Chidi Ebere Bags The RSL’s 2024 Christopher Bland Prize

By Olivia Emily

2 weeks ago

This prize commends authors aged over 50


Now in its sixth year, the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) is back with the 2024 Christopher Bland Prize, an annual commendation for debut novelists and non-fiction writers who first published aged 50 or over. Previous winners include Paterson Joseph (2023), Julia Parry (2022) and Pete Paphides (2021). And the 2024 winner has finally been revealed.

Chidi Ebere has been awarded the 2024 Christopher Bland Prize and its £10,000 prize. He was granted the prize by 2024 chair of judges, Shaparak Khorsandi.

‘The spiritual storm calms, the emotional dust settles, and I’m left feeling honoured to have had so much support on my literary journey,’ said Chidi upon the news. ‘From those beside me, to the agent, editor and publishing house; they sent my novel out into the world. And the judges, they took the time to consider Now I Am Here, and then blessed it with the 2024 Christopher Bland Prize. That one sent good vibrations through the blood and bones! Thank you.’

Here’s a look back at the 2024 nominees.

RSL 2024 Christopher Bland Prize

A stack of books shortlisted for the 2024 Christopher Bland Prize

What Is The Christopher Bland Prize?

The RSL Christopher Bland Prize recognises the achievements of debut novelists and non-fiction writers who first published aged 50 or over. The prize is awarded in memory of Sir Christopher Bland who died in 2017 and was best known for his leadership in broadcasting, the arts and business. He didn’t start writing until after his retirement, publishing two novels to critical acclaim – Ashes in the Wind and Cathar – as well as the play The Easter Rising. Launching in 2019, previously recognised authors of the RSL Christopher Bland Prize include Julia Parry and Michele Kirsch.

This year, the judging panel is made up of:

  • Josh Cohen, Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Welsh author Niall Griffiths
  • Shaparak Khorsandi, a comedian, author, speaker and advocate for human rights

The judges have curated a shortlist of five books with a unifying thread of retelling stories of forgotten voices. Drumroll please…

The 2024 Shortlist

1.  

Now I Am Here by Chidi Ebere

‘Paced superbly,’ says Josh Cohen. ‘Doesn’t use gore, but rather is suggestive. Beautifully controlled, and bold. Ebere is a skilful storyteller.’

‘Right now, it’s impossible to say what it means to have my novel shortlisted – I’m still digesting the news,’ added Chidi Ebere. ‘But I can tell you it’s a wonderful feeling. An intense glow of quiet satisfaction; very present, very grateful.’

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2.  

The Silence Project by Carole Hailey

‘There’s a great deal of compassion contained in this book,’ says Niall Griffiths. ‘Its power lies in the fact that it’s quite circumscribed in its scope. At a literary level that quality is very powerful, and when I find it in a book it often stays with me for a long time.’

‘I am absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted,’ commented Carole Hailey. ‘The RSL Christopher Bland Prize is very special because all too often people can feel that if they haven’t achieved their ambitions by the age of 50, it’s no longer possible. This Prize proves it’s never too late.’

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3.  

The Box with the Sunflower Clasp by Rachel Meller

‘A great rendition of an extraordinary story,’ says Shaparak Khorsandi.

‘I was thrilled and amazed to hear I’d been shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize,’ says Rachel Meller. ‘When I began The Box with the Sunflower Clasp at over 60 in 2016, I wondered if its story could even work as a book. But my determination to try, along with the encouragement of those around me, kept me going. This incredible honour from the RSL proves that, whatever your age, it’s never too late to pursue a dream you’ve had all your life.’

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4.  

High Caucasus by Tom Parfitt

‘Dark and funny,’ says Niall Griffiths. ‘It does what you hope a travel book to do: it transports you.’

‘I’m full of joy and gratitude to be on the shortlist,’ says Tom Parfitt. ‘It took many years of drafts and redrafts before I could find the right way to get High Caucasus down on paper. So this feels like an affirmation of that long-haul, and of finally getting published as I tootled into maturity.’

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5.  

Ashes & Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness by Allyson Shaw

‘Fascinating detail here, telling stories I had never before encountered,’ says Josh Cohen.

‘I’m deeply honoured to be shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize for my debut creative nonfiction book Ashes and Stones,’ says Allyson Shaw. ‘There’s a real sense of validation of the years spent writing and researching, working without a net. Some books can only be written on the other side of 50. It’s satisfying to know that the stories of people I have written about, many of them older women trivialised and erased, are also being heard.’

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The winner of the RSL’s 2024 Christopher Bland Prize (and the £10,000 award) will be announced online at 9am on Wednesday 10 July 2024.