The sixteen winners of the decibel Penguin prize 2007 are announced today. Run by decibel, an Arts Council England initiative dedicated to promoting diversity in the arts, and Penguin Books, this year’s decibel Penguin prize invited writers to submit short stories about their personal experiences of immigration to the UK.
Six judges, including Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty and the novelist Kate Mosse, selected the most illuminating and powerful entries. The patron of the prize is David Lammy MP. The winning stories will be published in a new book, From There to Here: Sixteen True Tales of Immigration to Britain, also launched today.
The accounts range from an escape from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War to the experience of moving to the UK from Antigua amidst the highly charged racial tensions present in the UK during the 1970s. The writers explore the concept of home and identity; some with humour, many with compassion, and all with honesty.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty said:
“Participating in the judgment process has been a real pleasure and honour. This prize should remind us to look beyond the tabloid headlines and appreciate the rich weave of culture and civilization that waves of immigration have brought to this country.”
Among the winning stories are Jade Amoli-Jackson’s searing account of her devastating ordeal in Northern Uganda and subsequent arrival in the UK in 2001, and Toni Jackson’s documentation of her grandparents’ departure from Lithuania at the start of the twentieth century, who found themselves in ‘heaven’ on arrival in Glasgow. Ali Sheikholeslami relays his experience of arriving in the UK with a passport from the Islamic Republic of Iran, while Charmaine Joshua describes the unsettling experience of returning to her family home in South Africa, having spent years acclimatising to life in Cambridge.
Samenua Sesher, Director of decibel said:
“The anthology is an exciting collection of the authors’ journeys and experiences of fleeing persecution, or seeking new lives and opportunities in another country. The stories are important in today’s multicultural Britain, illustrating how our country is ever changing, and how these kinds of experiences add to the diversity and collective history of our society.”
Commenting on this year’s anthology, Simon Prosser, Publishing Director of Penguin Books said:
“It has been a great pleasure working on this writing competition and anthology with decibel. The result is I think the broadest-ranging account of the immigrant experience in the UK for many years. These true stories range from the humorous to the heart-rending, and come from near and far, reminding us again of the diversity of life experiences which make up the vibrant multicultural society that is Britain today.”
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