Discover more from The Orwell Foundation
"There's no replacement for on-the-ground reporting."
We asked the journalists and campaigners up for this year's Orwell Prizes what they would most like people to take away from their work
We asked the finalists for this year’s Orwell Prizes for Journalism, Reporting Homelessness and Exposing Britain’s Social Evils what ‘impulse, idea or information’ they would you most like people to take away from their reporting (read what the Book Prize finalists had to say about a similar question here).
There’s more about all our finalists, with links to their own work, on The Orwell Foundation website. The winners in all five categories will be revealed on 22nd June. In the meantime, watch out for our final Q&As next week…
I think the story of the Russian oligarchs in London might tell us more than almost any other about a particular sort of British decline: a moral decline, for sure, but more than that. A betrayal of the big story the UK tells itself. About fair play, the rule of law, a country that can’t be bought.
Paul Caruana Galizia (The Orwell Prize for Journalism)
Joan Didion once said, "I write to find out what I'm thinking" and I hope that people will come away from reading my work with new ways of thinking and seeing the society we live in. They don't have to agree with my perspective but if they take away a sense of how macroeconomic forces and political decisions shape people's lives and perpetuate social evils like homelessness, then my work is done.
Vicky Spratt (The Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness)
Maeve: Although we've normalised food banks, hygiene banks and most recently warm banks it is not sustainable to rely on volunteers to provide basic necessities for their neighbours. We try to depict the individuals that step up to help their communities as inspirations or rays of hope, but there is a paradox that it often comes out of times of desperation.
Chris: I think working class communities are exactly that. They have always pulled together and it’s no surprise they are stepping up as local services are cut to the bone and overwhelmed. But also, that community groups are at the point of utter exhaustion. This can’t go on.
Maeve Shearlaw & Christopher Cherry (The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils)
There's no replacement for on-the-ground reporting. My articles in the London Review of Books focus on the consequences of France's antiterrorism laws. In my two-part account of the Bataclan trial, the longest and largest criminal trial in French history, I asked: Can France judge terrorism when terrorism is transforming its political system? The third article looked at schools: I reported from inside the French school system, which has been transformed as a result of anti-Islamic tension. I wanted to show the consequences of a political system that has allowed anti-terrorism to dictate politics--often to the detriment of justice and equality.
I conducted this reporting over the course of a year, taking notes during the day and keeping a diary at night. This work has made me realize how poor the prism of "news" is to really understand social questions and problems. Often the most shocking events are the ones that take place years after the headlines have moved on. Sticking with the story is the only way to show this.
Madeleine Schwartz (The Orwell Prize for Journalism)
The most important thing for me is giving a voice to marginalised groups. Data can tell you so much about a problem or an injustice, but it’s the stories of those behind the numbers that helps us really understand them.
Sean Morrison (The Orwell Prize for Journalism)
The humanity of the people I encounter. Their tragedy and courage, and their ordinariness. That the reader/viewer/listener can connect with them, even though their circumstances beyond the audience’s imagining.
Quentin Sommerville (The Orwell Prize for Journalism)
There actually is a neat take away from my work on the channel crossings, but no one really wants to hear it! The takeaway is this: there is no legal way – none! – for the British government to meaningfully limit the flow of migrants across the channel. None of the proposed policies are workable. That's true of more liberal solutions, like safe alternative routes, as well as the punitive and brutal stuff that comes out of the Home Office. This will go on until it stops of its own accord. I can see why people in power don't want to listen to that, but they're going to have to face that reality one way or another.
John Phipps (The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils)
Take the big swings. Find the individual stories that allow you to explore the really influential currents in the culture.(The Orwell Prize for Journalism)
I think my work is about asking questions rather than providing answers and I hope that my long form approach can invite people to ask questions too, and to hold power (and the media) to account. I’m interested in the back story - the reasons why situations exist - not just the news report that tell us that they exist.
Bank Top was a response to the presentation of Blackburn by BBC Panorama as the most segregated town in Britain and my work tries to see the challenges faced by the community in the context of contemporary and colonial foreign policy as well the years of de-industrialisation and social neglect.
Thatcher’s Children sets the experience of three generations of one family in the context of the failed social policies of successive governments over thirty years. The work is very direct juxtaposing the family’s experience and words directly with outtakes of political speeches filled with false promises over all of that time. I hope it challenges lazy assumptions.
Craig Easton (The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils)
Homelessness makes headlines. The visible problem of rough sleeping on our streets, the scandal of families with young children living in appalling conditions in temporary accommodation – the media highlight these issues, and the Government promise solutions. Certain groups within the homeless population remain invisible, however – missing from statistics, overlooked in strategy – and their voices remain unheard. That’s why I’m using my reporting to amplify women’s experiences of homelessness. I want people to realise that women are present in the rough sleeping population in far greater numbers than the data tells us – and the reason for that is that women’s rough sleeping is often hidden and intermittent, interspersed with other forms of hidden homelessness. Women remain hidden from support, and hidden from statistics. We can, and must do more to reach them – to start to respond to the problem, we must first recognise the true scale of it.
Lucy Campbell (The Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness)