Noises off: This is a celebration – so cut the whining and just read the books

Kate Mosse calls for an end to the griping about the ORange Prize

Share
Related Topics

For three days last week, London's Southbank Centre turned Orange. On Monday, some 800 men and women readers packed the auditorium of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to hear the six authors shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.

On Tuesday, in a sell-out event in the Blue Room at the Royal Festival Hall, the three debut novelists up for the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers talked about writing, reading, getting started and a whole lot more besides. Finally, on Wednesday, as libraries and reading groups across the country held "Orange parties", nearly 1,000 authors, publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, journalists, businesspeople, politicians and poets cheered when Rose Tremain was announced the winner of the 2008 Orange for her 14th novel, The Road Home.

Since 1996, the OBPF has celebrated outstanding fiction by women from all over the world. From Turkey to Australia, Iran to Nigeria, the column inches devoted to the longlists and shortlists has been terrific. In 13 years, the prize has extended its range of educational, literacy and research initiatives, looked for new ways to promote reading, built literary bridges and promoted fiction by women to millions worldwide.

This year, alongside the thoughtful celebrations, there's been the same old muttering about the eligibility criteria. A handful of negative soundbites, some dating back 13 years, have been dusted off and pressed into service. But the majority view at the Southbank Centre was that the need to keep banging the "it's not fair" drum suggested that the prize is doing an important job. Otherwise, why is it that in 2008, a celebration of women's literary achievements is seen as threatening, radical, challenging?

On book tours for much of the spring, I saw for the first time at first hand how the Orange is received in other parts of the world. In Bulgaria and Greece, the USA and France, Norway and Canada, everywhere I found a passion for discussion about the novels, the writers, the ideas. There were raised eyebrows in Sofia and Athens, New York and Paris at why journalists "waste time", as one man put it, challenging the founding principles of the prize so many years after the event, rather than talking about the books.

As a writer, there are some prizes that I'm eligible for, others I'm not. But the idea that an appropriate reaction to this is to grumble seems, at best, childish and at worst, a kind of bullying. All prizes have eligibility criteria – nation

ality, genre, age, gender, country of residence, subject matter, religion.

But the simple truth is that, for most of us, celebrating achievement is a good thing, not a bad thing. Literary awards matter because they get people reading, because they celebrate achievement. Because, crucially, they keep writing of excellence and originality at the heart of things – the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Decibel Short Story Competition, the Wingate Prize, the Man Booker, the Independent Foreign Fiction Award – all have a different focus, but, put together, they provide a backbone to the literary year.

So to return to Rose Tremain, not only an exceptional novelist, but also generous and supportive to fellow writers. In her acceptance speech – her first for a major literary award – she paid tribute to the Orange for being, first and foremost, about celebration. The response from the papers, radio, television, audiences, the hundreds of readers holding their own shadow parties in libraries, the thousands visiting the website, suggests they agree. Viva Orange. Viva Rose!

The novelist Kate Mosse is co-founder and honorary director of the OBPF

Do you have an issue to raise in Noises Off? Email us at: noisesoff@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders