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Press Release

Winners announced April 23rd
*More than 1300 entries received from around the world
*Shortlist: March 17th; Winners/prizes: April 23rd
*Supporters include Bob Geldof, Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory, Floella Benjamin
*Judges headed by Liz Lochhead, winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry

Shelley Image

(Above painting: Percy Bysshe Shelley composing ‘Prometheus Unbound’ in the Baths of Caracalla,
by Joseph Severn 1845)

The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association presents a prestigious annual writing competition – The Keats-Shelley Prize - which regularly attracts poems and essays from individuals all over the world. This year’s entries already number over 1300 and are currently being read and scrutinised by a panel of judges chaired by Liz Lochhead, winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. The shortlist will be announced on March 17th, just ahead of World Poetry Day, and the winners will be announced at the all-star awards ceremony in London on April 23rd.

The theme of this year’s Keats-Shelley Prize for poems is LIBERTY, chosen to mark the bicentenary of Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, the four-act lyrical drama, in which the heroic Prometheus strikes a blow for human freedom against the power of the gods. Shelley started writing the work in 1818; it was published in 1820 at the same time, appropriately, as his Ode to Liberty, and was quickly recognised as a masterpiece.

Submissions for the Essay Section of the Prize (18+) and the Young Romantics Prize (16-18 years of age) are invited to reflect aspects of the work or lives of the three main Romantic poets: John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron.

The panel of judges chaired by Liz Lochhead include poets Matthew Sweeney and Jo Shapcott, and Professors Simon Bainbridge and Sharon Ruston.


Says Liz Lochhead: “I’m absolutely delighted to chair the panel of judges for this year’s Keats-Shelley Prize. We’ve had a record number of entries from the UK and abroad and the standard of writing is exceptionally high in both the 16-18 and the 18+ categories. We were very pleased to be able to extend the competition to 16-18 year olds in 2014 when the works of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley were re-introduced to the school curriculum in England. It’s great to know that young people – those natural seekers of Truth, Beauty and Freedom – once again have access to two of the greatest exponents of these high romantic principles in poetry.”
(photo of Liz Lochhead by Norman McBeath)

Prizes Adults, first prize, both poets and essayists: £1,000 each.
Adults, second prize, poets and essayists: £500 each
Young Romantics, first prize, poets and essayists: £700 each
Young Romantics, second prize, poets and essayists: £300

The Keats-Shelley Prize, and especially this year’s theme, is endorsed by Liberty, the human rights organisation: “Writers have been champions of liberty for centuries. Giving form and verse to freedom, dignity and equality – and finding ways to express humanity’s struggles for emancipation and justice – is as powerful and important now as it has ever been. Liberty’s members stand up for liberty day in, day out, and writers have always been a vital part of that movement. We look forward to being inspired by a new generation of poets re-imagining those ideals.”
Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty

Keats-Shelley Prize – a winner’s tale:

Damian Lewis And Helen Mc Crory With Will Kemp And Riona  Millar

The Keats-Shelley Prize 2016 was won by Will Kemp in the 18+ category and Riona Millar in the 16-18 category; they were presented with their prizes by actors Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory (seen left with the winners).
Will Kemp dedicated his prize money of £1,000 to fund readings of his latest book The Painter Who Studied Clouds at Keats House, Hampstead, and thereafter at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome.
“Much to my surprise The Painter Who Studied Clouds sold out in no small part due to winning the Keats-Shelley Prize,” says Will. “In fact the Prize benefitted me in all sorts of ways – reading out a poem to several million people on the BBC Today programme, book launches in Hampstead and Rome - and has given rise to some nice anecdotes, like finding my first collection of poetry, Nocturnes, on a book shelf in Waterstones next to a collection by Keats! I wish everyone in this year’s competition the best of luck.”

The Keats-Shelley House in Rome is a museum and library devoted to the English Romantic poets who lived in, and were inspired by, Italy, and is housed in the final home of John Keats who died there in 1821.
The beautiful house, situated on Rome’s famous Spanish Steps, hosts poetry readings and talks and an annual bilingual poetry competition for Italian schools in addition to supporting the Keats-Shelley and Young Romantics Prizes in the UK. www.keats-shelley-house.org

Keats-Shelley Prize PR: judy.lipsey@premiercomms.com