Shortlist announced for literary prize awarded in honour of lecturer

7 March 2019

Strong line-up for annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2019

Independent publisher Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are delighted to announce the shortlist for the second annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction.

The shortlist includes a regionally diverse selection of writers, based across London, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. The writers selected are also of varying degrees of writing experience and commendations.

Now in its second year, the prize seeks to discover the best established and up and coming voices in honour of UCLan creative writing lecturer Dinesh who passed away suddenly in 2015.

The theme of this year’s Dinesh Prize was ‘Scent’, which is the title of Dinesh's posthumous collected works and has been honoured by the shortlistees’ stories with a range of interpretations.

The shortlist of 10 stories was narrowed down from almost 200 entries by a talented group of UCLan students, and have now been passed on to the esteemed judging panel which includes Robin Purves (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at UCLan), Zoe Gilbert (award-winning short story writer and author of Folk (Bloomsbury, 2018)), Irenosen Okojie (short story writer, curator and Arts Project Manager) and Andy Murray (writer and Film Editor of Northern Soul).

The shortlisted writers are: Carol McKay (Gutter, Mslexia, The Herald, Wasafiri) Johanna Robinson (Strix, Ellipsis Zine, the Brighton Prize anthology, Reflex Fiction) Judy Birkbeck (Litro, Lampeter Review, Liars’ League, Unthology 9, East of the Web, Aesthetica, Manchester Review, Leicester Writes, Mechanics’ Institute Review #15, Ellipsis Zine) Matt Thomas (Nightjar chapbook series, Foci, the Ink Anthology) Joseph Darlington (latest novel, Spare the Glass Picnic from No-Name Press) Duncan Abel (BBC Radio drama, Sing London, co-adapted Paula Hawkins’s novel, The Girl on the Train) Luke Hilton (writer of short stories, novels and essays).

"The fact that the prize is free to enter, and has no restrictions in terms of prior publication, means it opens up opportunity for all emerging writers, regardless of background or circumstances."

Shortlistee Johanna Robinson said: “I'm so thrilled to have been shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize, not least because it was on a brilliant and inspiring Comma Press course in Liverpool in 2016 that I started writing short stories. The fact that the prize is free to enter, and has no restrictions in terms of prior publication, means it opens up opportunity for all emerging writers, regardless of background or circumstances.”

Luke Hilton, who is also on the shortlist, said: “I'm overjoyed to have been shortlisted; it's a real honour to have my story commended in such a way. The fact that entry to the prize was free makes it a level playing field too, it allows those of us who can't afford to pay entrance fees to other competitions a chance to get some feedback on our work and help develop our careers. Having it open to anybody means that the prize will attract stories from much more diverse backgrounds and they'll be more interesting for it.”

This judging panel will choose a winner and two runners up from the shortlist of ten. The stories will remain anonymous to the judges until the winner announcement and prize giving ceremony on the 8 May. After the ceremony, the ten shortlisted stories will all be published online as an eBook by Comma Press, and the final winning story will be published in Northern Soul.

Comma Press and UCLan set up the prize as an opportunity to showcase exciting new literary talent from across the UK, imposing no restrictions on entry such as a fee or a first-publication. They hope to further the careers of all the shortlisted authors, regardless of their experience in writing; already, the winner of the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2018 has been confirmed as a contributing author to Comma Press’s forthcoming anthology, Resist: Stories of Uprising.

Dinesh, who described himself as a jazz writer, lectured in creative writing at the University for eight years and was a long-term director of Comma Press.

His short stories were featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, and he regularly ran workshops and literacy classes in community centres, schools and prisons, acting as Chair of the National Black Arts Alliance and the National Association for Literature Development. He was also a DJ, playwright, radio presenter, cricket enthusiast, performer and blogger.

The shortlistees for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize
The shortlistees for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize