Michael Holroyd: Bad behaviour may not be the way to promote literary prizes

Share
Related Topics

This is the sixth Ondaatje Prize dinner, a unique prize named after the great patron of the arts Sir Christopher Ondaatje and dedicated to the spirit of place in fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

It has gained a high reputation in the calendar of writers during these years – if not quite gaining the media coverage which the Booker Prize attracts.

As a past member of the Booker Prize advisory committee for eight or nine early years, I have been able to give a few tips to Sir Christopher as to how we might win this extra attention.

If, for example, we could somehow arrange for the winner to announce that he or she would be handing over the prize money to, shall we say, the British National Party or President Mugabe – preferably doubling it from his or her own pocket on the way – and if this immediately provoked a tremendous rumpus here at the Travellers Club then we might get somewhere.

Looking round I see we have invited some very active and opinionated guests – distinguished figures all of you – so I'm sure I can rely on you to damage some of the furniture and make a number of citizens' arrests. If we can stage all this then we might indeed get noticed more lavishly in the media – as the Booker itself did in its early revolutionary days with John Berger and Jim Farrell.

But this prize has one severe disadvantage: we award the prize in a few minutes, so in creating our newsworthy chaos we would risk missing our excellent dinner unlike Booker authors who sit in ignorance and anxiety throughout their long evening. We are more kindly and humane, I like to think, and as a result our reputation is spreading more gently.

I should warn Christopher Ondaatje that it is my ambition to arrange a secure future for this distinguished prize before I retire as president of the Royal Society of Literature this coming winter. But I believe he already suspects I will be suggesting some generous new investment in it and is well-disposed to this idea – within reason.

Taken from a speech given last night by Sir Michael Holroyd, the president of the Royal Society of Literature, at the Travellers Club in London

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn