Coffee House

Introducing the Timothy Garton Ash prize for European writing

12 February 2016

12:46 PM

12 February 2016

12:46 PM

Events in Europe are unfolding rapidly, and we at The Spectator are looking for writers living abroad who would be interested in contributing occasionally to the magazine and our website. So we’re setting up a writing competition: the Timothy Garton Ash prize for European writing. It will go to the best original essay from any country in Europe, which will be published both in the magazine and online.

In 1978, Alexander Chancellor was looking for someone to cover events in Europe – someone actually living out there, rather than the many eloquent writers in London who knew what these countries were like years ago. Things were changing too fast, Alexander thought: The Spectator needed a new voice. Someone who could report what he actually saw.  By chance, he was given a recommendation: a PhD student in Berlin called Timothy Garton Ash. His dispatches from Europe in the dying days of the Soviet Union were not just beautifully written, but perfectly captured the drama and the emotion. His first piece for the magazine was from Enver Hoxha’s Albania, then Germany (both East and West), and then revolutionary Eastern Europe. His articles transported the reader to whatever country he was writing about, and conveyed the mood and the sense of history.


We’re naming the prize after him because we’re looking for precisely these qualities. This is not straight political reporting; we’re not so interested in the fortunes and antics of politicians. We want to know about countries and culture: how conversations about race and immigration are changing in Sweden, what to make of the recent events in Poland, whether the East is being slowly detached from Western Europe. What it’s like to be young in a Spain with 50pc youth unemployment.

Timothy Garton Ash was a student when he started out – and you don’t necessarily need to be a journalist to enter this prize. Many of the most gifted writers pursue other careers. If you live abroad, and can describe the mood in these countries and offer eloquence and insight, then we’d like to hear from you.

Entries, please, by Thursday 31st March to, and enter ‘Timothy Garton Ash prize’ in the subject heading. Please submit between 500 and 1000 words. It must be an original piece of work and unpublished elsewhere. Please also include a line or two telling us about yourself. There will be one main winner, but we’re hoping to find several new writers in the process. And if you know anyone who lives abroad and writes well, please let them know about the award.

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Show comments
  • Fiona Pitt-kethley

    I am interested in trying this as I live in Spain and am fascinated by the local politics there. Would love to know what the prize is though. Fiona Pitt-kethley

  • Nicetime

    Is this a joke? It’s not even as though Mr Garton Ash has suffered some appallingly brutal yet poetically ironic misfortune at the hands of Euro wielding ‘refugees’ or that the Guardian offices and all it’s fiendish minions have disappeared into a black ‘ole. Mr Garton Ash may write beautifully and eloquently, but he symbolises, possibly even more so than the puerile Polly Toynbee, *everything* that is wrong with our culture since the catastrophic wrong turn in 1997

    Very bizarre

  • MaxSceptic

    Good idea – apart from the name.

    A prize named after an ardent Europhile is hardly desirable.

  • Captain Dryland

    Does living in what the Nats hope is a pre-partum Scotland qualify?

  • bhutanbeau

    I just hope you actually pay the winner. After all, sales are well up.

  • London Calling

    More unrest in Greece today, due to more taxes being enforced on an already taxed to the hit country. Greece is the epicentre, boil, of Europe, plus the refugee crisis. I would like to know what its really like from a Greek perspective, or any person on the ground able to provide an inside view…

    This is a really good idea Fraser, also a link up across Europe from a number of journalistic eyes and ears giving an indepth view would be exciting and refreshing rather than mainstream media skipping over all the action/drama when it suits them, leaving us all in the dark as to how events build up and unfold…


  • sidor

    Lord Haw Haw prize for European writing.

  • justejudexultionis

    Whatever next? The ‘Chris Evans Prize for Services to Radio’, the ‘Piers Morgan Prize for Services to General Annoyingness’, the ‘Fraser Nelson Prize for Supreme Irony’?

  • jim

    Euro Brain Washer Of The Year

  • Discuscutter

    I was waiting for the paragraph where it revealed this to be satire.

    Maybe it will be included in later.

  • RJ O’Callaghan

    Terrific idea, Fraser. I really look forward to reading this.

  • Martin Adamson

    And how sad it is that Timothy Garton Ash, who once so eloquently gave a voice to the repressed and ignored of Eastern Europe, should nowadays be reduced to being just another globalist shill, braying for Merkel to squeeze into her jackboots & cram on her pickelhaube on behalf of our new Islamist overlords.

    • sidor

      Strange that you failed to notice that these two phases of his activity follow the same great idea of constructing the 4th Reich in Europe.

    • ardenjm

      I couldn’t agree more.
      The Paternalists.
      This is what we need to call the Mandarins, the Political Class, the Bureaucrats.
      Left Wing, Right Wing it’s just smoke and mirrors: there are the Paternalists and the Great Unwashed – and it’s been decided that the aspiring middle class belong to the latter, not the former.

    • chesters

      agree: he did write some very good pieces about Eastern Europe (eg in Granta magazine) but he’s gone down the pan more recently – including a disgusting ‘critique’ of the very brave Ayaan Hirsi-Ali.

  • polidorisghost

    I can do a small village in Cambridgeshire.
    Don’t knock it – it’s all happening here:
    Wife swapping, vicar-swapping, even dog-swapping!

    • justejudexultionis

      Is the small village in Cambridgeshire called “Cambridge’?

      • polidorisghost

        Nothing of interest happens in Cambridge.
        The fun is in the fens.