2014 sees the Observer/Anthony Burgess prize move into its third year, establishing itself as a unique, and important, prize in contemporary British arts journalism.
The Observer is proud of its long association with Anthony Burgess, one of the late 20th century's greatest writers. Since the second world war, we have published the work of several great writers whose arts journalism is an essential part of their output (notably George Orwell, Kenneth Tynan and Julian Barnes) but few are as remarkable, or distinctive, as Burgess, who was truly a one-man band, a literary maverick incorrigibly in tune with the spirit of the newspaper he always called "my paper".
Anthony Burgess, best known for his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, was also an energetic literary journalist. In his lifetime, he published two substantial collections of journalism, Urgent Copy (1968) and Homage to Qwert Yuiop (1986), and between 1962 and his death in 1993 he wrote many articles and reviews for the Observer. Among his "discoveries" as reviewers were Joseph Heller, Sylvia Plath and Umberto Eco. My memories of this indefatigable literateur are of a chain-smoking, loquacious jack of all trades whose reading was as wide ranging and various as his critical judgments. Burgess on a Sunday would cheerfully range from a monograph on Anglo-Saxon riddles, to airport fiction (one of his great loves), to a new biography of Handel or Wagner to a book about cigars (another great love).
His work for the Observer was just one of the many ways he would irrigate the fertile crescent of his imagination. He was also the ideal weekend reviewer: generous, entertaining, witty, informative and wise. Nor was he, in any sense, a snob. The son of a Manchester publican, he was open to every kind of self-expression and was, famously, both a classical composer and a well-paid screenwriter.
So the prize that honours his name concerns every kind of creative expression, not just books. It celebrates the best new talent in the fields of theatre, film, music and art (see below). It also champions the work of reporters engaged in breaking news from the front line of contemporary culture.
This, of course, is a phenomenon in the midst of an extraordinary transition from analogue to digital and from ink and paper to microchip and memory stick. Some cultural commentators have found it difficult to accommodate to this astonishing paradigm shift. It's a safe bet that Burgess would have taken to the world of social media and electric ink without drawing breath or missing a beat. His first instinct was to communicate his love of the arts with as wide an audience as possible, to educate, entertain and inform without restriction.
As we set out on the search for next year's winners, the spirit we'll want to celebrate is one that's liberated, sharp, contemporary and omnivorously engaged with the times, like Anthony Burgess himself.
How to enter
The aim of the competition is to reward new and exciting writing on arts and cultural subjects. The winning piece will be a 1,500-word review of a book, film, a concert, a ballet, a stage play or a TV show. The winner will receive £2,000 and the opportunity to have their work published in print and online editions of the Observer and on the International Anthony Burgess Foundation website. You can read more about Burgess's journalism here, and in the Observer here.
You can read pieces by the 2012 winner, Shaun Lyon, here and the 2012 runner-up, James Cahill, here; and pieces by the 2013 winner, Roger Lewis, here and the 2013 runner-up, Michael Perrett, here.
When choosing the winner, the judges will be looking for imaginative, original, and thought-provoking arts journalism that would be suitable for publication in the Observer. They will be looking for emerging talent, innovative approaches and writing from outside the mainstream, and they are especially keen to read entries from those who have not previously had work published by major media organisations. They are also, as William Boyd commented while judging the 2012 entries, looking for "some Burgessian fizz and crackle and a bit of well-displayed erudition". The 2014 prize will be judged by a panel including Mariella Frostrup, Stuart Kelly, Helen Oyeyemi and Robert McCrum from the Observer and Will Carr from the Burgess Foundation. Entry can be made online here or by post to Observer/Anthony Burgess prize for arts journalism, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Engine House, 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester M1 5BY. Deadline for submission is 31 October 2014. The winner will be announced at a prizegiving ceremony in London in February 2015. Full terms and conditions are here.