Media Release: Empire Antarctica wins the Scottish Book of Year 2013

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards 2013


Empire Antarctica wins Book of the Year title and £30,000 prize

Empire Antarctica by Gavin Francis has won the prestigious Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award, 2013.

ANNOUNCED today (Saturday 2 November), during the Lennoxlove Book Festival – at a ceremony hosted by news presenter, author and literature fan, Sally Magnusson – the awards recognise and reward the literary talents of authors from Scotland, who reside in Scotland, or those whose book is of particular Scottish interest.

Gavin Francis commented: “Winning an award like this, for any writer, is a tremendous endorsement of what it is that they’re trying to achieve.

“All 20 books on the shortlist could have been worthy winners which makes me all the more astonished, and delighted, that Empire Antarctica has been chosen as Book of the Year 2013.

“Scotland has a tradition of looking out beyond its borders, even as far as Antarctica, and Scottish literature has always punched above its weight. I’m conscious that to be part of that tradition, and that literature, is an immense privilege.”

Competing against three other shortlisted authors in the Fiction, Poetry and First Book categories – Ewan Morrison, Richard Price and Kerry Hudson respectively – Gavin has won £30,000, Scotland’s largest literary prize.

Empire Antarctica is described as “the story of one man and his fascination with the world’s loneliest continent, as well as the emperor penguins who weather the winter with him. Combining an evocative narrative with a sublime sensitivity to the natural world, this is travel writing at its very best”.

Gavin fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition when he spent fourteen months as the base-camp doctor at Halley, a profoundly isolated British research station on the Caird Coast of Antarctica. So remote, it is said to be easier to evacuate a casualty from the International Space Station than it is to bring someone out of Halley in winter.

Kirsty Logan, panel judge and books editor at The List, commented: “The quantity and quality of writing being published in Scotland is truly inspiring. I found it an honour and a pleasure to be a judge for the 2013 awards, and thoroughly enjoyed debating with my fellow judges.

“Each shortlisted author fought off stiff competition to win their category, and I congratulate each one of them. Gavin Francis is a worthy winner: Empire Antarctica is vivid, captivating, and will be enjoyed by readers from the very north of Scotland to the very south of Antarctica.”

Janet Archer, CEO at Creative Scotland, said: “Big congratulations to Gavin and all of the finalists of this year’s Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards.

“From poets to storytellers, screenwriters and playwrights, the Scottish Book Awards has been celebrating Scotland’s exceptional writing talent and spotlighting the very best of our excellent literary works for many years, and each year the shortlist has captured the incredible quality and scope of literature produced in Scotland.

“All the authors can all be proud of the unique and valuable contribution they are making to Scotland’s rich literary culture.”

For a sixth year. the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust is proud to sponsor the awards, which have been running since 1970.

Mike Gray, director at the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, commented: “Scottish Mortgage takes great pride in sponsoring the Scottish Book Awards and supporting some of Scotland’s exceptional literary talent.

“Each year we are presented with a huge variety of outstanding books, and this year has been no exception. Congratulation to Gavin Francis, a deserved winner of the Book of the Year accolade.”

In a first for any British book award, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards worked, in partnership with Ko Lik Films, to commission four young Scottish animators to interpret readings by the authors from the first page of each of their books.

Cat Bruce, Anna Pearson, Michael Hughes and Kate Charter, who are all graduates from Edinburgh College of Art, were invited to create the short films.

The public were invited to view the online animations and vote for their favourite book during October, with the intention of giving readers a flavour of the books; to encourage them to read and enjoy the books before deciding which to vote as winner.

The awards selection panel included Clare English, BBC Radio presenter; David McCormack of Waterstones; Peggy Hughes, programme director at Dundee Literary Festival; Kirsty Logan, books editor at The List; and Aly Barr, development officer at Creative Scotland.

The category winners each receiving £5,000 are:

  • Fiction – Ewan Morrison for Close Your Eyes (Vintage)
  • Poetry – Richard Price for Small World (Carcanet)
  • First Book – Kerry Hudson for Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (Chatto & Windus)

Awards have previously been made to Janice Galloway for her memoir All Made Up (2012); Jackie Kay for her autobiography Red Dust Road (2011); Donald Worster for his biography A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (2010); James Kelman for his novel Kieron Smith, Boy (2009); and Edwin Morgan for his poetry collection A Book of Lives (2008)


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Helen Sim

Media Relations & PR Assistant
Creative Scotland
T: 0131 523 0019
M: 0780 122 6605
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Contact: Helen Sim
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