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Polari, the award-winning LGBT literary salon, returns with a new prize for 2019 that will recognise both debut authors and established writers whose work explores the LGBT experience.

The Polari Prize will be awarded to an overall book of the year, while The Polari First Book Prize will continue to champion work by new writers. Both awards are now open for submissions until April 10.

In its inaugural year, The Polari Prize will be sponsored by D H H Literary Agency, with the winner receiving a cheque for £2,000. Entry for the prize includes a submission fee of £25 per title. The winner will be chosen by a distinguished panel of authors and industry professionals, also announced today, including critically acclaimed author Bernardine Evaristo; CEO of the National Centre for Writing Chris Gribble; award-winning writer and performer VG Lee; and playwright and former winner of The Polari First Book Prize Paul McVeigh.

Kiki Archer

Leading literary PR consultancy FMcM Associates will continue its sponsorship of the Polari First Book Prize, with winners receiving a cheque for £1,000. Entry for the prize remains free. This year’s judges include bestselling novelist Kiki Archer; writer and performer Cerys Evans; author and former Head of Literature & Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre Rachel Holmes; and poet and former Polari First Book Prize winner John McCullough.

Both prize panels will be chaired by founder, journalist and author Paul Burston.

Books must have been published in English by a writer born or resident in the UK. Books must have been published in the 12 months up to February 1, 2019. Self-published works in print formats are also eligible. Works should be submitte by the publisher, while self-published works should be submitted together with a letter explaining why the book was self-published.

The longlists will be announced on June 10th, and shortlists on July 26th. The winners will be revealed in October 2019 as part of the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre.

Southbank Centre

Paul Burston, chair of the judges, said: “The stories we tell and the books we read help shape our world view. For many years, LGBT people struggled to find books featuring characters with whom we could identify. Diversity in publishing is still an issue. While some publishers are rising to the challenge, we still have a long way to go. Thanks to our ongoing touring activities and strong presence at the Southbank Centre, awareness of Polari and The Polari First Book Prize grows year on year. Bolstered by growing submissions and recognition, we felt now was the time to expand the prize to highlight the diverse range of literary voices within the LGBT+ community, at all stages.”

The Polari First Book Prize and The Polari Prize are tied to the Polari Literary Salon, and winners will be offered headline slots at future events.

Launching a new and expanded tour this year, the Polari Literary Salon will be hosting events at this month’s London Book & Screen Week, at the historic London nightclub Heaven, and in Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Birmingham and Belfast, in addition to its regular events with Huddersfield Literature Festival, Bradford Literature Festival and in Hastings on the south coast.

Fiona Mozley, winner of the 2018 Polari First Book Prize for her debut novel Elmet (John Murray), said: “Winning The Polari Prize was an honour. The prize does a huge amount to convince publishers that there is an appetite for LGBT literature, and to bring a range of readers towards books they might have overlooked in previous decades. It helps emerging writers feel confident in writing LGBT characters.”

The Polari First Book Prize enjoys a strategic partnership with WH Smiths Travel, who support the shortlisted books and winner throughout their stores nationwide.

First launched in 2011, The Polari First Book Prize has been covered in a wide range of publications including Metro, the Guardian, the i, Irish Independent, Press Association, Gay Times, Winq and BBC Radio.

More about Polari

Founded by author Paul Burston, Polari began in 2007 in a bar in Soho. Since 2009, thet’ve been based at London’s Southbank Centre. We also tour regularly, funded by Arts Council England.

​Authors, poets and performers who’ve appeared at Polari include Jake Arnott, Dean Atta, John Boyne, Stella Duffy, Patrick Gale, Philip Hensher, Celia Imrie, Jackie Kay, VG Lee, David McAlmont, Val McDermid, Sarah Waters and many more.
Polari was named Cultural Event of the Year in the Co-op Respect Loved By You Awards 2013.

For further details on how to submit a book for this year’s prize, please email Paul Burston at

Find out about Polari’s bloody brilliant tour right here.

Paul Burston’s new novel, “The Closer I Get” is out in July 2019. Pre-order it here.

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