RSL Literature Matters Awards

The RSL’s Literature Matters Awards aim to reward and enable literary excellence and innovation. Each year, after an open call for proposals, the Awards are given to individual writers or other literary creators, recognising their past achievements and providing them with financial support to undertake a proposed new piece of writing or literary project. A total of £20,000 is available across a number of projects.

Launched as part of the RSL’s Literature Matters programme, priority will be given to proposals which (a) will help connect with audiences or topics outside the usual reach of literature, and/or (b) will help generate public discussion about why literature matters.

The 2023 Awards

The 2023 RSL Literature Matters Awards are now open for submission. This years judges are Polly Atkin, Alycia Pirmohamed and Charlie Swinbourne.

The closing date for entries to the RSL Literature Matters Awards is Friday 28 July 2023 at 5pm (BST). Submissions will only be accepted via the online form. Please read the eligibility and guidelines prior to submitting.

Submissions are currently temporarily closed for maintenance, pending an update to the RSL website. We apologise for the inconvenience, but please check back again soon to participate in our Literature Matters Awards.


Past winners

The seven recipients of the 2022 RSL Literature Matters Awards 2022, as selected by judges Melanie Abrahams, Sophie Collins and Ian Duhig, were:

£2750 – Rachael Li Ming Chong – Multiplicative Adventures
A ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ writing project that connects literature to mathematics for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

£2000 – Margaret Connell, Michael Dunne and John Maguire – Irish Creative Writing Summer School will be a creative writing summer school for children aged 9-12 of Irish, Irish Traveller, and Roma ethnicity.

£3800 – Dr Livia Franchini and Dr Lucy Mercer – Too Little/Too Hard: writers on the intersections of work, time and value will be a quarterly online publication and bi-monthly podcast of new writing and discussions of literary work, time and value.

£2640 – Sarah Hesketh – ‘Boo Do’ – A hybrid work of poetry/oral history that explores experiences of breastfeeding will explore breastfeeding experiences through poetry and oral history, interviewing women about their personal experiences and working creatively with the transcripts of those interviews to explore issues such as physical intimacy, the relationship between mums and their babies, and the female body in public and private spaces.

£2400 – Ian Humphreys – ‘Tormentil’ will be a sequence of poems exploring loss, the West Yorkshire moorlands, and Ian Humphreys’ mother’s mixed Asian and African heritage.

£3800 – Nick Makoha – BPM: The Black Poets Masterclass series will be a 12-month Black Poet Masterclass series to equip Black poets with knowledge of the Black canon looking at four areas of poetic literature.

£2610 – Naomi Westerman – Crip-ligraphy is a series of free playwriting workshops for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent playwrights who consider themselves early career stage, and an opportunity to pitch a monologue or short piece for inclusion in a paid showcase at a major theatre.

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2021, as selected by judges Adjoa Andoh, Hannah Berry and Ian McMillan, were:

Saleh Addonia The Feeling House
Short story collection focusing on time, remembering, and forgetting, exile and alienation and hearing.

£3500 Sawad Hussain Bila Hudood: Arabic Literature Everywhere
An online literary festival showcasing Arabic literature. 

£2800 Carolyn Jess-Cooke The Stay-At-Home! Literary Festival
A virtual literary festival dedicated to developing writers and readers.

£1990 Axe Marnie Fisher Cats of Newhaven
A children’s comic, set in the historic fishing town of Newhaven in the mid-19th century recasting the fishing community as cats.

£2500 Richard O’NeillBridges to Literature
Connecting Roma Gypsy pupils to literature through their cultural and oral history.

£3600 Anita Sethi  I Belong Here – Northern Nature Writers Network & Workshops
For northern writers from BAME and low-income backgrounds. 

£3610 Elspeth Wilson Un/Natural 
Accessible workshops for D/deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse writers on nature writing.

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2020, as selected by judges Tessa Hadley, David Morley and Roy Williams, were:

£3,000Charlotte Ansell and Janett PlummerChosen
Writing workshops, performance and pamphlet for Generation Z adopted young people.

£3,000Alison Armstrong The Lost Voices of Morecambe Winter Gardens
A play based on the real and fictional voices of characters that have worked and performed at Morecambe Winter Gardens. To be performed at the semi-derelict theatre.

£2,000Zillah Bowes and Jonathan EdwardsNight Riders
Documenting the experiences of passengers on the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff train line in a series of poems.

£3,800Judith Bryan and Carol RussellRaised Voices: recovering the voices and vision of black women playwrights over 45
A series of public script-in-hand play-readings at the Young Vic, showcasing new writing by black women playwrights over 45.

£2,700Eva Edo A Mother’s Courage
A play project inspired by the testimonials of mothers whose sons have been victims, perpetrators and survivors of youth violent crime and incarceration, and what it means raise sons of colour in British society today.

£2,500Jennifer Johnstone and Annie MacDonaldRadical Mountain Women
A podcast series exploring the beauty, strength and resilience of the relationship between women and the environment in rural Scotland. It will be published on the established podcast Stories of Scotland.

£3,000Rebecca SharpRough currency: the poetics of oil and the imagination
A hybrid poetic text for publication, exploring the imaginative properties of crude oil and its role in the world of ideas.

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2019, as selected by judges Menna ElfynAbdulrazak Gurnah (chair) and Barney Norris, were:

£3,000 – Will Eaves and Sophie Scott – The Neuromantics
A monthly podcast of discussion and readings on the intersection of literature and neuroscience.

£3,500 – Rosemary Harris – Word Bridges

A series of creative writing workshops for young refugee and migrant participants, culminating in a live reading/performance.

£2,000 –  Mab Jones – At the City’s Edge: The Wetlands of Wales

A podcast of poems, stories and sound art to explore the importance of the Welsh wetlands, which are now under threat.

£4,000 – Winnie M Li and Clare Shaw – Clear Lines: Writing About Trauma and Gender-Based Violence
A touring event of author readings, writing workshops and panel discussions, focusing on trauma and gender-based violence in novels, poetry, memoir, plays, and graphic literature.

£2,500 – Gregory McCartney– A Magazine for Revolution? An exploration of the Honest Ulsterman magazine
A print and online publication exploring different facets of the Northern Irish poetry magazine Honest Ulsterman magazine since its inception in 1968, inviting readers, writers, artists, editors and historians to compose a series of essays exploring the Honest Ulsterman and its context throughout its history.

£2,000 – Sian Northey – Food Bank Stories / Straeon y Banc Bwyd
Creation of a collection of short stories, in both Welsh and English, based on a residency at a food bank using techniques borrowed from verbatim theatre.

£3,000 – Alycia Pirmohamed and Jay G. Ying – Scottish BAME Writers’ Group & Showcase
A series of writing workshops and two masterclasses for BAME writers in Scotland, culminating in a showcase event at the Scottish Poetry Library, where a pamphlet of work will be distributed. Building a network for writers of colour who are often isolated and under-represented in the literary community.

The seven recipients of the RSL Literature Matters Awards 2018, as selected by judges Jonathan Keates, Imtiaz Dharker and Gillian Slovo, were:

£2,320 – Matt Bryden – Lost and Found
A pamphlet of poetry based on a residency at Bristol Temple Meads train station’s Lost Property Office.

£3,000 – Michael Caines – Brixton Review of Books
A free literary newspaper to be published and distributed on a regular basis.

£3,800 – Kate Clanchy   The Young Person’s International Dictionary of Rare and Precious Words
Working with schoolchildren, especially those from disadvantaged and refugee backgrounds, to collect precious words for ‘dictionary’ entries and an anthology.

£2,800 – Owen Lowery – R. S. Thomas for a New Generation, The Poet Prevails
A production of poetry, music and film, inspired by the poetry of R. S. Thomas.

£3,000 – Pascale Petit – Tiger Girl
A sequence of poems exploring foreignness, in the context of Brexit Britain and her grandmother’s Indian heritage.

£5,000 – Evan Placey – Cat A
A new stage play exploring dementia and ageing in prisons.