New Writing North, in partnership with The Northern Rock Foundation,
launched the Northern Rock Foundation Writer’s Award in 2002.
The award came about through discussions between Fiona Ellis,
Director of the Northern Rock Foundation and Claire Malcolm, Director
of New Writing North, the literary development organisation for the
North East. Both organisations were interested in strategies which
would allow writers in the North East to thrive and which would help to
support writers who were at critical points in their careers. From
those conversations emerged the outline of an award which would allow
writers to give up other work which was constricting the time they had
The Northern Rock Foundation Writer’s Award was unlike most other
awards and prizes in that it supported the creative work of an
individual writer over a substantial length of time rather than giving
recognition to just one book retrospectively.
The organisations created an award which offered unparalleled ‘life
support’ for writers at the level of £20,000 a year for a three-year
period, making the award worth a total of £60,000. During its lifetime, the award was the largest literary award in the UK and the only one dedicated to supporting regional achievement.
The award was created with the recognition that many published
writers have to undertake a variety of other work to support their
creative writing. The award offered the chance for writers to be
liberated from other work commitments that might limit their writing
time. The award honoured literary achievement and supported writers to
maximise their creativity.
Poet Laureate Andrew Motion hailed the award as a “a brave and
exciting new initiative”. Gary McKeone, literature director for the
Arts Council of England, said that the foundation’s partnership with
New Writing North was exemplary and would, he hoped, set a trend across
The award was for writers who had already demonstrated their talent
through the publication of two or more books with a recognised
publisher and was open to writers of both literary and
genre fiction, poetry and biography and for writers of literature for
children and young people.