Swansea vies for place on literary map with £60,000 Thomas prize

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The Independent Culture

A literary prize worth £60,000 in memory of Dylan Thomas is being set up with the specific aim of encouraging writers under the age of 30.

A literary prize worth £60,000 in memory of Dylan Thomas is being set up with the specific aim of encouraging writers under the age of 30.

The prize will be similar to the £25,000 Whitbread prize in pitching different categories of writing, from novels to poetry, against each other, and also similar to the recently-announced £60,000 biennial Man Booker International Prize in accepting writing in English from anywhere in the world.

The long-standing Booker is worth £50,000, but is limited to writers from the Commonwealth and Ireland.

But, in its concentration on writers under 30, the Dylan Thomas International prize could prove even more of a career-enhancing win than any of the more established and prestigious awards.

It is the brainchild of the academic Professor Peter Stead, who comes from Swansea and has written extensively on its most famous son and literary export, Dylan Thomas.

The award will be based in the town, which already has a Dylan Thomas Centre. The organisers hope it will put Swansea on the literary map.

"Wales's second city has a distinguished literary and artistic record but it has not been given full credit in recent years," Professor Stead said.

"We want to see a flood of Commonwealth and American scholars and visitors coming to Wales because of this literary connection."

The six writers shortlisted for the prize would be expected to visit Wales to take part in programmes at universities, colleges and in communities.

Professor Stead said: "There has been considerable interest in North America, not least from the University of Texas, which has a lot of Dylan Thomas's papers. The university is interested in the winner spending time in residency there."

The prize is being backed by Swansea Council and the Welsh Assembly, which has donated £15,000 towards establishing the prize. The plan is to attract commercial sponsors as well.

Alun Pugh, the Welsh Assembly's Culture Minister, said: "Much of Dylan Thomas's most inspired work was produced at an early age when he was living and working in Swansea, so it is fitting this prize in his name will celebrate young literary talent that shows true promise.

"It will further raise the profile of Swansea and help consolidate the increasing international perception of Wales as a land of culture."

The Assembly views the prize as "an exciting counterpart" to the new £40,000 Artes Mundi Prize for the visual arts which it is funding. About 350 artists from 60 countries submitted entries for the inaugural prize this year.

The Dylan Thomas prize is to be launched officially in simultaneous ceremonies in Swansea and New York on 27 October, Thomas's birthday, and awarded every two years.

Thomas was born in Swansea in 1914 and lived there for 20 years before moving to London and publishing his first book of poetry, Eighteen Poems. He was dogged by financial and drink problems and died in 1953 aged only 39.