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Directors of Samuel Johnson Prize announce search for sponsor

Directors of Samuel Johnson Prize announce search for sponsor

The directors and Steering Committee of the Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s leading non-fiction prize, today (Wednesday 27 May) announce the search for a sponsor to take the prize forward with them from 2016.


Over sixteen years the Samuel Johnson Prize has established itself as the most prestigious literary prize for non-fiction in the UK. Following the prize’s most successful year ever in 2014, securing sponsorship will enable the Steering Committee to continue to expand its reach and profile, with the aim of becoming the biggest non-fiction prize in the world.


Ambitions for the prize include expanding the public events programme to be year-round and across the country; building the profile of the prize further in the US; and increasing the prize’s social media footprint.


Sponsors will benefit from association with excellence in quality non-fiction, high levels of media profile, branding through the prize’s twelve-month life cycle and at the awards event itself, visibility through major retailers, and opportunities for hospitality at the high profile winner announcement. 


This year the prize has already made steps towards its future growth. In March, the Steering Committee appointed their first Prize Director, Toby Mundy, founder of Atlantic Books and TMA Limited. Earlier this month they announced this year’s panel of judges: Pulitzer prize-winning historian and journalist Anne Applebaum as chair, accompanied by Associate Editor at The Economist Emma Duncan, New Scientist Editor Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Oxford University’s Professor Rana Mitter and former Controller of Film and Drama and head of Film 4 Tessa Ross.


Stuart Proffitt, chair of the Samuel Johnson Prize Steering Committee, said: “The Samuel Johnson Prize is in excellent health. During the last few years it has grown dramatically and is now undoubtedly the premier non-fiction prize in the UK. We have lots of exciting plans for the future. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the right person or organisation.”


The 2014 winner, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Jonathan Cape) was the first memoir to win the prize in its 16-year history. The book has enjoyed extraordinary success. Critics called it “a talon-sharp memoir” (Mail on Sunday) and “a dazzling piece of work” (Financial Times). The hardback and the paperback soared to no1 in the UK bestseller lists and top 10 in the US. In January the book was named the 2014 Costa Book of the Year, and is now set to hit the big screen with the news this month that film rights have been acquired by actress Lena Headey, star of television series “Game of Thrones”.


Macdonald joins acclaimed previous winners including Antony Beevor, Margaret Macmillan, Jonathan Coe, Kate Summerscale and Lucy Hughes-Hallett. On 30 May fans will be able to hear her speak at Hay Festival in the second Samuel Johnson Prize lecture.


For the past three years the prize has been funded by an anonymous donor, following many years of support from the BBC. In 2015 the winner announcement and dinner will be hosted with the generous support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, whose principal is the US philanthropist Len Blavatnik.


The winner of the 2015 prize will be announced on Monday 2nd November.


To find out more, potential sponsors should contact:

Toby Mundy ( )

or Dotti Irving ( )



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