being about the artist Winfred Rembert and his time in the racially segregated Southern US in the 1950s and 1960s), poetry and history.
- BAFTA TV (8 May, Royal Festival Hall, London; live on BBC One)
I’ve arranged the sections in chronological order of the normal award dates, except for a few occasions where I’ve lumped awards together by category (for romance, crime and science fiction books). A few of the dates temporarily changed for 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, which could continue into 2022. Some of the prizes are international or have international categories, but the post does have a US/UK-centric nature, due to the most well-known prizes coming from these countries. So my apologies for neglecting the Canadian Folk Music Awards—incidentally, won by The Slocan Ramblers in 2020—and the like.
Books: Costa Book Awards (Jan/Feb); Spur Awards (Mar); Romance: Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards (Mar), Romance Writers of America Vivien Awards (Jul—but the 2022 awards are postponed to 2023); Science Fiction: BSFA (Apr), Nebula (Jun), Hugo (Aug), Arthur C. Clarke (Sept), World Fantasy (Nov); Crime: Edgar Awards (Apr), CWA Daggers (Jun/Jul); Bram Stoker Awards (Apr/May); Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (May); Women’s Prize for Fiction (Jun); Wodehouse Prize (May, but moved to Nov for 2022); Nobel Prize in Literature (Oct); Booker Prize (Oct/Nov: main prize; May/Jun: Intl prize); William Hill Sports Book of the Year (Dec); Extras: British Book Awards (May), Hawthornden Award (Jul), James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Aug), Oddest Title of the Year (Nov), Bad Sex in Fiction Award (Dec), Waverton Good Read Award (retired); Bestsellers.
Art: Summer Exhibition (Jun); Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize (Sept); BP Portrait Prize (Sept); Wildlife Photographer of the Year (Oct); Taylor-Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (Nov); Turner Prize (and Turnip Prize) (Dec); Extras: Hugo Boss Prize (Oct, every other year), Carnegie Prize (Oct, every three to five years—coinciding with the Carnegie International exhibition), Nomura Art Award (Oct, only awarded in 2019 so far).
Here are the most prominent literary award-winners and bestsellers from 2020 onwards. There are many literary awards, so apologies to those I’ve missed out—I’ve tried to cover the different genres and encompass the most prestigious. Three links are provided per winner, when available: to the prize website, the book details and the Amazon UK Look Inside feature (so you can start reading). Inexplicably, Culture Man hasn’t won any of them.
Known as the Whitbread Book Awards until 2006, the Costa Book Awards were launched in 1971 and give prizes in five different categories—novel, first novel, poetry, biography and children’s book—with one chosen as the overall book of the year. They reward “well-written, enjoyable books” by writers resident in the UK and Ireland, for books first published in the UK or Ireland, with a first published date between 1 Nov and 31 Oct of the previous year. The focus is a little more populist and a little less literary than the Booker Prize, although Hilary Mantel won both in 2012 with Bring up the Bodies. Books are entered by publishers, panels of three judges choose the category winners for each category, and a final nine-judge panel chooses the overall winner. Self-published work is not eligible.
The award is known by the year of eligibility and is given at the start of the next year, so the most recent 2021 award was announced at a ceremony at the Pan Pacific London hotel on 1 Feb 2022. The category winners are announced a few weeks before the ceremony (for the 2021 award this was 4 Jan). There’s generally a London ceremony for the unveiling of the overall winner, although this was virtual for the 2020 award. There’s also a short story award, voted for by the public. The best novel has most often won the book of the year (twelve times) and the children’s book the least often (twice). Three authors have won the overall prize twice: Sebastian Barry (novels), and Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney (both poetry). Wikipedia Costa Book Awards provides a neat list of the overall book of the year and the winners in each category, as does the Costa archive.
And…they’ve finished. A surprise announcement from Costa Coffee, reported by the press on 10 Jun 2022, said, “After 50 years of celebrating some of the most enjoyable books written by hugely talented authors from across the UK and Ireland, Costa Coffee has taken the difficult decision to end the Costa Book Awards.”
- 2021 Costa Book Awards (1 Feb 2022), Book of the Year (also winner of the poetry award): The Kids by Hannah Lowe (inside)
- 2021 Novel: Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (inside)
- 2021 First Novel: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (inside)
- 2021 Biography: Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (inside)
- 2021 Children’s Book (for ages 9-15, approx.): The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (inside)
- 2020 Costa Book Awards (26 Jan 2021), Book of the Year (also winner of the novel award): The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story by Monique Roffey (inside)
- 2020 First Novel: Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (inside)
- 2020 Biography: The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence (inside)—about the fight for justice by the author on behalf of his mother, Cherry Groce, shot by police during the Brixton riots in 1985
- 2020 Poetry: The Historians by Eavan Boland (inside)
- 2020 Children’s Book: Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant (inside)
- 2019 Costa Book Awards (28 Jan 2020), Book of the Year (also winner of the biography award): The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather (inside)—the story of Witold Pilecki, a Polish officer who volunteered to report on Nazi crimes in Auschwitz
Well, I couldn’t resist a section on westerns, which are novels about the American Wild West and typically set between about 1800-1900. According to Wikipedia, the genre peaked in the 1960s, in parallel with film and TV westerns, but now “most bookstores, outside a few west American states, only carry a small number of Western fiction books”. The Spur Awards have been awarded by the Western Writers of America (WWA) since 1953 and are for Western works published in the previous year. They don’t have a single award for best novel—not since 2013, anyway—but a list of category awards: western historical novel (set prior to 1940, focused on historical persons and events), western traditional novel (set prior to 1940, fictional), western contemporary novel (set post-1940), western romance, mass-market paperback, short story, plus first novel and non-fiction, young person, documentary, poem and script awards. Prior to 2014, there was a Best Western Long Novel, which has now been split into the best historical, traditional and contemporary novel awards. Mass-market books are smaller and cheaper than regular paperbacks, with lower quality paper and binding, and are intended to be piled up in non-traditional venues such as supermarkets and airports. Self-published work is allowed.
Three judges are assigned for each award, and publishers and authors are invited to send eligible works directly to the judges for the appropriate category. The winners are announced in March, with the awards presented at the WWA convention in June (for 2022, this will be in Great Falls, Montana from 22-25 Jun). Elmer Kelton has the most awards, at seven, between 1957 and 2002. The 1985 best western novel, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (who recently died—March 2021), also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1986. The Spurs Winners page on their website gives all the historic winners and also the finalists back to 2009 (there are usually three finalists in each category, with one of them the winner).
- 2022 Spur Award (12 Mar), Best western traditional novel: The Loving Wrath of Eldon Quint by Chase Pletts
- 2022 Best western historical novel: Ridgeline by Michael Punke (author of 2002’s The Revenant, made into an award-wining 2015 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio) (inside)
- 2022 Best western contemporary novel: Dark Sky by C.J. Box (21st in the Joe Pickett series, about a Wyoming game warden—the series has also been made into a US TV series) (inside)
- 2022 Best mass-market paperback: This Side of Hell by Brett Cogburn (fourth book in the Widowmaker Jones western series) (inside)
- 2021 Spur Award (8 Mar), Best western traditional novel: Like Rum-Drunk Angels by Tyler Enfield
- 2021 Best western historical novel: All Things Left Wild by James Wade (inside)
- 2021 Best western contemporary novel: Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (inside)
- 2021 Best mass-market paperback: A Thousand Texas Longhorns by Johnny D. Boggs (inside)
This is a fascinating subject. Largely written by women for women, romantic fiction is the largest-selling fiction genre, covering 23% of the fiction market in the USA according to a 2016 survey for Romance Writers of America. It’s driven by very loyal readers, with about 15% of romance readers buying romance novels every week. Controversy abounds, and for instance, according to an article in the New Yorker, “research suggests that romance novels are deeply dangerous … distractions that make it impossible for women to put down their books and start worshiping their real husbands”. That may have been tongue in cheek, but you do find criticism along these lines, plus a literary snobbery against the genre. And yet it sells massively. Today, there’s an overlap with chick-lit, which probably started in the 1990s, although as Wikipedia says, chick lit is not a subgenre of romance since although there may be romantic elements (there usually are), it provides a heroine-centred narrative with a focus on the trials and tribulations of the protagonist. To provide a flavour of the best-selling works, a 2020 reader survey of the Romantic Novelist’s Association provided six top-selling romance novels, one for each of the last six decades, and asked readers to vote on the best. Out of a selection also including Georgette Heyer’s Frederica, Colleen McCollough’s The Thorn Birds, Jilly Cooper’s Riders, Cecilia Ahern’s P.S. I Love You and Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding was the winner.
I’m going to wander around before we look at the two main prize-giving bodies. First, Dame Barbara Cartland: Astonishingly, she wrote 723 books between 1923 and 1999, 644 of which were romantic novels, including a world-record 23 in 1976. She sold over one billion copies, wrote plays, music and verse, and was a popular media personality. She wrote by dictating to assistants at about 7,000 words an afternoon and specialised in historical romance. She became more prolific from the early 1970s, when she was already 70, writing 10-20 books a year for the next 20 years. She left another 160 unpublished manuscripts when she died in 2000, since published by her son. Although written so quickly, her books were bestsellers in America, so must be (I assume) an extremely high standard, presumably achieved through decades of mastering her art. There’s a neat article by Liam Livings which quotes from her biography, saying her formula was “The Cinderella virgin meets and falls in love with her challenging dark hero on the first few pages. Events occur to mar or complicate the course of true love for the next six chapters. But in the seventh, love wins through, the pair are safely married, and we leave them as the joys of licit carnal bliss are about to start” and that her skill “consists in the endless ingenuity with which she adapts this constant theme to different historical backgrounds and events.” Next, Mills and Boon: to be brief here, Mills and Boon, synonymous with romance, was founded in 1908, taken over by Harlequin in 1971, publish over 100 romance novels each month in different imprints such as historical, heartwarming or desire, and are only available in print form for three months; e-books outsell their print books, partly (it is said) because in e-book form, people don’t know you’re reading a Mills and Boon romance. Third, male authors: It took fifty-seven years for a man to be named as a winner of one of the RNA’s romance awards, with two winners in 2018. However, for marketing reasons, male writers of romance have tended to publish under female pseudonyms, and in 2009 it was discovered that the winner of the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year in 1978, Merlin’s Keep by Madeleine Brent, picked up by “her” publisher at the time, was actually by Peter O’Donnell. Obviously, I’ve written a number of bestselling romance novels under a secret pseudonym.
The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) is a UK professional body for romantic fiction writers, with associate membership for related professions. It awarded the Romantic Novel of the Year (RoNa) from 1960 to 2018, plus the Rose prize for shorter works (from 2003). From 2012, it added category prizes for contemporary (post-1960), historical, epic, comedy and young adult romance, and, from 2017, for paranormal romance—with one of them chosen as the overall winner. Several authors have won the overall prize twice, most recently Jojo Moyes in 2004 and 2011, and Margaret Maddocks, who died in 1993 at the age of 87, won four between 1962 and 1976—her autobiography said her books “tend to cheer rather than depress”.
Since 2019, the overall winner has been scrapped and separate categories are awarded based on reader judgment, with volunteer judges assigned work by the RNA—except for the award for Popular Romantic Fiction, which is selected by booksellers, bloggers and librarians. There were seven awards in 2019, two more were added in 2020 (for Romantic Sagas and the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award), and a tenth in 2022, for the best Christmas / Festive Holiday Romantic Novel. There’s also an Outstanding Achievement Award, won by Mike Gayle in 2021—which is excellent since I’ve read some of his stuff and it’s great. Eligible books had their first English-language publication in the previous year and were by authors living or working in the UK/Ireland at time of submission or by Commonwealth authors living outside the UK or if first publication was by a UK-based publisher in the UK. The award ceremonies typically take place in March, and the 2022 one was held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in St Pauls, London.
RNA Awards 2022 (7 Mar)
- Contemporary Romantic Novel: A Sky Full of Stars by Dani Atkins (inside)
- Historical Romantic Novel: A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess by Catherine Tinley (inside)—same winner as last year
- Jane Wenham-Jones Romantic Comedy Novel: Mr Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman (inside) and The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne (inside) (joint winners)
- Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller: All That We Have Lost by Suzanna Fortin (inside)
- Fantasy Romantic Novel: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske (inside)
- Popular Romantic Fiction: The River Between Us by Liz Fenwick (inside)
- Christmas / Festive Holiday Romantic Novel: Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage by Sheila Norton (inside)
- Outstanding Achievement: to be presented later in the year
RNA Awards 2021 (8 Mar)
- Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel: My One True North by Milly Johnson (inside)
- Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel: Rags-to-Riches Wife by Catherine Tinley (inside)
- Romantic Comedy Novel: Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews (inside)
- Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller: The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas (inside)
- Fantasy Romantic Novel: Echoes of the Runes by Christina Courtenay (inside)
- Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction: Sing Me a Secret by Julie Houston (inside)
- Outstanding Achievement: Mike Gayle
See RNA Awards Wikipedia for a historic list of winners
The Romance Writers of America (RWA) is the US equivalent of the RNA. It’s awarded prizes since 1982, initially called Golden Medallions and, from 1990, RITA awards, named after their first president Rita Clay Estrada. Starting with four categories, this had grown to thirteen by 2019, some of them for different lengths of the same genre, e.g., long, mid-length and short contemporary romance. Unlike the RNA (until 2018, anyway), there’s no overall winner. Scandal hit in 2019 and the 2020 awards were cancelled, to be replaced by the Vivian Awards from 2021. The 2021 entries had an English language publication date of 2019 or 2020—to make up for the non-contest in 2020—but normally it’s just the previous year. There were fourteen categories, trained volunteer judges were used, and there don’t seem to be any rules restricting nationality (non-American authors have won RITA prizes). Entries must have a central love story and an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending”. Romeo and Juliet is out, then. The scandal relates to lack of diversity. In 2018, Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, about interracial romance during the American Civil War, wasn’t among the finalists despite winning many other awards. Amazingly, all finalists were about white women and all but one fell in love with British aristocrats. The 2019 finalists again underrepresented LGBTQ persons and people of colour—although Kennedy Ryan became the first Black woman to be awarded a RITA—and the RWA cancelled the awards and embarked on a restructuring exercise to improve diversity.
The replacement Vivian Awards are named after Vivian Stephens, the black founder of the RWA. The first Vivian Awards, for 2021, were awarded at a virtual ceremony in July. However, unable to keep controversy at bay, the Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements winner, At Love’s Command, by Karen Witemeyer had its award withdrawn after protests. The book featured redemption for a soldier involved in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, a massacre of nearly three hundred Lakota people (a Native American tribe) by soldiers of the United States Army. Whether this is a valid subject, sensitively handled, I don’t know—the book is on Amazon, here. In the aftermath of this, and rather farcically, the 2022 award has been postponed as the RWA analyses the 2021 contest and makes recommendations for the 2023 award—which will extend the eligibility period to include books meeting both 2022 and 2023 dates.
RWA Vivian Awards 2022: Postponed to 2023
RWA Vivian Awards 2021 (31 July) (replaced Rita Awards)
- Contemporary Romance (Long): False Start by Jessica Ruddick (inside)
- Erotic Romance: Pure Satisfaction by Rebecca Hunter (inside)
- Speculative Romance (Long): A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong (inside)
- Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance: An Everyday Hero by Laura Trentham (inside)
- Historical Romance (Long): Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase (inside) (“in which I take great liberties with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew”, stated by the author)
- Romantic Suspense (Long): Hail Mary by Hope Anika (inside)
- Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements: No award recipient (after protests)
No awards held in 2020; RWA Rita Awards held 1982-2019 (see RWA Past Winners)
The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have awarded a prize for best novel since 1970, although, like the Nebulas described below, they name it by year of eligibility (so the first one was the 1969 award). Other categories were added until it stabilised with best novel, short fiction, artwork and non-fiction from 2008, with a further award, best book for younger readers, introduced in 2021. Nominations and votes of BSFA members determine the winners plus, more recently, votes from members of the British Annual Science Fiction Convention (Eastercon—this convention has been running since 1948 and is held, surprisingly enough, over the Easter weekend). This is a fan award and works aren’t restricted to those published in the UK. Brian Aldiss and Ian McDonald have both won three times, while Adrian Tchaikovsky has won two of the last three years. Wikipedia BSFA Award gives the historic winners. The awards are usually announced at the annual Eastercon event, which was held at the Raddison Red Heathrow Hotel for the 2021 prizes.
- 2021 BSFA Award, Best Novel (18 Apr ’22): Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (inside)
- 2020 BSFA Award, Best Novel (4 Apr ’21): The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (inside)
- 2019 BSFA Award, Best Novel (18 May ’20): Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky (inside)
The Nebula Awards, presented since 1966, are probably the second most prestigious sci-fi prize behind the Hugos. They’re for English-language sci-fi and fantasy works published in the US in the previous calendar year. The Nebulas are classified by the year published, so the 2021 awards are for books published in 2021 and were awarded in May 2022. They’re nominated and voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Non-US writers can be members of the SWFA and can have their works nominated. The awards are announced and presented at the SFWA Nebula Conference, held each spring in various US locations—although it’s been virtual for the last three years.
There are seven categories, for best novel, novella, novellette and short story, and for best game writing, young adult fiction and dramatic presentation. Ursula K. Le Guin has won the most Nebula best novel awards at four, while Joe Haldeman has three and nine authors have won twice. There’s overlap with the Hugos, and several novels have won both. Both are also open to self-published works, which is cool. Past winners and nominees for all awards are on the Nebula website and the best novel winners and nominees can be seen at Wikipedia Nebula Awards.
- 2021 Nebula Award (21 May 2022), Best Novel: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (inside)
- 2020 Nebula Awards (5 Jun 2021), Best Novel: Network Effect by Martha Wells (inside)
- 2019 Nebula Awards (30 May 2020), Best Novel: A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker (inside)
The Hugo Awards, first awarded in 1953, are probably the most prestigious sci-fi awards and are for science fiction and fantasy works published in the previous year. They’re nominated and voted for by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), a convention held annually in different countries and locations. A Worldcon springs up each year with a different name and a company set up to host it, with the Hugos presented during the convention: the 2020 one, CoNZealand, was hosted virtually, due to COVID-19, by New Zealand, 29 Jul – 2 Aug; the 2021 Worldcon, DisCon III, was held in Washington DC, 15 – 19 Dec 2021 (postponed from Aug); and the 2022 Awards, Chicon 8, will be in Chicago, with the winners announced on 4 Sept.
Works can be published anywhere and in any language, although the winners are mostly English language. To counter the US-centric nature of the voters, non-English works are also eligible in their first year of translated English publication, and works first published outside the US are also eligible in their first year of US publication. There are currently 17 categories, including best novella, short story, fanzine and dramatic presentation (long and short forms). Retro-Hugos were introduced in 1996, allowing Hugos to be awarded from 1939 onward, prior to the start of the Hugos; eight have been awarded so far. I’ve listed details for the dramatic presentation in the TV section—see here.
Robert A. Heinlein has won four Hugos for best novel (and two retro-Hugos), Lois McMaster Bujold has won four, and four authors have won three, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first author to win Hugos in three consecutive years, for each book of her Broken Earth series in 2016-18. All winners and nominees can be found on the Hugo website at Hugo Awards by Year and a handy list of the best novel winners is on Wikipedia Hugo Awards.
- 2022 Hugo Awards (due 4 Sept)
- 2021 Hugo Awards (18 Dec), Best Novel: Network Effect by Martha Wells (inside)
- 2020 Hugo Awards (1 Aug), Best Novel: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (inside)
The Arthur C. Clarke Award, awarded since 1987, is given for the best science fiction novel published in the UK during the previous year. Refreshingly, there’s just the one category. Books are nominated by UK publishers, the organising committee, and a panel of judges. The judges are chosen by the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and the Sci-Fi-London film festival and they select the winner. China Miéville has the most wins at three. Winners and nominees can be seen on Wikipedia Arthur C. Clarke.
- 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award 27 Sept): The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (inside)
- 2020 Arthur C. Clarke Award (23 Sept): The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (inside)
The World Fantasy Awards are given for the best fantasy fiction published in English in the previous year and have been around since 1975. They’re awarded at the annual World Fantasy Convention, which has taken place, so far, in various locations in the US, Canada and the UK. The 2020 convention was held virtually, 29 Oct – 1 Nov, and the 2021 convention took place in Montreal from 4-7 Nov. Nominations are by a combination of a ballot for attendees of recent conventions and selection by a panel of judges (generally fantasy authors and related professionals). The judges then vote on the winners. There are ten categories, including best novel, novella and short story, and an award for lifetime achievement. Stephen King has been nominated nine times for best novel without winning (although has won in other categories), and Gene Wolfe is the most nominated of five authors to have won twice, with eight nominations. Winners and nominees are on the website and the best novel awards can be seen at Wikipedia World Fantasy Award—Novel.
- 2021 World Fantasy Award (7 Nov)—Novel: Trouble The Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson (inside)
- 2020 World Fantasy Award (1 Nov)—Novel: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (inside)
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, usually shortened to the Edgar Awards or the Edgars, are presented by The Mystery Writers of America and have been running since 1954. They’re for books, short stories and TV shows in the “mystery, crime, suspense, and intrigue” fields—this essentially means crime writing. The work must have been published in the US in the previous year. There are currently twelve categories, including best novel, best first novel (which must be by a US author), best short story and best TV episode. A further three special awards (Ellery Queen Award, Raven Award and Grand Master) are made to individuals such as authors, reviewers or editors for services to the genre. The first novel prize is for US authors and can’t be entered for the best novel; the other awards are open to all nationalities. Nominations are usually announced in mid-January and the winners at the annual Edgar Awards Banquet in New York in late April or early May, which was held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel for 2022. You can see a list of all the best novel winners (and most of the category winners since 2010) on Wikipedia’s Edgar Award site. The Edgars website home page also links to a historic lists of nominees and winners for each category—for example, the best novel, best fact crime or best TV episode.
- 2022 Edgar Award (28 Apr), Best Novel: Five Decembers by James Kestrel (inside)
- 2021 Edgar Award (29 Apr), Best Novel: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (inside)—also longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction
- 2020 Edgar Award (30 Apr), Best Novel: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths (inside)
The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) is a UK authors’ group that promotes crime fiction and awards a series of annual crime writing prizes called Daggers, the “UK’s top crime writing awards”. A total of ten Daggers are awarded, including the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger (best thriller, which Ian Fleming defined as making you turn the page), Historical Dagger (set more than 50 years ago), Dagger for Crime Fiction in Translation (formerly the International Dagger), Debut Dagger, ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction (sponsored by the ALCS), and Short Story Dagger, plus the Gold Dagger for the overall best crime novel. Publishers nominate their authors’ books, and titles are independently judged by panels separate to the CWA. Eligible books are published in the UK in English by authors of any nationality during the eligibility period—the eligibility period is changing and from 2022 onward will be the previous calendar year. There’s also a Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, won by Martina Cole in 2021 and by Martin Edwards in 2020, a Dagger in the Library, nominated and voted for by UK libraries, and a competition for the opening of a crime novel for anyone who hasn’t been traditionally published.
The Daggers were first awarded in 1955, although there are more categories now. They have usually been unveiled at an October ceremony in London, but due to COVID-19 were announced virtually in 2020 and 2021. The 2021 award was brought forward to 1 July and this earlier timeframe will stay in future, with the 2022 awards ceremony taking place on 29 Jun at the Leonardo City Hotel, London. Lionel Davidson has won the Gold Dagger three times and nine authors have won twice: Eric Ambler, John le Carré, Ruth Rendell, Joan Fleming, H. R. F. Keating, Peter Dickinson, Colin Dexter, Barbara Vine and Michael Robotham.
The CWA past winners page has a nifty search tool to find any previous winner or shortlisted work, and you can also check out Wikipedia Gold Dagger or Wikipedia Steel Dagger for a simple list of all the Gold or Steel Dagger winners.
- 2022 Gold Dagger (29 Jun): Sunset Swing by Ray Celestin (inside)
- 2022 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger: Dead Ground by M.W. Craven (inside)
- 2022 ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction: The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey by Julia Latte (inside)
- 2021 Gold Dagger (1 July): We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (inside)
- 2021 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger: When She Was Good by Michael Robotham (inside)
- 2021 ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction: Written in Bone by Sue Black (inside)
- 2020 Gold Dagger (22 Oct): Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (inside)
- 2020 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger: November Road by Lou Berney (inside)
- 2020 ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction: Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (inside)
The Bram Stoker Awards are presented by the Horror Writers Association (HWA) for dark fantasy, dark literature or horror. The HWA are a global organization of horror writing and publishing professionals, with categories for associated professionals and readers/fans; they have regional chapters in over twenty countries. The awards have been going since 1987 and currently have twelve categories—plus sometimes a Lifetime Achievement award—including for novels, first novels, graphic novels, poetry, non-fiction and lifetime achievement. The awards are formally titled “Superior Achievement in an X”, where X is a Novel, Screenplay, etc. HWA members and juries for each category recommend works to nominate, and Active members (professional-level writers) vote to determine the final nominated works and winners.
The awards are presented at the HWA’s annual conference, which is called StokerCon and is held in a different city each year, usually in the US, but it was meant to be Scarborough in the UK in 2019 before this was cancelled for COVID-19. The work must be first published in the previous year. The prizes are known by the year of publication, so, for example, the 2021 award was awarded in 2022 for works published in 2021. Slightly confusingly, the conventions are known by the year they take place, so StokerCon 2022 took place in 2022 and awarded the 2021 prize. Both the 2020 and 2021 conferences were virtual, but 2022 was back on track, the conference being held at the Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado. Stephen King has the most wins in the novel category, with six, while Peter Straub is next with five. The winners and nominees for best novel can be seen on Wikipedia Bram Stoker Award, and the science fiction awards database gives a neat summary of all prizes and nominees for all years.
- 2021 Bram Stoker Award for Novel (14 May 2022): My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (inside)
- 2020 Bram Stoker Award for Novel (23 May 2021): The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (inside)
- 2019 Bram Stoker Award for Novel (18 Apr 2020): Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback (inside)
The Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded since 1917, following instructions in the will of Joseph Pulitzer, a wealthy publisher. They’re for achievement in journalism, literature and musical composition in the US, and are administered by Columbia University in New York. There are currently twenty-two categories—fifteen in journalism and seven in books, drama and music. A 19-member Pulitzer Prize Board votes on each award after juries they’ve selected nominate three works in each category.
The fiction award is for “distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life”. Previous winners include Gone with the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Old Man and the Sea. The winner in 2020, Colson Whitehead, joined Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike in having won the award twice, with his previous novel, The Underground Railway, winning in 2017. In the books, drama and music section categories, as well as fiction, there are also prizes for biography, history, drama, poetry, general non-fiction and music.
The winners are announced at three o’clock in a news conference from the University and have been livestreamed on the Pulitzer website since 2015 (and also on YouTube). Below are a selection of the literary-based prizes since 2020.
- 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (9 May): The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family by Joshua Cohen (inside)
- 2022 Pulitzer Prize for History: Covered with Night by Nicole Eustace (inside) and Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer (inside)—joint winners
- 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Biography: Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South by the late Winfred Rembert as told to Erin I. Kelly—about Winfred Rembert, an artist who worked on a prison chain gang for seven years and survived a lynching; the Jim Crow South refers to Jim Crow laws, which were racial segregation laws enforced in the Southern US states until 1965
- 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss (inside)
- 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (11 Jun): The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (inside)
- 2021 Pulitzer Prize for History: Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain (inside)
- 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Biography: The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by the late Les Payne and Tamara Payne (inside)—completed by Les Payne’s daughter, Tamara, after Les died; about the civil rights activist Malcolm X, assassinated by three Nation of Islam members at the age of 39 in 1965
- 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz (inside)
- 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (4 May): The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (inside)
- 2020 Pulitzer Prize for History: Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel (inside)
- 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Biography: Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser (inside)—about Susan Sontag, an American essayist, novelist, filmmaker and political activist, who died in 2004 at the age of 71
- 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: The Tradition, by Jericho Brown (inside)
The Women’s Prize for Fiction was inspired by the all-male Booker shortlist of 1991, although it didn’t kick-off until 1996. It’s awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year. Books are nominated by publishers and a panel of five women judges determine the winner. No author has won more than once. The winners and nominees can be seen on the Wikipedia Women’s Prize for Fiction page and detailed descriptions of the winning novels on the Women’s Prize Previous Winners page.
The 2020 prize was announced at a virtual event in September, later than the normal June date; the 2021 winner was announced at a ceremony in Bedford Square Gardens, London, still in September; and the 2022 awards were to their normal June date, also at Bedford Square Gardens.
- 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction (15 Jun): The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, a US-Canadian author who is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts (inside)
- 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction (8 Sept): Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (inside). This is her second novel, after 2004’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which won the Hugo and World Fantasy Best Novel awards—the long gap is due to her suffering from debilitating and long-term chronic fatigue, so this is a great triumph over adversity.
- 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction (9 Sept): Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (inside)
The Wodehouse Prize is, according to Bollinger and Everyman, its sponsors, the UK’s only literary award for comic writing. It’s been awarded since 2000, is usually presented at the Hay festival in May with the winner announced shortly before the event, and the winner receives a jeroboam of Bollinger, a set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection, and a local pig is named after their winning novel. The Hay Festival was online in 2020 and 2021, so the pig wasn’t presented to the winning authors as it usually is. The prize is selected from a shortlist by a panel of judges for books published in the UK from 1 Jun of the previous year until 31 May the current year (these dates applied for 2021 and 2022, but must have been earlier in previous years since the prize has normally been presented in May). Self-published or children’s books are not eligible.
Most winners but not all have been British, no author has won the prize more than once, and no prize was awarded in 2018 because none of the entries were funny enough. Wikipedia Wodehouse Prize gives the full list of past winners and nominations. Update: the date for the 2022 prize has shifted to November, with the shortlist to be announced in September.
- 2021 Wodehouse Prize (8 Jul): The Accidental Collector by Guy Kennaway (inside)
- 2020 Wodehouse Prize (24 Jun): Flake by Matthew Dooley (the first graphic novel to win the prize)
The Nobel Prize has been awarded in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace each year since 1901—actually, a few have been missed, e.g., for some of the war years, but they’ve been awarded every year since 1944, apart from the peace prize in a few years when there were no suitable candidates. Since 1968, a sixth prize has been established for Economic Sciences; it isn’t strictly a Nobel Prize, but is awarded by the same process, at the same ceremony and receives the same prize money. The prize originated from Alfred Nobel’s will, to be awarded “to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”. Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist, best known for the invention of dynamite, who died in 1896 at sixty-three.
The prize ceremonies take place on 10 December, the date of Nobel’s death, in Oslo for the peace prize and in Stockholm for the rest. The winners are announced earlier, in October on successive days for each prize. Each recipient is known as a Nobel laureate and receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a monetary award, currently 10,000,000 krona (approx. $1.1m). A prize can be shared by up to three people, although the peace prize can also be awarded to organizations. The award was intended for achievements in the previous year, but this has gradually shifted towards discoveries that have stood the test of time—for literature, the prize is generally awarded for a body of work rather than a single accomplishment. The Swedish Academy, a group of eighteen members chosen for life, select the Nobel literature laureate, chosen from nominations that the Nobel Committee ask a selection of experts to provide. The processes for the other prizes are similar, except the awarding bodies are different: the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for physics and chemistry, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute for medicine, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee for the peace prize.
Each winner is meant to hold a lecture in the days leading up to the award, the Swedish king presents the prizes at the Stockholm event, and there are luxurious banquets after the ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo. France has the most literature winners with seventeen, followed by the US with thirteen, the UK with eleven, Germany with ten and Sweden with eight. The last UK winners were Kazuo Ishiguro in 2017, Doris Lessing in 2007 and Harold Pinter in 2005. A list of the laureates for each year is on Wikipedia Nobel laureates or on the Nobel website.
- 2021 Nobel laureate in literature (7 Oct): Abdulrazak Gurnah (born in Zanzibar, part of Tanzania; UK-based and British citizen; age 72; retired Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent). The author of many short stories, essays and ten novels, mostly set in East Africa with Zanzibar-born protagonists. The award was for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
- 2020 Nobel laureate in literature (8 Oct): Louise Glück (born in New York, US; age 78). A poet and essayist and an adjunct professor (employed on a contractual basis rather than with indefinite tenure) and the Rosenkranz Writer in Residence at Yale University. The award was for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”poetry and essays.
The Booker Prize, introduced in 1969, is awarded for the best long form fiction (basically a novel, but it could be poetry or experimental in form) originally written in English and published in the UK or Ireland in the year of the prize. The International prize is for the best translated book, published in the UK or Ireland, and has been running in this form since 2016—it was originally, from its foundation in 2005 to 2015, given every two years to an author for a body of work published in English or available in English translation. They’re each chosen by a panel of five appointed judges. Four authors have won the Booker prize twice, J.M. Coetzee, Peter Carey, Hilary Mantel and Margaret Atwood (including a joint award in 2019). The Not the Booker prize is a spoof award that’s been run by the Guardian columnist Sam Jordison since 2009. Readers nominate books to form a longlist, then send reviews of over one hundred words to select the shortlist (the words aren’t counted, but reviewers are asked to make it look like they care). A panel of judges from his readers select the winner, who receives a Guardian mug. Although non-serious, the eligibility is the same as the Booker and it does look like it tries to find good literature, and indeed see if the winner is the same as the Booker itself (it never is). You can see a more detailed post I wrote on the Booker prize, here, which to be honest is far too long!
The Booker prize is unveiled at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall (except for 2020/21 for Covid reasons, when the BBC broadcast the ceremonies from London’s Roundhouse and BBC Radio Theatre, respectively). The International award is also normally presented at a London ceremony—One Marylebone for 2022. As far as I can see, tragically it seems as if there hasn’t been an award for the Not the Booker Prize in 2021, but I’ll investigate further. For the winners, check the Booker link at the start of this section, or go to Wikipedia Booker and Wikipedia International Booker.
- 2022 Booker Prize (due 17 Oct)
- 2022 International Booker Prize (26 May): Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree (Indian), translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell
- 2021 Booker Prize (3 Nov): The Promise by Damon Galgut (South African, previously shortlisted twice) (inside)
- 2021 International Booker Prize (2 Jun): At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop (France), translated by Anna Moschovakis (inside)
- 2021 Not the Booker Prize: Not awarded – to confirm
- 2020 Booker Prize (19 Nov): Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Scottish) (inside)
- 2020 International Booker Prize (26 Aug): The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Netherlands), translated by Michele Hutchison (inside)
- 2020 Not the Booker Prize (19 Nov): Hello Friend We Missed You by Richard Owain Roberts (inside)
First awarded in 1989, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year is for excellence in sports writing. William Hill states it’s the world’s longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. Duncan Hamilton has won three times, twice on cricket and once on football, and Donald McRae twice, on boxing and athletics. The winners and shortlisted books all appear to be non-fiction (although Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch won in 1992—it’s not exactly fiction but perhaps a bit on the line). The rules state that any full-length book is eligible, providing the subject is predominantly sporting, and the book was published for the first time in the UK between 2 Sept 2021 and 1 Sept 2022 (for the 2022 prize). A panel of judges, mainly sports professionals, writers or broadcasters, decide the winner.
Cricket, football and boxing are the most common subjects among the winners, but horse racing, aikido, golf, surfing, rowing, cycling, rugby, swimming and Australian-rules football all make appearances. The prize is typically awarded in early December, with the longlist announced in late September and the shortlist in late October. The 2021 prize was announced at a ceremony at BAFTA’s building in London, Piccadilly. Wikipedia William Hill Sports Book of the Year provides a handy table of winners, as does the William Hill website at the start of this section.
- 2021 William Hill Sports Book of the Year (2 Dec): Why We Kneel, How We Rise by Michael Holding, the great West Indian Test cricketer, with the help of journalist Ed Hawkins—it’s about racism, “told through the prism of sport and conversations with its legends”, and arose following his comments about the racism he has suffered during a rain delay in a cricket match he was commentating on for Sky Sports (inside)
- 2020 William Hill Sports Book of the Year (3 Dec): The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Russia’s Secret Doping Empire by Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower in charge of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program, who is in hiding in the US (inside)
There are hundreds, no, thousands of literary awards, from the Icelandic Literary Prize to the Langhe Ceretto Prize for international food and drink writing to the Ned Kelly Award for Australian crime writing. Wikipedia’s List of literary awards lists stacks of them. Here’s a few extra ones that are either relatively high profile or caught my eye, but I lacked the commitment to give them the full treatment:
- British Book Awards or Nibbies, named after the nib-shaped winners’ trophies: A set of awards organised by The Bookseller, a British magazine reporting on the publishing industry. The awards started in 1990 and were discontinued after 2014 until The Bookseller acquired them in 2017 (they were called the National Book Awards from 2010 to 2014). There are currently twelve category winners, one of which is chosen as overall Book of the Year by a public vote, plus Author and Illustrator of the Year awards. The category winners are determined by nominated judges. I’m not entirely sure of the criteria—Wikipedia says they’re for UK writers and their works (presumably for the previous year), but some of the recent winners are, for example, American. Wikipedia British Book Awards lists the historic Book of the Year winners plus many of the category winners. The Bookseller also simultaneously hosts the Book Trade Awards, which it has run since 2005 under various names, with currently eighteen awards such as Independent Bookshop of the Year and Marketing Strategy of the Year. Recent winners are as below, with the 2022 ceremony taking place at Grosvenor House, London.
- 2022 Book of the Year (23 May): You Are a Champion by Marcus Rashford, the Man United footballer; subtitled How to Be the Best You Can Be and written with the journalist Carl Anka, it’s a kind of self-help guide for kids (and probably adults, too) on the themes of “building confidence, setting goals and finding your passion”
- 2021 Book of the Year (13 May): Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, also the 2020 Booker winner
- 2020 Book of the Year (29 Jun): Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
- Hawthornden Award: The joint oldest UK prize, which started in 1919. This is for British (or Irish) authors of “imaginative fiction” published in the previous year, who are younger than forty-one. It was established by the philanthropist Alice Warrender and named after the Scottish poet William Drummond of Hawthornden (Alice was born in Hawthornden). The prize is awarded by a Committee, doesn’t solicit submissions and is sometimes described as secretive—they don’t even seem to have a website. The 2020 winner was Reckless Paper Birds, a poetry collection by John McCullough, announced on 24 July. I haven’t seen any announcement about the 2021 prize, so who knows what has happened to this (though there have been a few gap years when no prize has been awarded). Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter won in 1927, and Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory in 1941.
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize: The UK’s other joint oldest literary prize, also awarded since 1919, surprisingly enough, by Edinburgh University’s English Literature department. One prize is awarded for fiction, one for biography and (from 2013 to 2019) one for drama. The 2019 fiction winner, announced on 21 Aug 2020, was Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, a “1,000-page, mostly single-sentence novel set inside the consciousness of an Ohio mother living in Donald Trump’s America”. The 2020 fiction winner, announced on 25 Aug 2021 at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, was Lote by Shola von Reinhold, which follows the narrator’s fixation with the forgotten Black Scottish modernist poet, Hermia Druitt, a bohemian socialite of the 1920s. The 2020 biography prize was won by Doireann Ní Ghríofa for A Ghost in the Throat—this is a mix of biography, about Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonall, a 17th century Irish noblewoman and poet, and memoir.
- Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year: A spoof award jointly organised by the Diagram Group, a London graphics company, and The Bookseller. The prize has been awarded since 1978 except for two years when there was no title odd enough. Since 2000, the public have voted on a shortlist to determine the winner. The 2020 winner, announced on 27 November, was “A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path: Animal Metaphors in Eastern Indonesian Society” by Gregory Forth. Previous winners have included “Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice” and “Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers”. Is Superman Circumcised? by Roy Schwartz (Israeli-born and living in New York) won the 2021 prize, announced on 3 December—it’s an academic study on the Jewish origins of Superman. The winning author said, “The competition was stiff, but I’m glad I was able to rise to the challenge….”
- Bad Sex in Fiction Award: An award from the Literary Review, a monthly British literary magazine founded in 1979, which has been presented since 1993 for the year’s “most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel” and “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” For the first time, the 2019 prize went to two novels, The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin and Pax by John Harvey, at a ceremony in London on 2 Dec 2019. The 2020 prize wasn’t awarded since the judges decided the public had been subjected to too many bad things in the year. So far (in Jan 2022), I can see no sign of an announcement about the 2021 award either. The award attracts a lot of media attention and is usually taken in good humour by the winning authors. You can see quotes and commentaries from the winning passages on the website, especially if you follow the links to the past winners. John Updike, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, received a lifetime achievement award in 2008, after being nominated four times—although I don’t think he turned up to collect it.
- Waverton Good Read Award: The village of Waverton in Cheshire in the northwest of England decided to found a literary award for debut novels by British or Irish writers in the previous year. It started in 2003, with villagers recruited to read and score the books. Once a shortlist was established, the village was invited to read the books and the winner decided by a ballot of the readers and presented at a dinner, generally in October. The 2019/20 award (for books in 2019) was the last one, won by Madeleine Bunting’s Island Song. A goodbye message is on their website, appreciating 17 wonderful years, but saying that COVID-19 has made it impossible to operate as they had done and deciding to go out while their reputation is high. Along the way, they’ve gathered media attention and sponsorship, helped to foster British writers, and provided books for hundreds of readers, including children in local schools and a women’s prison. Fair play!
This is a tricky one. In theory, we want the bestselling books of 2020, covering both print and electronic forms, all countries, and all editions (e.g., classics that are out of copyright may be published in different editions by different publishers). In practise, publishers rarely reveal their own book sales, and there are an array of national and chain-store bestseller lists that rely on different methods and usually provide rankings but not the actual sales figures.
The gold standard is probably provided by Nielsen Bookscan, a data provider that tracks sales from point of sales outlets including physical bookstores, Amazon and mass market stores such as supermarkets. It’s owned by the Nielsen Company, and the service is called NPD BookScan in the US, after the US operations were sold to the NPD Group. The US operations cover approximately 85% of the physical book market, while the global operations cover 25,000 stores and eleven countries including the UK, India, Brazil and Spain. The data can be split in various ways such as different genres, fiction/nonfiction or hardback/paperback. The operation only covers print books, although there’s also a service called PubTrack Digital which tracks e-book sales. The service is via subscription or ad hoc sales, and you can see the top ten in the non-US countries at Nielsen Media and in the US at NPD Top Sellers. In the UK, the Nielsen Bestseller Awards, running since 2001, have an annual ceremony (17 Mar in 2021), where books that have sold more than one million copies in the UK are designated as platinum, more than 500,000 as gold, and more then 250,000 as silver. This is for sales in total and not just in one year; if they pass the total in 2020, they are announced at the 2021 awards. Eight books reached platinum status in 2020, making a total of over 140 in the 21st century.
Nielsen BookScan provides the underlying data for some of the major bestseller lists, such as The Sunday Times Bestseller List, probably the UK’s pre-eminent list. The US equivalent is the New York Times Bestseller List, which has been published since 1931—this is not based on NPD BookScan, but on their own surveys, data and proprietary methods. You can check all the NYT bestsellers from 1931 at Wikipedia’s Lists of The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers. These lists tend to keep a running total of bestsellers in a particular week or month, and don’t as a rule collate them into annual lists.
There are also all-time bestseller lists and compilations. Wikipedia has a List of best-selling books article that, excluding religious and political works, concludes that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the best-selling book of all time with 120 million sales across all translations and editions. The other six Harry Potter books are all in the top fifteen. The Guinness Book of Records lists the Bible as the all-time biggest seller at an estimated five billion copies; the Quran (or Qur’an or Koran) and Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung (now translated as Mao Zedong; also known as the Little Red Book) are probably next on the list, the latter because it was more or less mandatory during China’s Cultural Revolution. A 2016 Guardian article on UK bestsellers concluded that The Da Vinci Code was the UK’s best-selling book, with all seven Harry Potter books in the top ten.
So, where does this leave us? To collate sales figures across national boundaries and over different editions and translations—not to mention physical and e-Books—can be a work of considerable research. A subscription to Nielsen and NPD BookScan would likely be helpful, and sometimes a media outlet or research organisation will have a go at something like this. Amazon provide bestseller lists of the year for various countries and bestselling Kindle books for the US. I’ve added these below, along with the NPD BookScan bestseller. Where the top seller is non-fiction, I’ve also listed the highest ranked fiction book. The conclusion from all this is that Barack Obama’s A Promised Land may well be the bestselling book of 2020, since it tops the US charts (and came in at fifth in the UK). However, it’s feasible that one of the Harry Potter novels, including all its translations, still sells well enough globally to top the list, or that another book overtakes it including international sales, or that a book from a huge market like China sits on top (OpenBook provides bestseller rankings in China, although it seems a bit out of date). I’m less sure for 2021, but you should be able to find some decent books in the lists below.
- 2021 Amazon.com Bestselling Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear (inside) (a self-help book abut creating good habits)
- 2021 Amazon.com Bestselling Fiction Book: It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (inside) (seventh on the bestseller list) (a love story, I think)
- 2021 Amazon.com Bestselling e-Book: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (inside) (historical novel, set during the Great Depression)
- 2021 NPD BookScan Top Selling Book (US): Dog Man: Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (inside) (comic graphic novel)
- 2021 Amazon.co.uk Bestselling Book: Pinch of Nom Quick & Easy: 100 Delicious, Slimming Recipes by Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson (inside)
- 2021 Amazon.co.uk Bestselling Fiction Book: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (inside) (third on the list)
- 2020 Amazon.com Bestselling Book: A Promised Land by Barack Obama (inside)
- 2020 Amazon.com Bestselling Fiction Book: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (inside) (third on the bestseller list, though was first in 2019)
- 2020 Amazon.com Bestselling e-Book: If you Tell by Gregg Olsen (inside) (a true crime story)
- 2020 NPD BookScan Top Selling Book (US): A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- 2020 Amazon.co.uk Bestselling Book: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (arising from a drawing of a horse saying the bravest thing he’d said was “help”; a book of drawings and inspirational sayings, linked with a narrative of sorts)
- 2020 Amazon.co.uk Bestselling Fiction Book: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (inside) (second on the list)
The Golden Globe Awards Awards, or Golden Globes, have been running since 1943 and celebrate films (both US and international, but they must have aired in the Greater Los Angeles area—apart from the foreign language category) and US television (shows must be made in the US or jointly made by a US and foreign company). They’ve been running since 1943 for film and 1961 for TV, currently have 15 film categories and 12 TV ones, apply to films and TV that aired in the previous year.
The awards are conducted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a philanthropic organisation of journalists and photographers who report on the US entertainment industry for publications outside the US (formerly they had to live in Southern California, but now they can be anywhere in the US). The HFPA members nominate up to five entrants per category, based on studio submissions, and also vote for the winners.
The Golden Globes, named since the award trophy is a golden globe statuette, are presented at an annual televised ceremony, usually at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles in January. However, the 2022 awards were held privately on 9 Jan with no nominees or guests present—the reason was due to boycotts by various media companies and actors against a lack of diversity in the HFPA members. Wikipedia’s List of Golden Globe winners provides all the historic winners in the major categories.
- 2022 Golden Globes (9 Jan), Best Picture, Drama: The Power of the Dog
- 2022 Golden Globes, Best Picture, Musical or Comedy: West Side Story
- 2022 Golden Globes, Best Foreign Language Film: Drive My Car
- 2022 Golden Globes, Best Animated Feature Film: Encanto
- 2021 Golden Globes (28 Feb), Best Picture, Drama: Nomadland
- 2021 Golden Globes, Best Picture, Musical or Comedy: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
- 2021 Golden Globes, Best Foreign Language Film: Minari
- 2021 Golden Globes, Best Animated Feature Film: Soul
- 2020 Golden Globes (5 Jan), Best Picture, Drama: 1917
- 2020 Golden Globes, Best Picture, Musical or Comedy: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- 2020 Golden Globes, Best Foreign Language Film: Parasite
- 2020 Golden Globes, Best Animated Feature Film: Missing Link
The British Academy Film Awards (or BAFTA Film Awards) are the British equivalent of the Oscars, hosted by the charitable British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), voted for by approximately 6,500 BAFTA members, and awarded since 1948. There are currently 25 categories. The award ceremony has been held at the Royal Albert Hall since 2017, though with a virtual audience in 2021 due to COVID-19, and is broadcast on TV. The awards are for films available in the UK for the first time the previous year (the dates may vary slightly). Most awards are open to all nationalities, although there is an Outstanding British Film (won by Belfast in 2022) plus best British Short Film, Best British Animation and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. The Oscars—held slightly later—often have the same winners for the major prizes. For a list of the winning films, see Wikipedia – BAFTA Best Film, or see BAFTA’s awards database for all winners and nominations.
- 2022 BAFTA (13 Mar), Best Film: The Power of the Dog
- 2022 BAFTA, Leading Actor: Will Smith (King Richard)
- 2022 BAFTA, Leading Actress: Joanna Scanlan (After Love)
- 2021 BAFTA (11 Apr), Best Film: Nomadland
- 2021 BAFTA, Leading Actor: Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
- 2021 BAFTA, Leading Actress: Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
- 2020 BAFTA (2 Feb), Best Film: 1917
- 2020 BAFTA, Best Actor: Joaquim Phoenix (The Joker)
- 2020 BAFTA, Best Actress: Renée Zellweger (Judy)
The Academy Awards or Oscars have been awarded annually since 1928 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for excellence in cinematic achievement over the previous year. Qualifying films must have played for seven consecutive days in Los Angeles County in the previous year, except for the Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature and short film categories. The awards ceremony has been held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles since 2002, and is accompanied by prime time live TV screening (in 2021, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the venue was split between the Dolby Theatre and a specially constructed stage at Los Angeles’s Union Station). There are approximately 8,500 Academy members who decide the nominations and winners. The films nominated are selected by subsets or branches of the Academy members, so, for instance, actors nominate the candidates for acting-related prizes, directors for directing prizes, etc. They can all nominate candidates for best film. The winners are determined by vote of all the Academy members. There are currently 23 categories, with Best Picture the most prestigious, and Best Actor, Actress and Director not far behind. For a complete list of the Best Picture winners, see Wikipedia—Academy Award for Best Picture.
- 2022 Oscar (27 Mar), Best Film: CODA
- 2022 Oscar/BAFTA, Best Actor: Will Smith (King Richard)
- 2022 Oscar, Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
- 2021 Oscar (25 Apr), Best Film: Nomadland
- 2021 Oscar/BAFTA, Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
- 2021 Oscar, Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
- 2020 Oscar (9 Feb), Best Picture: Parasite
- 2020 Oscar, Best Actor: Joaquim Phoenix (The Joker)
- 2020 Oscar, Best Actress: Renée Zellweger (Judy)
The Cannes Film Festival is held each May in Cannes, on the French Riviera, at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, a convention centre overlooking Cannes Bay. The festival is highly cool, with film stars to trip over and sunglasses compulsory.
The event was first held in 1939, and the opening night gala took place on 31 August. However, Germany invaded Poland the next day and war was declared on 3 Sept, leading to the event being cancelled. It was next held in 1946 and has been held since, apart from gaps in 1948, 1950 and 1968 (out of solidarity with the French students’ protests for the latter). As well as film screenings, the festival hosts exhibitions, masterclasses and a lucrative film market.
Several prizes are given, the most prestigious being the Palme d’Or for best film. Other categories include Best Actor, Actress, Short Film and Screenplay, and the Grand Prix prize, the second prize behind the Palme d’Or, plus prizes for young and student filmmakers. The Festival’s Selection Committee chooses an Official Selection of approximately sixty films from the eligible submitted films. About twenty of these are “In competition”, which are eligible for the Palme d’Or and Grand Prix, while the rest fit into other categories, including “Out of competition” for films that will be screened but aren’t competing for prizes. The award winners are selected by juries chosen by the Festival’s board of directors. The prizes are typically announced on the last day of the festival. The 2020 event wasn’t held due to COVID-19, but an official selection of films was chosen—one award was made, for Best Short Film, at a shortened special event.
Only two films have won both the Palme d’Or and the Oscar for Best Picture—Marty in 1955 and the 2019 winner, Parasite (winning the Oscar in 2020). There are also other prominent film festivals such as Berlin, Venice, Toronto and Sundance (based in Utah, US, and founded by Robert Redford, more or less, in 1978) that time prevents us from diving into.
- 2022 Cannes Film Festival (17-28 May), Palme d’Or: Triangle of Sadness (a satirical black comedy about a celebrity couple who are invited on a luxury cruise for the super-rich, run by a Marxist captain; it received an eight-minute standing ovation)
- 2021 Cannes Film Festival (6-17 July), Palme d’Or: Titane
- 2020 Cannes Film Festival (special event, 27-29 Oct): Palme d’Or not awarded
- 2019 Cannes Film Festival (14-25 May), Palme d’Or: Parasite
There’s a great site called Box Office Mojo, established in 1998 and acquired by IMDb in 2008, that charts films in terms of box office takings. It lists charts showing films with the most box office takings worldwide and by country, and provides yearly summary figures, all-time lists and the leaders each weekend, going back to 1977; for the US market, daily, weekly and monthly data are also shown. You can also get a quick picture from Wikipedia’s List of highest grossing films, which provides a list of the top grossing films globally of all time and by year (from 1915). The yearly lists are different between the sites because Wikipedia provides the gross takings for films including takings in later years, while Box Office Mojo provides a chart based on takings in the year at hand. The main headline sales figures for films are based on box office takings, although films also earn revenue by DVD sales, TV releases and merchandising—those earnings come later and over a longer time, and hence box office figures are used as the initial indicator of a film’s success. Globally, the biggest seller of all time is Avatar, released in 2009 and grossing $2.8 billion. However, when inflation is factored in (not taking this into account would downplay older films), Gone with the Wind is at the top, with Avatar second and Titanic third. The biggest sellers of each year have always been Hollywood films until 2020, when the Chinese film The Eight Hundred topped the list, with figures considerably lower than normal due to COVID-19. The 2021 and 2020 top grossing films in the US and UK are shown at the end of the list below.
- 2021 Top-grossing film: Spider-Man: No Way Home
- 2021 Top-grossing film (US market): Spider-Man: No Way Home
- 2021 Top-grossing film (UK market): No Time To Die (James Bond)
- 2020 Top-grossing film: The Eight Hundred
- 2020 Top-grossing film (US market): Bad Boys for Life
- 2020 Top-grossing film (UK market): 1917
TV and Radio
The Golden Globe Awards, usually awarded in January, provide awards for US TV, as well as films. The presentation coincides with that for the film awards, the details of which are described above. Wikipedia’s List of Golden Globe winners provides the historic winners in the major categories for both film and TV.
- 2022 Golden Globes (9 Jan), Best Drama: Succession (HBO)
- 2022 Golden Globes, Best Musical or Comedy: Hacks (HBO Max)
- 2022 Golden Globes, Best Miniseries or Television Film: The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
- 2021 Golden Globes (28 Feb), Best Drama: The Crown (Netflix)
- 2021 Golden Globes, Best Musical or Comedy: Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
- 2021 Golden Globes, Best Miniseries or Television Film: The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
- 2020 Golden Globes (5 Jan), Best Drama: Succession (HBO)
- 2020 Golden Globes, Best Musical or Comedy: Fleabag (Amazon)
- 2020 Golden Globes, Best Miniseries or Television Film: Chernobyl (HBO)
The ARIAS are the UK’s premier radio awards. They’re a successor to the the Radio Academy Awards, which started in 1983 and were generally known as The Sony Awards until Sony ended their sponsorship in 2013. They were paused after the 2014 awards, before being relaunched as the ARIAS in 2016. All formats have been run by the Radio Academy, a charity for the celebration and promotion of excellence in radio and audio (including podcast and streaming services). The awards are usually announced at a London ceremony—the Adelphi Theatre for 2022, The May Fair Hotel, 2021, and the London Palladium, 2020. There are currently 25 categories, including Best Speech Breakfast Show, Best Music Breakfast Show, Best Sports Show, The Comedy Award, Best Local Radio Show, Best News Show, Best Fictional Storytelling and Best Independent Podcast. A panel of judges is appointed for each award, with Gold, Silver and Bronze being awarded for each. The nominations are split 50-50 between BBC radio and commercial radio. Although the Internet means you can listen to radio from all over the world, radio is generally local (regionally or nationally) and immediate and shows don’t really translate outside national borders (with exceptions such as the BBC World Service). As such, each country have their own awards and there aren’t any global awards that I can see. The US equivalent of the ARIAS are the Marconi Radio Awards.
- 2022 ARIAS (3 May), Best Music Breakfast Show: The Dave Berry Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio
- 2022 ARIAS, Best Speech Breakfast Show: The Wake Up Call on BBC Kent Radio
- 2022 ARIAS, Best Speech Presenter: Emma Barnett for Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4
- 2022 ARIAS, The Comedy Award: The Skewer by Unusual Productions for BBC Radio 4 (for the second year running)
- 2021 ARIAS (26 May), Best Music Breakfast Show: Radio 1 Breakfast with Greg James
- 2021 ARIAS, Best Speech Breakfast Show: talkSPORT Breakfast
- 2021 ARIAS, Best Speech Presenter: George the Poet – Have You Heard George’s Podcast? for BBC Sounds
- 2021 ARIAS, The Comedy Award: The Skewer by Unusual Productions for BBC Radio 4
- 2020 ARIAS (4 Mar), The 1Xtra Breakfast Show with Dotty, BBC Radio 1Xtra
- 2020 ARIAS, Best Speech Breakfast Show: Toby Foster at Breakfast, BBC Radio Sheffield
- 2020 ARIAS, Best Speech Presenter: Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 live
- 2020 ARIAS, Funniest Show: Elis James and John Robins, Audio Always for BBC Radio 5 live
As well as the British Film Awards, BAFTA hosts the British Academy TV Awards, celebrating British TV programmes and performances from the previous year, the British Academy TV Craft Awards, celebrating the talent behind the programmes (visual effects, production, etc.), and the British Academy Children’s Awards for children’s programming. The first two are normally held in April or May, and the latter in November, although the children’s award was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. If I’ve counted accurately, there are 27, 21 and 15 categories for the three awards. And not to stop there, there are also the BAFTA Games Awards for the video game industry, first launched in 2004.
The TV Awards have been running since 1955 and originally included the other two awards. The TV Craft Awards were split into their own ceremony in 2000 and the Children’s Awards in 1996. Nominations are voted for by Academy members, creating a shortlist of four (or sometimes more) for each category, the winners of which are decided by juries of nine Academy members. The TV awards are generally held at a London venue—the Royal Festival Hall in 2022— and broadcast on BBC One. You can see links to historic winners in each of the TV categories at Wikipedia, BAFTA TV, including Best Drama Series, Best Mini-Series and Best Scripted Comedy, plus there’s a comprehensive Awards Database on the BAFTA site.
- 2022 BAFTA TV Award (8 May), Best Drama Series: In my Skin (by Expectation Entertainment on BBC Three)
- 2022 BAFTA TV Award, Best Scripted Comedy: Motherland (Merman Television/Twofour, BBC Two)
- 2022 BAFTA TV Award, Best Mini-Series: Time (BBC Studios, BBC One)
- 2021 BAFTA TV Award (6 Jun), Best Drama Series: Save Me Too (by World Productions on Sky Atlantic)
- 2021 BAFTA TV Award, Best Scripted Comedy: Inside No. 9 (BBC Studios, BBC Two)
- 2021 BAFTA TV Award, Best Mini-Series: I May Destroy You (Falkna Productions, BBC One)
- 2020 BAFTA TV Award (31 Jul), Best Drama Series: The End of the F***ing World (Clerkenwell Films, Channel 4)
- 2020 BAFTA TV Award, Best Scripted Comedy: Stath Lets Flats (Roughcut TV, Channel 4)
- 2020 BAFTA TV Award, Best Mini-Series: Chernobyl (HBO, Sky Atlantic)
The Hugo Awards (described in the Books section—see here), also include categories for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (usually a TV series or film) and Short Form (typically, a single episode).
- 2022 Hugo Awards (due 4 Sept)
- 2021 Hugo Awards (18 Dec), Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucks, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)
- 2020 Hugo Awards (1 Aug), Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Good Omens (a TV miniseries on Amazon Prime and BBC2, adapted by Neil Gaiman from the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)
The US television equivalent of the Oscars are the Emmy Awards (or Emmys), first awarded in 1949, with organisation shared by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). There’s also an International Emmy Award, bestowed by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (IATAS). The Awards are split into a variety of different ceremonies at different times, with the most prestigious being the Primetime and the Daytime Emmy Awards, though there are also Sports, News and Documentary, Engineering, Creative Arts, International and a variety of regional awards. As ever, there are stacks of categories, and the eligibility periods and rules are different for the different prizes. The 2020 Primetime Emmys were held on 20 Sept and the Daytime Emmys on 26 Jun; for 2021, the Primetime awards were held on 19 Sept in Los Angeles and the Daytime ones on 25 Jun in a virtual ceremony.
- 2021 Primetime Emmy Award (19 Sept, Los Angeles), Outstanding Drama Series: The Crown (Netflix) (four series so far, the fifth anticipated in 2022)
- 2021 Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Comedy Series: Ted Lasso (Apple TV+) (series 1 in 2020, series 2 in 2021, renewed for third season)
- 2021 Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Limited Series: The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
- 2020 Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Drama Series: Succession (HBO)
- 2020 Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Comedy Series: Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
- 2020 Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Limited Series: Watchmen (HBO)
TV rating are especially important in terms of determining whether a show will continue and how much advertisers are willing to pay. Viewing figures are tracked by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board in the UK, Nielsen Media Research in the US, and various companies elsewhere—often Nielsen, who cover about 40% of the world. Rating have been calculated by various survey and digital techniques through the years. Currently, the UK’s figures are calculated by selecting a representative panel of about 5,000 homes with meters installed on their TV sets and getting participants to click a handset when they are in the room with the TV on. For terrestrial channels, the channel being watched is detected by sound (samples of the sound are taken by the meters and compared with a reference library). For satellite TV, the channel can be directly accessed through codes in the set-top boxes. The UK use another method to rate video on demand through online services. In this case, software tagging reports each viewing session; unlike the panel, this doesn’t say how many people are watching or who they are. Other countries, I’m sure, are similar.
There’s a couple of neat Wikipedia pages that give the most watched TV broadcasts for the UK and the US (and another for the global picture). In the US, the Super Bowl (the annual American Football championship finale) dominates the ratings, with 28 of the top 30 most viewed broadcasts of all time and attracting 100 million plus viewers over the last few years—the highest ranked was 2015 with 114.4 million viewers. Outside of this, the most watched broadcasts were the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983 (106 million), Dallas’s 1980 “Who Done It” episode (83.6 million) and the 1993 final episode of Cheers (80.5 million). The top ratings in the UK mostly go to shows in the 1970s and ’80s, when there were only three or four channels and no Internet! At the top is EastEnders from Christmas Day 1986 with 30 million viewers, and a number of famous shows from the UK are in the top twenty including other EastEnders episodes, Coronation Street, Only Fools and Horses, the Royal Variety Performance and, intriguingly, Miss World 1967 (held in London). The 1966 World Cup final actually had the most views at 32.3 million, but that was two programmes as it was simultaneously broadcast by both the BBC and ITV.
The most watched UK programme of 2020 was the Prime Ministerial Statement on COVID-19 on 10 May with 19 million viewers; and for 2021, the European Championship final, England v Italy on 11 July, with 30 million. Globally, the biggest ratings are attracted by syndicated shows (the most popular shows can be syndicated to 100+ countries), sporting events like the Olympic Games, the World Cup Final or big boxing matches, or one-off events like the funeral of the Princess Diana or royal weddings. These are not single broadcasts, since each country broadcasts individually, so the overall figures are harder to estimate. The 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games are estimated to have attracted the most viewers overall at 3.6 billion, although those were over a two-week period.
The Grammy Awards (or Grammys) are run by the Recording Academy, an American organisation of music professionals, and have been awarded since 1959 for the best musical achievements of the previous year, usually in January or February. Eligibility is typically until Sept of the previous year, e.g., for 2022, it was for records released from 1 Sept 2020 to 30 Sept 2021. The ceremony tends to be in a large US city, often Los Angeles, although the 2022 awards took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
There are four “general” awards, for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. The song award is for a songwriter and not linked to a particular recording, and the record award is for the performer and production team; they are usually but not always won by the same song. In addition, there are a bunch of genre awards including Best Rock Song, Best Country Song, Best R&B song, etc. In fact, there are currently 86 Grammy categories. The members of the Recording Academy vote for the winners. The main award winners are usually American, but British and Irish acts have won a number of times. Paul Simon has the most wins for Record of the Year as an artist at three (others have won more as part of a production team), and Billy Eilish won in both 2020 and 2021.
- 2022 Grammy (3 Apr), Song and Record of the Year: Leave the Door Open performed by Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), written by Bruno Mars, Brandon Anderson, D’Mile and Brody Brown
- 2022 Grammy, Album of the Year: We Are by Jon Batiste
- 2022 Grammy, Best Country Song: Cold performed by Chris Stapleton, written by Dave Cobb, J.T. Cure, Derek Nixon & Chris Stapleton
- 2021 Grammy (14 Mar), Record of the Year: Everything I Wanted performed by Billie Eilish, written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (her brother)
- 2021 Grammy, Song of the Year: I Can’t Breathe performed by H.E.R., written by D’Mile, H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
- 2021 Grammy, Album of the Year: Folklore by Taylor Swift
- 2021 Grammy, Best Country Song: Crowded Table performed by The Highwomen, written by Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby & Lori McKenna
- 2020 Grammy (26 Jan), Song and Record of the Year: Bad Guy performed by Billie Eilish, written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (her brother)
- 2020 Grammy, Album of the Year: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish (produced by Finneas O’Connell)
- 2020 Grammy, Best Country Song: Bring My Flowers Now, performed by Tanya Tucker, written by Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth, & Tanya Tucker
The Brit Awards (or Brits) are the UK equivalent, first awarded in 1977 and run by the British Phonographic Industry, the trade association of the British recording industry. The winners and nominees are determined by a voting academy of industry figures, including previous winners and nominees. The top awards are for British Album of the Year and Song of the Year (renamed British Single in 2022) and (up to and including 2021) Best Male Solo Artist, Best Female Solo Artist, Best Male and Female International Artists, and Best Group. From 2022, gendered awards were scrapped, so the Male/Female awards were replaced with single awards for British Artist of the Year and International Artist of the Year. The number of awards vary—in 2022, there were fifteen; in 2021 and 2020 there were ten standard awards, plus a special Global Icon Award in 2020 (won by Taylor Swift). The eligibility rules for the British Artist were loosened in 2021, with entrants needing to be born in the UK, hold a UK passport, or be a resident of the UK for more than 5 years; the last condition was not included in the past.
The Brits albums and songs of the year are almost always British, with only one foreign artist winning Song of the Year (and that was joint—Bruno Mars along with Mark Ronson for Uptown Funk in 2015), and two winning the Album of the Year (Barbara Streisand in 1983 and Michael Jackson in 1984). I’m not sure if there are any nationality requirements for these two awards now since all the recent nominees are at least partly British (although Jason Donovan was nominated in 1990)—they do have to have been in the UK charts the previous year. We’ll leave it as a mystery. Take That have the most awards for Song of the Year, with five, followed by Robbie Williams and Adele with three, and Queen with two. Coldplay, Adele and the Arctic Monkeys lead the album list with three wins, followed by the Manic Street Preachers with two.
Like the Grammy’s, the Brit Awards ceremony is a major occasion, with many of the UK’s best-known artists performing, and the event live on TV, sometimes complete with controversy and notable incidents (check the Wikipedia page for a list, including Chumbawamba throwing a bucket of water over the deputy Prime Minister, the Blur/Oasis feud, and Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress).
The awards have been held at the O2 Arena since 2010, although with a limited live audience in 2021 due to COVID-19.
- 2022 Brits (8 Feb), British Single: Easy on Me performed by Adele
- 2022 Brits, British Album of the Year: 30 by Adele
- 2021 Brits (11 May), Song of the Year: Watermelon Sugar performed by Harry Styles
- 2021 Brits, British Album of the Year: Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
- 2020 Brits (18 Feb), Song of the Year: Someone You Loved performed by Lewis Capaldi
- 2020 Brits, Album of the Year: Psychodrama by Dave
The Ivor Novello Awards are for UK and Irish songwriting and composing. They’re judged by songwriters and composers who are members of the Ivors Academy, a professional association of music writers. The awards are split into two events. The Ivors take place in May (2020 and 2021 were in September for Covid reasons) and are for excellence in British and Irish songwriting and screen composition (e.g., film or TV scores). The thirteen current categories include Best Song Musically and Lyrically (recognising excellence in songwriting craft, with reference to melody, lyrics, harmony and structure), Best Album, Best Original Film Score, Best Contemporary Song (recognising outstanding originality in songwriting / songs which capture the moment) and Songwriter of the Year. Songs published and commercially released in the previous calendar year are eligible, with at least one third British or Irish contribution. The Ivor Composer Awards are in November or December and celebrate excellence in UK classical, jazz and sound arts, currently with ten categories such as Small Ensemble Jazz, Stage Works and Orchestral. Eligibility is as per the Ivors, except the date of composition and release is from 1 Apr of the previous year until 31 Mar.
The Ivors started in 1956 and the Ivor Composer Awards in 2002. The awards are for the writers not the performers, although these may coincide. Anyone can enter their own or others’ work via an online form, and juries select nominees and winners. Both are usually celebrated in London, with recent Ivors ceremonies at Grosvenor House and Ivor Composer Awards at the British Museum (apart from 2020 and 2021 for Covid reasons). The 2022 Ivors were at Grosvenor House again, and the 2022 Composer Awards are due on 15 Nov at the British Museum.
The Best Song Musically and Lyrically has been awarded since 1968. Examples of winners are Streets of London by Ralph McTell (1975), Common People by Pulp (1996), Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall (2006), Love Is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse (2008) and Next to Me by Emeli Sandé (2013). Several writers have won twice and Elton John and Bernie Taupin have won three times (for Daniel, Nikita and Sacrifice). The Best Contemporary Song has been going since 1985. Examples of winners include We Don’t Need Another Hero performed by Tina Turner (1986), You Win Again performed by the Bee Gees (1988), Killer by Adamski (1991) and Why Does It Always Rain on Me performed by Travis (2000). The difference between the two seems a fine line—the Best Song Musically and Lyrically is perhaps slightly the more prestigious, and I think the winners’ and nominees’ list is great, with memorable and unusual songs.
The awards section of the Ivors Academy website is excellent, with playlists, entry information and full Ivors archives and Ivor Composer Awards archives. The Wikipedia Ivors Best Song Musically and Lyrically site provides a list of nominations and winners for this award all on one page, and Wikipedia Ivor Novello Awards gives links to winners and nominees of the Ivors for all categories for separate decades (in the See Also section).
- 2022 Ivors (19 May), Best Song Musically and Lyrically: Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender (writer and performer)
- 2022 Ivors, Best Contemporary Song: I Love You, I Hate You by Dean “Inflo” Josiah Cover and Little Simz (performed by Little Simz)
- 2022 Ivors, Best Album: Pink Noise by Dann Hume and Laura Mvula (performed by Laura Mvula)
- 2021 Ivors (21 Sept), Best Song Musically and Lyrically: God’s Own Children by Barney Lister and Obongjayar (performed by Obongjayar)
- 2021 Ivors, Best Contemporary Song: Children of the Internet by Dave and Fraser T. Smith (performed by Future Utopia feat. Dave & Es Devlin)
- 2021 Ivors, Best Album: Lianne La Havas by Matthew Hales and Lianne La Havas (performed by Lianne La Havas)
- 2020 Ivors (2 Sept), Best Song Musically and Lyrically: The Age of Anxiety by Jamie Cullum (writer and performer)
- 2020 Ivors, Best Contemporary Song: Black by Dave and Fraser T. Smith (performed by Dave)
- 2020 Ivors, Best Album: GREY Area by Inflo and Little Simz (performed by Little Simz)
MTV is a US cable channel that launched in 1981, originally showing music videos—the first one aired was “Video Killed The Radio Star” by Buggles—but advancing through the years to more varied programming. The MTV Video Music Awards started in 1984 and have run ever since, with the award televised live on MTV in late Aug or early Sept, with the 2020 awards in Los Angeles and the 2021 ones in New York. A variety of awards are given related to videos in different categories or for technical work such as choreography, but the highest profile is the Video of the Year. Four artists have won twice—Eminem, Rihanna, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift—and there have been two British winners, Dire Straits with “Money for Nothing” in 1986 and Peter Gabriel with “Sledgehammer” in 1987. Most awards, including Video of the Year, are determined by viewer voting from a list of nominees (presumably chosen by MTV), while some of the more technical awards are decided by a voting committee. Wikipedia MTV Video of the year gives a list of the historic winners.
- 2022 MTV Video of the Year (due 28 Aug)
- 2021 MTV Video of the Year (12 Sept): Montero (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X
- 2020 MTV Video of the Year (30 Aug): Blinding Lights by The Weeknd
In the UK, Radio 1 has had a chart show to unveil the Top 40 for what seems like forever. It used to be on a Sunday, but is now on Fridays at 4:00 pm, with the chart cutoff at midnight each Thursday. The Official Charts Company—owned by two industry associations, the British Phonographic Industry and the Entertainment Retailers Association—administers the UK charts for singles, albums and various genres such as Dance, Classical and Asian, and also covers film purchases and provides music chart services for other European countries. The top 100 singles and albums, and a number of other charts are provided on their site. Music sales are monitored by collecting sales data from retailers and cover physical sales, download sales and streaming of songs. Streaming is provided by subscription services and a formula of 150 streams equating to one sale is currently used for singles. Streaming of album tracks contributes towards the album chart using a different formula—in particular, the two most popular tracks are down-rated to prevent an album’s performance being dominated by one or two hit singles. Data going back to 1952 is provided on the Official Charts website, which also uses data from their chart-compiling predecessors such as the NME and Gallup. The website has an end of year chart, so you can see the bestselling records of each year. The bestselling UK single of all time is “Candle in the Wind 1997/Something About The Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John, released in the wake of Princess Diana’s death. The bestselling UK album of all time is Greatest Hits by Queen. You can find Wikipedia lists of the bestselling UK singles and albums each year here and here. Note that the top selling albums usually sell over a long period, sometimes decades, whereas singles have a much more limited shelf life.
The equivalent in the US are the Billboard charts, including the Billboard Top 100 for songs, the Billboard Top 200 for albums and various genre-specific charts. Sales, streaming and radio airplay are all used to derive the charts, and there are also separate airplay and streaming charts. There are a lot of charts—approaching one hundred, based on a quick scan. The charts are compiled by MRC Data (called Nielsen SoundScan until they were acquired in 2019) and are published weekly in Billboard magazine. Chart data is provided on the Billboard Charts website and year-end charts are provided as in the UK. According to various Wikipedia sites, the bestselling US single of all time is Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” (released in 1941) and the bestselling album is Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) by the Eagles. The global bestsellers are “White Christmas” again for the single and, for the album, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. If you want to know the top global selling song at any time, Billboard released their Global 200 chart in September 2020, which tracks digital and streaming sales in over 200 territories. Scanning the number ones, about half have been US acts, but there have also been Puerto Rican, South Korean and Canadian chart toppers.
The Billboard album charts highlight the effects of streaming. Taylor Swift had the most album sales in 2017, 2019 and 2020, but the best performing album—using album-equivalent units, including album sales, track sales (10 tracks = 1 album sale) and streams (1250 premium on demand streams = 1 album)—was different each year. For 2020, her Folklore album massively outsold Lil Baby’s My Turn by 1.2 million to 40 thousand, but audio and video streams propelled Lil Baby to the best-performing album of the year. Billboard publish both figures. Taylor Swift also had the bestselling album in 2009 and 2014 before streaming was included, so she must be pretty good! The US and UK bestsellers are listed below, after the award winners. “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd (a Canadian singer) is clearly the best performing song of 2020, topping the UK and US bestseller lists and winning the MTV Video of the Year award. There is less obviously a single stand-out song for 2021, although Adele’s 30 seems to be the top album.
- 2021 UK Bestselling Single: Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran
- 2021 UK Bestselling Album: 30 by Adele
- 2021 US Bestselling Single: Levitating by Dua Lipa
- 2021 US Bestselling Album (sales): 30 by Adele
- 2021 US Bestselling Album (album-equivalent units): Dangerous: The Double Album by Morgan Wallen
- 2020 UK Bestselling Single: Blinding Lights by The Weeknd
- 2020 UK Bestselling Album: Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent by Lewis Capaldi (also the UK’s bestselling album of 2019)
- 2020 US Bestselling Single: “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
- 2020 US Bestselling Album (sales): Folklore by Taylor Swift
- 2020 US Bestselling Album (album-equivalent units): My Turn by Lil Baby (Hollywood’s Bleeding by Post Malone is listed at the top of the Billboard 2020 end of year chart but My Turn is top in the Billboard 2020 year-end report and the Wikipedia entry; I’m going to leave this as a mystery!)
The Laurence Olivier Awards or Olivier Awards are presented annually by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) to recognise excellence in West End and other London theatres (those belonging to the SOLT) at a ceremony in London. The West End is the UK equivalent of Broadway, with approximately thirty-nine theatres located in central London, roughly around Covent Garden, Soho, Leicester Square, Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus. They were first awarded in 1976 as the Society of West End Theatre Awards, then renamed to the Olivier Awards in 1984. They’re generally held in April and have been hosted at the Royal Albert Hall since 2017 apart from the postponed 2020 awards (held at the London Palladium) and 2021, when they were cancelled due to COVID-19. The eligibility period—for productions that opened in SOLT theatres—is typically from Feb the previous year until Feb of the current year; however, 2022 had a two-year eligibility (19 Feb 2020 – 22 Feb 2022) due to the cancelled 2021 awards.
Judging panels are set up for different types of award, such as theatre, dance and opera, and these nominate candidates and vote for the winners (for the theatre awards, the SOLT members vote as well). There are currently twenty-six categories, including Best New Play, Best New Musical, Best Revival, Best New Opera and Best New Dance (there is no Tony equivalent for these two), plus Best Actor and Actress Awards and some technical categories.
Dame Judi Dench has won the most individual performance awards with seven and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has won the most awards for a production with nine in 2017. Details of historic winners and nominees can be found on the Past Winners page of the Olivier Awards website, and Wikipedia provides details of the winners and nominees for Best New Musical and Best New Play (and other categories if you follow the links at the Wikipedia Olivier Awards page).
- 2022 Olivier (10 Apr), Best New Play: Life of Pi by Lolita Chakrabarti
- 2022 Olivier, Best Entertainment or Comedy Play: Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) by Isobel McArthur
- 2022 Olivier, Best New Musical: Back to the Future: The Musical, music and lyrics by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard
- 2022 Olivier, Best New Opera: Jenůfa by The Royal Opera
- 2022 Olivier, Best New Dance: Revisor by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young, performed by Kidd Pivot
- 2021 Olivier: Not awarded
- 2020 Olivier (25 Oct), Best New Play: Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard
- 2020 Olivier, Best Entertainment or Comedy Play: Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
- 2020 Olivier, Best New Musical: Dear Evan Hansen, music and lyrics by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek
- 2020 Olivier, Best New Opera: Billy Budd by The Royal Opera
- 2020 Olivier, Best New Dance: Ingoma by Mthuthuzeli November, performed by Ballet Black
The Tony Awards (or Tonys) have been going since 1947 and are for excellence in live Broadway Theatre—which refers to the forty-one professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats, in the Theater District on the Broadway road in Midtown Manhattan, New York. They’re presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in Midtown Manhattan. The ceremony usually takes place in June in New York, with 2022’s ceremony held at the Radio City Music Hall, where many of the ceremonies have been held. The award is for productions in the previous season, so for example, the 2022 event celebrated the 2021/22 season for plays that opened on Broadway before the cutoff date of 4 May 2022. The 2020 awards were delayed for over a year due to COVID-19 and eventually held in Sept, 2021. Broadway was shutdown from Mar 2020 until Sept 2021 and the 2021 awards were cancelled.
The award is named after Antoinette Perry, an American actress, director and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, who died in 1946 at the age of fifty-eight. A nominating committee of about fifty professionals nominates candidates, and the Tony Award voters (numbering about 850) vote for the winners. There are currently twenty-six categories, including Best Play, Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor/Actress in a Play/Musical, and Best Original Score, Choreography and Costume Design. The Best Book of a Musical—a category which the Olivier Awards don’t have— refers to the text in a musical separate from the composed music and is known as the libretto. The best musical and best book of a musical prizes are usually but not always won by the same production.
Audra McDonald has won the most individual performance awards with six and The Producers has won the most awards for a production with twelve in 2001. Wikipedia provides details of the winners and nominees for Best Musical and Best Play (and other categories if you follow the links at the Wikipedia Tony Awards page), and the Winners page on the Tonys site provides a search facility and a wealth of information about the plays.
- 2022 Tony (12 Jun), Best Play: The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini (relating to the 2008 financial crash)
- 2022 Tony, Best Musical: A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson (about a young artist at war with a host of demons writing a musical about someone like himself writing a musical about …)
- 2021 Tonys: Not awarded
- 2020 Tony (26 Sept 2021), Best Play: The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez
- 2020 Tony, Best Musical: Moulin Rouge! The Musical (based on the 2001 film, Moulin Rouge!)
Art (drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, etc.)
The Summer Exhibition is an annual art exhibition held by the Royal Academy of Arts—usually abbreviated to the Royal Academy—during the summer (surprisingly enough). Amazingly, it’s been held every single year since the first exhibition in 1769. The Royal Academy, founded in 1768, aims to promote the appreciation, understanding and practice of art. It’s run by Royal Academicians (RAs), who are practising artists in one of four categories—painter, sculptor, architect or printmaker—and are nominated and elected by fellow RAs. They serve on various committees concerned with the running and strategy of the Royal Academy. There can only be a maximum of 80 RAs, although the website says there are currently 127 Academicians; the discrepancy is explained by the fact that RAs become Senior Academicians once they reach 75. You also get Honorary RAs (artists from outside the UK) and Honorary Fellows and Members, “eminent individuals from beyond the art world”, also elected by existing RAs.
The Royal Academy is based in Burlington House in Piccadilly, London, which is where the Summer Exhibition is held, as well as other events and exhibitions. From the RA website, the exhibition includes “art in all mediums, from prints, paintings, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and more by leading artists, Royal Academicians and household names as well as new and emerging talent”. Anyone can submit up to two entries to the exhibition and around 1,000 works are selected by the judging panel from about 10,000 entries. In addition, each Academician can place six of their own works in the exhibition, and some established artists are invited to participate. Usually held from June to August, the 2020 exhibition opened on 6 Oct, although was shut for COVID-19 on 4 Nov; the 2021 one was held from 22 Sept to 2 Jan, with the theme of “Reclaiming Magic”. The 2020 exhibition can be seen online via a 55-minute Virtual Tour, and works from the 2021 exhibition can be seen at the online exhibition.
Each exhibition is coordinated by one of the RAs, and Yinka Shonabare took the duty for 2021. Most works exhibited are for sale, with the Academy receiving 30%. Several prizes are presented, with the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award for the “most distinguished work” being the most prestigious. This was first awarded in 1978. There’s no announcement that I can see for the 2020 prize, so my assumption is it wasn’t awarded due to COVID-19 and the truncated 2020 exhibition. The 2021 winner was announced on 27 Oct.
- 2021 Charles Wollaston Award: Wetereire – Waiting (a sculpture made from galvanised, metallic sheets) by the Texas-based Kenyan sculptor and visual artist Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga
- 2020: Not awarded (I think)
- 2019 Charles Wollaston Award: Finestra Venezia (Venice Window—a stained glass work designed for a Venice hotel) by Joe Tilson
The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize has been running since 1994 and aims to promote and reward excellence and talent in current drawing practice. It’s the UK’s leading award in contemporary drawing, according to its Wikipedia page, which also lists the past winners. Anyone can enter by filling in an application form and submitting up to three drawings, and it’s open to both UK and international practitioners (it had been restricted to UK residents in the past). Since 2017, the prize has been sponsored by the Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust, which has a mandate from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to promote arts activity in Trinity Buoy Wharf, a centre for arts and cultural activities in London’s Docklands. They state the media that drawings are made in or what constitutes a drawing is not specified, as the exhibition is open as to the nature of contemporary drawing practice. As well as first and second prizes for the main drawing prize, there is also a working drawing prize—for drawing from which something can be made, e.g., architectural or engineering drawings—and a student prize. A panel select the exhibition and winning drawings using blind judging (they don’t know the name or details of the artists).
The 2020 drawing prize winner, from 4,274 entries, was M.Lohrum’s You are It, which was, for the first time in the prize’s history, a performative drawing (the artist provides instructions or a process, and then the artist or other people follow these to create the drawing). You can see the 2020 virtual exhibition here, although it took me a minute or so to work out the navigation. One artist, Gary Lawrence, has won the first prize three times, in 2011, 2017 and the most recent award in 2021. No one else has won twice (and he finished second in 2018!). The 2021 prize was announced on 29 Sept, there were 3,300 entries with 114 shortlisted, and the exhibition ran from 18 Nov to 5 Dec at Trinity Buoy Wharf, before touring to other venues across the UK.
- 2021 Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize: Ye Olde Keyhole Surgery by Gary Lawrence—I can’t find a website for him, but there’s a good interview with him here
- 2020 Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize: You are It by M.Lohrum
Awarded since 1980, initially as the John Player Portrait Award and, since 1990, as the BP Portrait Award, it’s Wikipedia page says this is the world’s most important portrait prize. Anyone can enter (previously it had been restricted to UK residents and those under forty), the prize is selected by a panel using blind judging, and an exhibition of the best entries is held at the National Portrait Gallery in London, followed by a UK tour . The 2020 prize winners were announced on 5 May 2020, with 1,981 entries, a first prize of £35,000, and the exhibition held virtually due to COVID-19. The previous winning entries can be seen at BP Portrait Award Past winners.
First, second and third prizes are awarded, as well as the Young Artist Award for those between eighteen and thirty. Visitors to the exhibition can vote on their favourite to award the BP Visitor Choice Award. Interestingly, only once has the visitor choice award matched the winner, in 2018 for Miriam Escofet’s An Angel at My Table. The Portrait Prize will not be held in 2021 or 2022. An article on the prize website says “The National Portrait Gallery will not be staging the BP Portrait Award in 2021 and 2022 while the building in St Martin’s Place is closed for our Inspiring People redevelopment. We realise this will be disappointing to many….” Which seems a bit poor, really, for the “world’s most important portrait prize”!
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is an annual international wildlife photography competition staged by the Natural History Museum in London and it’s great. There’s a terrific exhibition of the commended and winning photos at the museum each year, running roughly from October—when the winners are announced in a ceremony at the museum—to the end of May, and it tours the UK and internationally for the rest of the year. The competition started in 1965 in Animals magazine, with the museum becoming involved in 1984. You can see the exhibition photos from the last ten years on the gallery page of the website and can buy prints of many of the most popular photos from the online shop or at the museum. The exhibition for the 2020 competition took place from 17 May to 1 Aug 2021 (delayed because of COVID-19), and the 2021 winners were announced on 12 Oct 2021 with the exhibition running from 15 Oct to 5 Jun 2022.
There are currently sixteen categories, such as Animals in their Environment, Animal Portraits, Behaviour: Mammals, Behaviour: Birds, Underwater, and Photojournalist Story Award, with one of the category winners chosen as the Grand Title Winner. There’s also a Young Wildlife Photographer of the year for those under eighteen and a people’s choice award selected by public vote from a set of twenty-five additional photos, outside the one hundred finalists. The People’s Choice Awards are good and can be seen in the Online Gallery, filtered for People’s Choice—they go back to 2014. There are approximately 50,000 entries per year, the winners and finalists are selected by an international jury of experts, and the first prize is £10,000. You can check the online gallery for the best photos, but much better to visit!
- 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Grizzly leftovers (a grizzly bear picking over the remains of an elk in Montana, USA) by Zack Clothier
- 2020 Wildlife Photographer of the Year: The Embrace (an Amur or Siberian tiger marking (or perhaps hugging) a tree in the forests of the Russian Far East) by Sergey Gorshkov
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Award is also run by the National Portrait Gallery, started in 2003, and has been sponsored by Taylor Wessing, an international law firm, since 2008. The format is similar: it’s an open competition that anyone can enter, there’s an exhibition of the best entries at the National Portrait Gallery, there’s a first, second and third prize and a people’s pick, and a judging panel selects the exhibition and winning portraits. The 2020 winner of £15,000, out of 5,531 entries, was announced on 24 Nov 2020; and the 2021 winner on 8 Nov, with the accompanying exhibition taking place at the Cromwell Place arts hub in London from 10 Nov ’21 to 2 Jan ’22. Past winners can be seen at Photographic Portrait Prize Past winners.
- 2021 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Award: Tribute to Indigenous Stock Women (a series of portraits of First Nations women who spent most of their working lives on cattle stations in Far North Queensland) by David Prichard (a 55-year-old Australian)
- 2020 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Award: Portraits of Samuel, Jack and Jameela from the series Lost Summer (black and white portraits of people aged between 15 and 19 in north London, dressed as they would if they had attended events cancelled due to COVID-19) by Alys Tomlinson
The Turner Prize is named after the English painter J. M. W. Turner and is an annual prize that has been presented to a British visual artist since 1984. The definition of British extends to non-British nationals working primarily in Britain—Wolfgang Tillmans, a German photographer, was the first such artist to be awarded the prize, in 2000. Between 1991 and 2016, only artists under the age of 50 were eligible, but the age restriction has now been removed. The prize is organised by Tate, who run four art galleries: Tate Britain (previously The Tate Gallery), in Millbank, London, which displays British art from 1500 to the present day; Tate Modern, in Bankside, London, which houses modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day; Tate Liverpool; and Tate St Ives.
The prize is not for a single work but is awarded based on an exhibition of work in the previous year. Four judges are selected each year, chaired by the director of Tate Britain. The judges nominate candidates—the public can also do so—and select a shortlist of four. Exhibitions of the shortlisted artists are shown in the build-up to the announcement of the winner; these are held at Tate Britain every other year and at selected galleries otherwise. An oddity is that the prize is awarded for the previous year’s exhibition, which may be different from that showcased as part of the shortlist exhibition. The current prize money is £25,000 to the winner and £5,000 to each of the three runners-up. In 2019, the shortlist was announced on 1 May, and the winners on 3 Dec (more on this later). The prize wasn’t held in 2020 due to COVID-19, with bursaries instead awarded to ten artists. The 2021 exhibition and awards ceremony is being held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry—from 29 Sept 2021 to 12 Jan 2022—with the shortlist (of five, unusually) described on the Turner Prize 2021 site. The winners were Array Collective, a group of Belfast-based artists who “create collaborative actions in response to issues affecting Northern Ireland”, announced on 1 Dec.
Any type of visual art is eligible, although, as Wikipedia’s Turner Prize page says, it is deeply associated with conceptual art. There are several definitions for this, but the key is that the idea or concept presented by the artist is more important than its appearance or execution, and that any type of media can be used to present the concept, be it a performance, sound recording, written description, something more traditional or a combination. The type of art that wins seems to go in phases: the first two prizes were won by painters, then a photomontage, then seven successive sculptors. Since 1994, no more sculptors have won unless you count 2008, where Mark Leckey’s winning entry is quoted as “sculpture, film, sound, performance”. Recent winners have been more likely to be videos or installations. Installation art is a construction potentially consisting of several media types, such as sculpture, sound and video, and is often designed for a particular space, for example, a gallery exhibition room. The art consists of the whole space rather than any single element of it, and higher tech forms can include the ability to interact with the audience and virtual reality. Bucking the trend, Grayson Perry won with a ceramics exhibition in 2003 (and accepted the prize dressed as Claire, his alter ego); and Assemble, an architecture and design team, won in 2015. The 2019 shortlisted artists wrote a letter to the judges asking them not to choose a winner in the cause of “commonality, multiplicity and solidarity”. The judges complied and the prize was awarded jointly to all four artists. That makes a story, so fair enough, but I suspect they can’t do that every year!
The Turner Prize attracts a lot of attention and also controversy, with parts of the media questioning whether this is really art. Notable—or notorious—entries include Damien Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde in 1992 (it didn’t win, but he won in 1995 with an exhibition including a bisected cow and calf in formaldehyde); Tracey Emin’s dishevelled bed in 1999 (which also didn’t win); and Simon Starling’s winning entry of 2005, which included a shed that he turned into a boat, floated down the Rhine and turned back into a shed (apparently, two newspapers bought sheds and floated them to parody the work, but I can’t find the articles).
Since 2000, the Stuckism art movement, which promotes figurative painting and opposes conceptual art, has frequently staged demonstrations to protest about the award—often dressed as clowns—and particularly the lack of figurative paintings recognised. Figurative art is clearly derived from real objects (and especially refers to paintings and sculptures)—essentially they look like a real scene, object or person and require artistic skills such as line, shape, colour and perspective.
The spoof Turnip Prize has been running as a parody since 2000. Entrants aspire to the concept “We know it’s rubbish, but is it art?”, with marks awarded for bad puns as titles and lack of effort, with some entries disqualified for too much effort. The prize is a turnip nailed to a block of wood, it’s organised by The New Inn in Wedmore, Somerset, winners are announced in December, and it’s inspired similar awards around the world. The first winner was called Alfred The Grate and consisted of two burned rolls on a fire grate, while the 2018 winner was Collywobbles (a plastic collie dog on a jelly). The last two winners have both been COVID-related: Lockdown by Herewe Goagain won in 2020 (a padlock on top of a pile of duck down feathers), and the 2021 winner, announced on 1 Dec, was Panda Mick (a panda with a name tag saying “Mick”) by Ching Ching Pi Pi Ee. The artists’ names are fictional, I believe.
The Tate simply says that the prize provokes debate about art and invites the public to turn up and see.
- 2021 Turner Prize: Array Collective (11 Belfast-based artists and activists), awarded for installation and theatre. Their entry was called The Druithaib’s Ball, both at the original exhibition in Belfast that they were nominated for and the shortlist exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry. Confusingly, they were different: the original was a performance (“a wake for the centenary of Ireland’s partition, attended by semi-mythological druids along with a community of artists and activists”); the Herbert exhibition was an immersive installation of an imagined sibin (an illicit bar) filled with banners, photographs, ashtrays, and snacks and hosting a film of the Belfast event. Basically (and brilliantly) it’s a mock-up of an Irish pub, with extra meaning (they imagined it as a place to gather “a place to gather outside the sectarian divides”. The BBC’s take on it is here.
- 2020 Turner Prize: Not awarded, due to COVID-19, with bursaries instead awarded to ten artists.
- 2019 Turner Prize: Jointly awarded to Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani (film, spoken word performance and painting)
The arts prizes listed above are UK-based, but they’re all prestigious and, apart from the Turner Prize, are open to all nationalities. Still, I feel I should try and redress this by mentioning a few high-profile non-UK awards. I’ll make it quick because I’m on the brink of finishing the blog and need to celebrate with a quick pint and whipping up an entry for the Turnip Prize.
- Hugo Boss Prize: Awarded every other year since 1996, this is for an artist (or group of artists) of any age or nationality and working in any medium. It’s administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, sponsored by the Hugo Boss clothing company, and attracts a prize of $100,000. A jury nominates a shortlist and selects the winner, whose work is exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The 2020 prize was won by Deana Lawson, an American photographer, as announced on 22 Oct 2020.
- Carnegie Prize: Running since 1896, this is an international prize awarded by the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A $10,000 cash prize and a gold medal are awarded, selected by a jury panel. Initially awarded every year, they’ve got a bit lazy now and it’s only awarded every three to five years (the prizes coincide with the holding of the Carnegie International exhibition). The prize was originally for paintings, but sculptures were included from 1958 and the 2000 and 2005 winners were for films. The most recent winner is Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, an English painter, who was awarded the 2018 Carnegie Prize (the 57th) on 22 Oct 2018 at a gala dinner at the Carnegie Museum. She won for a series of painting, though more often the prize seems to be awarded for a single work. The winners are included in the Carnegie International exhibition of contemporary art, which takes place in the museum. The museum was founded by Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919), who was born in Scotland, emigrated to the US with his family at the age of twelve, became an industrialist and the richest man in America for a while, and spent his later years as a philanthropist, giving away almost 90% of his fortune to charities, foundations, universities and the like. Note that several other prizes bear his name, including the Carnegie Medal for acts of heroism in civilian life in the United States and Canada. The 58th Carnegie International will be held from 24 Sept 2022 to 2 Apr 2023, and based on past history the Carnegie Prize will be awarded near the start of the exhibition.
- Nomura Art Award: Only awarded once so far, this is noteworthy because of its $1 million prize, the world’s largest. Created by the Japanese financial services group Nomura Holdings, it’s for an artist who’s created a body of work of major cultural significance and is selected by an international jury. The first one was won by the Colombian visual artist and sculptor Doris Salcedo, announced on 31 Oct 2019 at a gala in Shanghai. Despite the website saying it will be awarded each year, I can’t see any evidence of a 2020 or 2021 prize, but it did make headlines at the time.
Finale: There you go—I’ve enjoyed writing this blog and hope you find it of interest. I’ve undoubtedly missed some prestigious awards as well as myriad smaller-scale or local ones; so let me know if there’s anything else that really should be here and I’ll check with the committee (me and the mouse in the corner). If you don’t fancy winning one of the prizes, then checking out some of the winners, shortlists or exhibitions might be fun and diverting. Culture Man would be proud.