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University lecturer wins Orwell Prize

colour portrait photograph of kate clanchy, alongside her new book

Kate Clanchy’s Some Kids I Taught And What They Taught Me was named the winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing Book on Thursday 9 July.

The book tells the story of how Clanchy, in her role as Writer in Residence at Oxford Spires Academy, has spent the last decade teaching its pupils, many of whom are refugees from all over the world, to write poetry about their experiences and feelings.

Their poems have since won national prizes and been published, while, the pupils have also set up a radio programme and received huge acclaim after sharing their work on Twitter. Clanchy was made an MBE for services to literature in schools in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Clanchy said:

“I’m so moved and so grateful to receive this prize. For this to win the prize for political writing as art means so much to me, and I hope it will mean a lot to many teachers out there.

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us it’s that teachers are very important and very necessary, and that schools are communities and can pull communities together. Without them we have ripped a big hole in our society and we need that to be joined back together.”

The Orwell Prizes, run by the Orwell Foundation, encourage good writing and thinking about politics, and reflect George Orwell’s own ambition to ‘make political writing into an art’.

Clanchy’s book was shortlisted in the Political Writing Book Prize category alongside six others by political journalists, feminist campaigners and other successful authors.

A statement from the Orwell Foundation read:

“In this book, a brilliantly honest writer tackles a subject that ties so many people up in knots – education and how it is inexorably dominated by class. Yet this is the very opposite of a worthy lecture: Clanchy's reflections on teaching and the stories of her students are moving, funny, full of love and offer sparkling insights into modern British society."

Clanchy, an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry and drama, was appointed as a Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Reading in January 2018, alongside fellow author Shelley Harris.

The University offers a number of flexible creative writing course options. Current English students can choose to make it a significant part of the studies by taking the Creative Writing Pathway alongside their other modules, or alternatively take just one or two creative modules. The courses are available to students in each of the three years of their degree, while they can also choose to do their dissertation as a creative project.

For more information, visit the Creative Writing web page.

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