Yesterday, the very first Warwick Prize for Writing was awarded to Naomi Klein in the Mead Gallery, rewarding her for her devastating analysis of disaster captalism, The Shock Doctrine. She was given a tidy sum of 50 000 pounds, which presumably came from the very pockets of the University that we, as students, fill with our tuition fees. I may be wrong, in which case, comment on this blog, or throw rotten fruit at me as you see me on campus..but my guess is that, if you're a student, you had absolutely no clue that this was happening.
This being the very first Warwick Writing Prize, there were inevitably going to be a sense of the organisers testing the waters and trying out new ideas, but this, frankly, is a problem. The shortlist was fascinating, the judging panel full of interesting individuals which clearly all brought their separate ideas to the table, and as Naomi Klein said herself in her acceptance speech, this is a prize that is innovative in many ways: it takes all writing, whether it be fiction, non-fiction or poetry, and groups it under one award, and the books which are submitted to be on the shortlist are chosen by any member of Warwick staff, from any department or sector. This is a prize, we are told, that celebrates the university, the exchange of ideas and people.
Where, then, are the students?
I had the chance to take part in the Student Shadow Judging Panel, in which we chose our own winner (Fransico Goldman's The Art of Political Murder), but, as great an experience as it was, we were an afterthought, and not mentioned on the night. The event itself was only attended by those who received an invitation, and so there was only a handful of students there. If this had been opened to the public somewhat, and publicised to us common mortals, then I believe that there would have been a dedicated group of us that would have been overjoyed to attend an event with Naomi Klein, as I was...
Of course, this has its set of problems. The prestigious nature of the award means that making it public would require changing the event completely, and I am also aware that it appears as if I am simply moaning about not being mentioned when the Prize is already laudable in so many ways. If it celebrates the crossover of people here on campus, however, I can't help thinking that in two years' time, when the next award is given, the logical action would be to put a student on the actual judging panel.
This is perhaps an unrealistic, fantastical thought... But isn't the situation bizarre as it is? When 50 000 pounds is given to a world-renowned writer, and my fellow students, even those interested in publishing and literary culture, are unaware?