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David Cohen Prize for Literature 2011 winner nominates The Reading Agency for Arts Council award

  • Date: 18 March 2011
  • Area: London

The David Cohen Prize for Literature 2011 has been awarded to the English novelist, essayist and short story writer, Julian Barnes, for his lifetime’s achievement in literature. The winner is selected by a panel of judges comprising authors, literary critics and academics. The prize, worth £40,000, was presented by the chair of judges Mark Lawson at a gala ceremony hosted at the British Library on 17 March.

As the winner, Julian chooses the recipient of the £12,500 Arts Council-funded Clarissa Luard Award for literature organisations that support young writers and readers or an individual writer under the age of 35. He presented the 2011 award to The Reading Agency to support its reading initiatives for young offenders.

Julian Barnes commented: ‘It seems to me that the practice of reading is currently more under threat than the practice of writing. There will always be young writers; will there always be young readers? Our literacy levels are falling, and – disgracefully – public libraries are threatened with closure. So the Clarissa Luard Award is to go to The Reading Agency, which since 2002 has had remarkable success in promoting reading skills and confidence among the young.

Miranda McKearney, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency said: ‘In the current climate, everything to do with money is a huge pressure. So you can imagine our amazed delight at being honoured with the Clarissa Luard Award by Julian, to help us work with more young offenders.

‘This means we’ll be able to take our Six Book Challenge into 10 new young offenders institutions. It means we can help 900 young offenders to build their literacy skills and confidence, and start to really enjoy reading, with all that will mean for their future lives. And we’ll get the chance to do in-depth work, training 100 prison officers, library staff and tutors. We are profoundly grateful!’

Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature, Arts Council England said: ‘Arts Council England is proud to support a prize that recognises a lifetime's achievement and the major place literature occupies in our cultural life. I'm also delighted that Julian has recommended The Reading Agency for the Clarissa Luard Award, giving more young offenders the chance to enjoy the work of brilliant writers.'