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Samuel Johnson Prize sets sights globally under new sponsorship deal

Samuel Johnson Prize sets sights globally under new sponsorship deal

The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction has today announced that Edinburgh-based investment management partnership Baillie Gifford is to become primary sponsor of the UK’s leading prize for non-fiction books. The agreement with Baillie Gifford will provide substantial support over an initial period of five years, which will enable the prize to build its profile and impact, both nationally and internationally.  The award will be renamed ‘The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction’. It will continue to advance the idea that ‘all the best stories are true’, and will now set its sights on becoming the most pre-eminent solus non-fiction book award in the world. 

Over the past 17 years, with the guidance of distinguished members of its Steering Committee and judges, a growing community of loyal followers, and a history of exceptional winners (including Antony Beevor, Kate Summerscale, Philip Hoare and Helen Macdonald) the Samuel Johnson Prize has gone from strength to strength, and is now established in the top tier of literary prizes. The past two winners have been bestsellers in both the UK and the USA.

For six years the prize has been funded by anonymous benefactors; it has also enjoyed many years of support from the BBC (with whom it maintains a close broadcasting relationship). The search for a new sponsor was announced in May 2015.

Stuart Proffitt, Chair of the Prize, says:

‘We are delighted to have reached agreement with Baillie Gifford, a firm whose partners care about books and culture as much we do and with which we believe we can develop a strong partnership. We now have the resources to expand our activities and aim to become the leading non-fiction book prize in the world.’

Lord King of Lothbury, former Governor of the Bank of England and member of the Steering Committee of the Samuel Johnson Prize, says:

‘I am confident that the Samuel Johnson Prize will be much strengthened under the aegis of Baillie Gifford. The prize has done a superb job drawing attention to outstanding non-fiction books for many years. The capacity now to enhance its activities and in particular, to extend its reach into the US, is much to be welcomed.’

Sponsoring the Prize continues a long tradition at Baillie Gifford of supporting literary and cultural events. Already sponsors of the Hay Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Argentinian Ballerina Luciana Ravizzi and David Bailey’s ‘Stardust’ exhibition, these constitute one aspect of its commitment to good citizenship, alongside academic sponsorship and charitable giving focused in the Edinburgh area.

Sarah Whitley, Partner of Baillie Gifford and Chair of its Sponsorship Committee, comments:

‘Our long term commitment to the Prize reflects our belief in the importance of supporting key literary and cultural events, and I am pleased that we have now added such an eminent award to our other literary relationships. We look forward to working with the Prize organisers and will continue to advance its motto that ‘all the best stories are true.’

The prize aims to recognise and reward the very best in high quality non-fiction, and is open to books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.  Authors of any nationality whose work is published in the UK in English in any given year, are eligible. The 2015 award was presented on 2 November to American author Steve Silberman for Neurotribes – the first popular science book to win in its seventeen-year history.


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