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School of Arts and Humanities




Broadcasters Nikki Bedi and Katie Thistleton to chair BBC Short Story panels that include Booker shortlistee DAISY JOHNSON; award-winning children’s authors PATRICE LAWRENCE and KIRAN MILWOOD-HARGRAVE; previous BBC NSSA winner CYNAN JONES; and writer and beatboxer TESTAMENT.


The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) today calls for submissions for the 14th year with broadcaster Nikki Bedi chairing the judging panel for 2019. Nikki is a television and radio broadcaster who writes and presents The Arts Hour on BBC World Service and BBC Radio London.

Nikki’s counterpart on the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (YWA) is BBC Radio 1 and CBBC’s Book Club presenter Katie Thistleton, who will chair the judging panel for the teenage award for the second time as it opens for submissions for the fifth year. Katie is the co-presenter of Radio 1’s Life Hacks and author of Dear Katie: Real Problems, Real Advice.

Nikki Bedi, Chair of the 2019 BBC National Short Story Award Judging Panel, says:

“I’m honoured, delighted and excited to be chairing the BBC National Short Story Award. It is my favourite form of literature and there is nothing more delicious and perfect for me than devouring, digesting and loving a surprising and perfectly formed short story. From sneakily reading my parents’ copies of Roald Dahl’s dark works when I was far too young, and then discovering the joys of Carson McCullers, Graham Greene, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri & Gauri Deshpande . . . I developed a taste for the form that has never left me. There are so many undiscovered voices and stories waiting to be told out there and we’ll be in the privileged position of receiving and reading them. I’m looking forward to works that transport me to new places, physically and culturally. Bring it on!”

Katie Thistleton, Chair of the 2019 BBC Young Writers’ Award Judging Panel, says:

“I am so excited to be chairing the BBC Young Writers Award for the second year in a row. Last year I was blown away with the submissions, I think we found some of the best future writers whilst shortlisting and learnt a lot about what young people care about at the moment. I cannot wait to read the young people’s stories this year. As a keen writer myself, this is the sort of competition I would have jumped at the chance to enter.”


Bedi and Thistleton will be joined by an esteemed group of award-winning writers and artists on their respective panels. For the BBC National Short Story Award: novelist and writer of narrative non-fiction, Richard Beard; short story writer, novelist and youngest author to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Daisy Johnson; screenwriter, novelist and 2017 BBC National Short Story Award winner, Cynan Jones; and returning judge, Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

For the BBC Young Writers’ Award, Thistleton will lead former teacher and Betty Trask Award winner, Anthony Cartwright; Waterstones Prize and YA Bookseller Prize winning-YA writer, Patrice Lawrence; winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year children’s author, Kiran Milwood-Hargrave; and writer, rapper and world-record breaking human beatboxer, Testament.

Di Speirs, Editor of Books at BBC Radio and judge of the Award since its launch, says:

We are so delighted to be launching the fourteenth BBC National Short Story Award, incorporating the fifth BBC Young Writers' Award and second Student Critics' Award. All three reflect the BBC’s commitment to both the writing and the reading of short stories and our listeners' continued love of the form. We have ten judges who are keen to start reading and I know from past experience we, and our listeners, are about to go on a terrific journey of discovery, finding delights from writers new and old.”

The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in an anthology. Last year’s winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Trinidadian writer Ingrid Persaud, who won for The Sweet Sop’, her ‘tender and ebullient’ story about a father-son relationshipPrevious alumni include Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jon McGregor and William Trevor.

The writers shortlisted for the BBC Young Writers’ Award have their stories broadcast on a special Radio 1’s Life Hacks Podcast, and published in an anthology. Entrants can access a virtual treasure trove for writing inspiration courtesy of Cambridge University Library’s specially curated digital archive. The winner of the 2018 Young Writers’ Award was 17-year-old Davina Bacon for her ‘compassionate’ and ‘intelligent’ story ‘Under a Deep Blue Sky’. The previous winners are Brennig Davies for ‘Skinning’, Lizzie Freestone for ‘Ode to a Boy Musician’ and 2017 winner, Elizabeth Ryder for ‘The Roses’.

In addition, the BBC Student Critics’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (SCA) launches today and calls for applications. 2018 saw 600 16 – 18-year-old students from 40 schools flex their critical muscles as they read, discussed and critiqued the five shortlisted NSSA stories. For 2019, this activity is being extended to encourage wider community link-ups between schools, colleges, libraries and bookshops around the UK.

William Fiennes, Co-Founder of First Story says:

“At First Story, we believe passionately in the value of creative writing for young people. We know that writing can be a source not just of pleasure but also of power. We urge young people across the country to enter their short stories for the Young Writers' Award 2019. And, on the basis that a writer is just a reader inside-out, we encourage young people to get involved in the Student Critics’ Award too, engaging with and reflecting on stories shortlisted for the National Short Story Award 2019. Parents, teachers and librarians, please help us reach as many young writers and readers as possible!”

James Gazzard, Director Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, says:

“Cambridge has produced great writers for many hundreds of years, and we look forward in eager anticipation to discovering the new and diverse writers these awards give a voice to in the forthcoming year. This collaboration with the BBC and First Story contributes to the University’s and our Vice-Chancellor’s commitment of opening up Cambridge to all, to nurturing talent in new ways, while drawing on the unique teaching and academic environment that the University famously provides. We were delighted with the numbers of writers who decided to take part last year and the success of First Story’s Young Writer’s Festival on our Sidgwick Site campus – as well as our own Short Story Festival at Madingley Hall – proved that the form is not only alive and well, but thriving.”

Full ‘Terms and Conditions’ for the NSSA and YWA are available with submissions accepted online at and from 9am (GMT) 13th December 2018. The ‘Terms and Conditions’ for the BBC Student Critics’ Award can be found here. The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 11th March 2019. The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 25th March 2019. The deadline for receipt of applications for the BBC Student Critics’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 1st April 2019.

The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University will be announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7.15pm on Friday 6th September 2019. Readings of the shortlisted stories will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 9th to Friday 13th September and interviews with the shortlisted writers will air from Friday 6th September 2019 on Front Row. The shortlist for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University will be announced on Radio 1’s Life Hacks from 4pm on Sunday 22nd September 2019.

The announcement of the winners of the BBC National Short Story Award and BBC Young Writers’ Award will be broadcast live from the Award ceremony in BBC Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row from 7.15pm on Tuesday 1st October 2019.



Richard Beard’s six novels include Lazarus is Dead, Dry Bones and Damascus, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His most recent novel Acts of the Assassins was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, and he is the author of four books of narrative non-fiction, including his memoir The Day That Went Missing which won the 2018 PEN Ackerley Award for literary autobiography.


Nikki is a television and radio broadcaster with a passion for making arts and culture accessible. She currently curates, writes and presents The Arts Hour on the BBC World Service, their flagship arts and culture programme, which once a month becomes The Arts Hour On Tour, a show that travels across the globe to different countries bringing the hottest names, talents and issues to the airwaves and to 79 million listeners.
Her recent television work includes ‘The Road To Englistan’, a special BBC 2 in-depth interview with actor Riz Ahmed in New York….and BBC2’s topical, weekly arts and entertainment programme Front Row which was also on BBC World. Nikki is a regular interviewer and presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends and has presented Front Row and Woman’s Hour on the same station. Nikki also hosts the Virgin Media Business podcast Voom and has had some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and disruptors chatting to her in the studio. Born to an Indian father and English mother, Nikki began her career in Mumbai as both a stage and film actress and worked with some of India’s finest directors.
Her foray into the world of presenting came when the UK’s Channel 4 gave her a talk show, Bombay Chat, and its success prompted Star TV in Asia to give her a primetime chat show called Nikki Tonight which became Asia’s most widely viewed and also most controversial talk show.
 After spending time living and working in Los Angeles, Nikki returned to the UK to become the face of Universal’s film channel The Studio and also presented the live movie show Worldwide Screen on NOW TV. 


Daisy Johnson’s first novel, Everything Under, was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, making her the youngest author ever to be on the shortlist. Her debut book, the short story collection FEN, won the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She currently lives in Oxford by the river.


Cynan Jones was born near Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales in 1975. He is the author of five novels, published in over 20 countries. He has been longlisted and shortlisted for numerous prizes internationally, and won the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize, a Betty Trask Award, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award, and the 2017 BBC National Short Story Award. He has also written stories for BBC Radio, a screenplay for the hit crime drama Hinterland, and a collection of tales for children. Other writing has appeared in numerous anthologies and newspapers, and in journals and magazines including Granta and The New Yorker


Di Speirs is the Books Editor, BBC Radio. She edited the Woman's Hour serial for three years, produced the first ever Book of the Week, and has directed many Book at Bedtimes as well as dramas. She now leads the London Readings team and is the Editor for Open Book and Book Club on BBC Radio 4 and World Book Club on the BBC World Service. A long-time advocate of the formidable power of the short story, she has been closely involved in the BBC National Short Story Award since its inception thirteen years ago and is the regular judge on the panel.



Anthony Cartwright is the author of five novels, the most recent of which, The Cut, was commissioned in response to the Brexit vote as part of the Peirene Now! series. His work concentrates on the lives of working class characters in his native West Midlands, seeking, as a Guardian review of his 2016 novel Iron Towns suggests, 'a fictional enactment of communal identity and shared culture'. His first novel, The Afterglow, was the recipient of a Betty Trask Award, and his subsequent novels have been shortlisted for various literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize. Anthony also published a collaborative novel with Gian Luca Favetto, il giorno perduto (The Lost Day) in Italy in 2015. A secondary school English teacher in East London for a number of years, he is currently a First Story writer-in-residence at Abbey Manor College, Lewisham, and Willowfield School, Walthsmstow and also a visiting lecturer at City University, London.


Patrice Lawrence was born in Brighton and lives in London with a cat called Stormageddon. She has been writing stories for as long as she can remember and reading them out to anybody who will listen. Orangeboy (Hachette) her first book for teenagers, was shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award and won the Waterstones Prize for Older Fiction and the YA Bookseller Prize. Indigo Donut (also Hachette) won the Crimefest YA Prize. Her published short stories include 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' in the Make More Noise anthology (Nosy Crow) and 'The Clean Sweep' in the A Change is Gonna Come collection (Stripes). She has also written short stories for adults.


Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes bestselling adventure stories for children. The Girl of Ink & Stars won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017, and the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year. The Island at the End of Everything won the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award, was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award, the Blue Peter Best Story Award, and longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Award. Her third novel, The Way Past Winter, came out in October 2018 and was named Blackwells Children’s Book of the Year. Kiran lives in Oxford with her husband, the artist Tom de Freston, and their rescue cat, Luna.


Katie Thistleton has been a familiar face on BBC programmes since 2013 where she has been a live Presenter of 'the bits in between the shows' on CBBC for almost 6 years. She is the presenter of The CBBC Book Club, where she has interviewed authors such Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams and Cressida Cowell to name a few. Katie is also a regular voice on BBC Radio 1, co-presenting 'Life Hacks' on Sundays 4-7pm. Prior to becoming a TV presenter, Katie qualified as a journalist and worked for a variety of local and community radio stations, and in various roles across the BBC for Radio 4, CBBC, CBeebies and Radio 1. She’s also an avid writer and reader and campaigns for getting young people to read and write. Katie is passionate about raising mental health awareness, and is an ambassador for children's mental health charities YoungMinds and Place2be. Her book, Dear Katie: Real Problems, Real Advice was published by Hachette Children’s in February 2018.


Testament is a writer, rapper and world record breaking human beatboxer. His most recent play ‘Black Men Walking’ for Eclipse Theatre garnered critical acclaim and sold out venues around the UK. He’s received praise from a diverse range of voices from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, graphic novelist Alan Moore, Lauren Laverne, to the originator of Hip-Hop himself DJ Kool Herc. Testament’s work continually returns to the theme of human connectivity and trying to find the spiritual in the everyday. Testament’s work includes the celebrated Hip-Hop album Homecut: No Freedom Without, several spoken word performances for BBC Radio (1Xtra, Radio 4 and 6Music) and his acclaimed play Blake Remixed – a personal response to the work of William Blake. Testament’s work has been performed at The Royal Court, The Globe and Leeds Playhouse amongst many others. Testament’s writing has been published in several anthologies and has been used a teaching resource internationally. Testament is writer-in-residence at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, a First Story writer-in-residence, and is currently touring his new spoken word beatbox show WOKE.


  • The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) aims to expand opportunities for British writers, readers and publishers of the short story and honour the UK’s finest exponents of the form. James Lasdun secured the inaugural Award in 2006 for ‘An Anxious Man’. In 2012 when the Award expanded internationally for one year, Miroslav Penkov was victorious for his story, ‘East of the West’. Last year, the Award was won by Ingrid Persaud for her story The Sweet Sop’. K J Orr, Sarah Hall, Jonathan Buckley, Julian Gough, Clare WigfallCynan Jones, Kate Clanchy and David Constantine have also carried off the Award with authors shortlisted in previous years including Zadie Smith, Jackie KayWilliam TrevorRose Tremain and Naomi Alderman.
  • The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University 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 is now in its fifth year and invites all 14 – 18 year olds living in the United Kingdom to submit short stories of up to 1,000 words. The Award was launched as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations for the BBC National Short Story Award and aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of 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 BBC 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. For more information please visit
  • Follow the BBC National Short Story Award on Twitter via #BBCNSSA #shortstories, the BBC Young Writer’s Award via #BBCYWA #shortstories @BBCR1 and the BBC Student Critics’ Award via #BBCSCA
  • BBC Radio 4 is the world’s biggest single commissioner of short stories, attracting audiences of over a million listeners to listen to short fiction.  Contemporary stories are broadcast every week, the majority of which are specially commissioned throughout the year. 
  • BBC Radio 1 is the UK’s No.1 youth station, targeting 15 to 29 year-olds with a distinctive mix of new music and programmes focusing on issues affecting young people. The station is the soundtrack to young people's lives in the UK and has been for over 50 years. Radio 1 has a weekly audience of 10.25 million (including all listeners aged 10+) and is the most watched radio station in the world. Radio 1’s YouTube and Vevo channel has 6.4 million subscribers and receives an average of 2.29 million views a day. Radio 1 has over ten million listeners a week and ten million followers on social media. Radio 1’s iPlayer channel has received over 48 million total views. One of the station’s key purposes is to support new British music and emerging artists, also discovering new talent through BBC Music Introducing. It champions a breadth of live music through platforms like Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Radio 1 Teen Awards, Radio 1 in Ibiza, BBC Music Sound of 2018, Radio 1 Rocks and Radio 1’s Live Lounge Month, as well as various sessions from the Live Lounge and Maida Vale studios. Radio 1 is a force for good and the leading voice for young people in the UK, tackling relevant issues through our documentaries, podcasts, Radio 1’s Life Hacks, Newsbeat, as well as our mental health campaigns like My Mind and Me - a year-long campaign launched in December 2016 to get young people talking about mental health and to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Other key social action and education campaigns include #1MillionHours - a year-long volunteering campaign launched in December 2015 that saw Radio 1 and 1Xtra motivate their young listeners to pledge 1 million hours of time to good causes over 12 months. BBC Radio 1 is a truly multiplatform station, enabling young audiences to connect to the network and to listen, watch and share great content both at home and whilst on the move - via BBC Sounds, FM and DAB Radio; Radio 1’s YouTube channel; Radio 1’s BBC iPlayer channel; online (; Freeview and other digital television platforms; and via mobile.
  • University of Cambridge: The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. To date, 96 affiliates of the University have won the Nobel Prize. Founded in 1209, the University comprises 31 autonomous Colleges, which admit students and provide small-group tuition, and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. Cambridge is a global university. Its 19,000 student body includes 3,700 international students from 120 countries. Cambridge researchers collaborate with colleagues worldwide, and the University has established larger-scale partnerships in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The BBC National Short Story Award is being supported by the School of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of English, University Library and the new University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing which is part of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education based at Madingley Hall, which provides a range of courses to members of the public, including English Literature and Creative Writing. More information at
  • First Story was started in 2008 by the writer William Fiennes (author of The Music Room and The Snow Geese) and former teacher Katie Waldegrave (author of The Poets’ Daughters) with the mission of changing lives through writing. First Story exists to bring talented, professional writers into secondary schools serving low-income communities to work with teachers and students to foster confidence, creativity and writing skills. Since 2008, First Story has run almost 400 residencies in schools, given 8000 students the chance to take part in weekly creative writing workshops, worked with 400 acclaimed authors and 500 teachers and librarians, published almost 400 anthologies, and enabled over 140,000 pieces of original student writing. More information at


For AWARD PRESS ENQUIRIES contact Emma Draude or Bethan James at  or or call 020 7732 4796/07801 307735 


for BBC RADIO 4 PRESS ENQUIRIES contact Sean Harwood at 
or on 07718695382