Gail McConnell wins the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for her collection The Sun is Open.
The 27th Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize, worth £7,500, has been won by Gail McConnell for her book of poetry, The Sun Is Open, published by Penned in the Margins.
It was presented by Fergal Keane at a ceremony in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Iveagh House, Dublin.
Speaking on behalf of the judges, Professor Roy Foster said: ‘This year’s short-list was a powerful one, representing fiction, memoir and historical research as well as poetry. But the judges were unanimous in selecting Gail McConnell’s astonishing and audacious book, which unpicks and unravels the narratives around the murder of the author’s father when she was three years old. Using a remarkable range of sources, this long poem investigates and interrogates memory, grief and violence in a new and arresting way and is an utterly original and compelling contribution to the literature of the Troubles. It could not be more immediately relevant to the origins and inspiration of the Ewart-Biggs Prize, founded to commemorate a life violently cut short, and recognising works which contribute to understanding between the peoples of Ireland north and south, and between Britain and Ireland.’
The Prize was instituted in memory of the British Ambassador to Ireland who was murdered by the IRA in 1976. The works considered cover a two-year period (2020 and 2021) and embody the objectives of the Prize, which are to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation in Ireland, a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland, or closer co-operation between the partners of the European Community. These are the ideals which inspired Christopher Ewart-Biggs and to which his widow Jane subsequently dedicated herself. The other shortlisted candidates were Michelle Gallen, Big Girl, Small Town (John Murray); David Goodall, edited by Frank Sheridan, The Making of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985: a memoir (National University of Ireland); and Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Deniable Contact: Back-Channel Negotiation in Northern Ireland (Oxford University Press).
Note to Editor:
Gail McConnell is from Belfast. She is the author of The Sun is Open, Northern Irish Poetry and Theology and two poetry pamphlets: Fothermather and Fourteen. The Sun is Open has been shortlisted for The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. It was a book of the year in the TLS and The White Review and a Poetry Book of the Month in The Observer. Gail’s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, PN Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Blackbox Manifold and Stand, and she is the recipient of two awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. With Conor Garrett, Gail has made two arts features based on her poetry for BBC Radio 4: Fothermather and The Open Box. Gail is Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast.