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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 It must be an original piece of work and unpublished elsewhere.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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