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University of Cambridge and First Story announced as new partners of the BBC’s short story awards

The University of Cambridge and First Story will be the two new partners for the BBC National Short Story Award, the BBC Young Writers’ Award and the BBC Student Critics’ Award, in a three-year collaboration starting in 2018.

These short story awards already serve to highlight the BBC’s commitment to the short story form and to bringing it to a wider audience. The University of Cambridge will support all three of the awards. The charity First Story will support the BBC Young Writers’ Award, the Student Critics' Award and further activity that will engage young people with reading, writing and listening to short stories. These two new partners replace BookTrust who have been the valued partner on both awards, working with BBC since 2006.

Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Radio, said: “I’d like to warmly welcome both of our new partners as we continue to champion brilliant storytelling across the BBC, including with these awards on Radio 1 and Radio 4. We are the biggest commissioner of short stories and these awards are very much part of our commitment to bring our listeners the best new writing both from established and emerging talent. We greatly appreciate the support of our new partners, and I’d also like to thank BookTrust for their work with us over the past decade.”

Di Speirs, Books Editor for BBC Radio said: “The launch of our new three-way partnership with the University of Cambridge and First Story is a hugely exciting moment. The BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers’ Award have made a genuine difference to individual writers and to the literary landscape over the past twelve years. The Student Critics’ Award will foster a new generation of readers alongside our exciting plans for writers of all ages. We share with our partners a commitment to inspiring new writers and readers and to championing the very best short story writing in the UK.”

This new partnership heralds an expanded programme of activity around the awards. A short story symposium will be hosted by the new University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing, at the Institute of Continuing Education’s Madingley Hall campus. The symposium is aimed at new writers and anyone interested in short stories and creative writing, comprised of writing workshops and author talks, with guests including friends of the awards. Cambridge will host the 2018 prizegiving, with a special short story edition of Front Row broadcast live from the University Library, and the Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities will host First Story’s Young Writers’ Festival for 600 young people in 2018.

The BBC Young Writers’ Award and the BBC Student Critics’ Award enhance the offering for young people, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of readers and writers of short stories. Entrants to the Young Writers’ Award will have the opportunity to write their own short stories inspired by a treasure trove of literary artefacts, as the Cambridge University Library opens up its digital archives for writing prompts. Through the Student Critics’ Award selected 16–18 year olds around the UK will read, listen to, discuss and critique the five stories shortlisted for the NSSA and have their say. They will have access to discussion guides and teaching resources created with BBC Learning, and in-school events with writers, judges, First Story networks, and staff and students from the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.

The prizes for both the BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers’ Award remain the same. The five writers shortlisted for the BBC NSSA will all be celebrated individually on Radio 4: as in previous years, the stories will be read on BBC Radio 4 and the authors will be interviewed on Front Row, followed by a live edition of the programme where the winner is announced. For the Young Writers’ Award, the shortlist will have their stories published on the BBC Radio 1 website and the winning story will be broadcast on Radio 1. The awards will open for entry in December 2017.

Mónica Parle, Executive Director at First Story said: “First Story is delighted to partner with the BBC and Cambridge University on the Young Writers’ and Student Critics’ Awards. These Awards resonate strongly with our own work placing talented, professional writers in schools across the country to work with young people and teachers to develop students’ creativity, communication skills and confidence. First Story believes that writing can transform lives and that there is dignity and power in every young person’s story. Partnering with the BBC and the University of Cambridge presents us with an unparalleled and exciting opportunity to extend that message to a wider audience, and encourage more young people to engage in writing for pleasure.”

Dr Sarah Dillon, Cambridge University Lecturer, said: “The University of Cambridge has a rich heritage of investigating storytelling for eight hundred years and in that time we have produced many acclaimed creative writers including those who excel at the short story form such as A.S. Byatt, Helen Oyeyemi and Zadie Smith. The BBC shares more stories with more people than any other organisation in the world, and both organisations have an outstanding reputation for excellence and literary merit. The combined strengths of Cambridge and the BBC with First Story will make this a powerful and productive partnership.”


Further information

  • The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) aims to promote the best in contemporary British short fiction. Since it began in 2005, its alumni have included established writers such as Hilary Mantel, Mark Haddon, and Lionel Shriver. From 2018, the Award will be run in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. This award aims to support and award excellence in the short story genre.


  • The BBC National Short Story Award is open to authors with a previous record of publication who are UK nationals or residents, aged 18 years or over. The story entered must either have been unpublished, or be first published or scheduled for publication after 1st January of the previous year. The story should have a maximum of 8000 words and must have been written in English. The Award offers £15,000 for the winner and £600 to four shortlisted writers. For more information please visit


  • The BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (YWA), for 14-18 year olds, was launched in 2015. This Award looks for the best new writing from teenagers, and considers all entries on the basis of quality and originality of prose and narrative voice. This Award aims to encourage and celebrate the next generation of short story writers. For more information please visit


  • The BBC Student Critics' Award with First Story and Cambridge University (SCA) gives selected 16–18 year olds around the UK the opportunity to participate in the National Short Story Award: to read, listen to, discuss and critique the five NSSA stories shortlisted by the judges, and have their say. The students are supported with discussion guides, teaching resources and interactions with writers, judges, First Story patrons, and staff and students from Cambridge University Faculty of English, for an enriching experience that brings literature to life.