BBC National Short Story Award

£15,000 for the winning story, £3,000 for the runner-up and £500 for the three other shortlisted stories.

The winner is David Constantine for 'Tea at the Midland' and the runner-up is Jon McGregor for 'If It Keeps On Raining'

David Constantine, an award-winning poet, translator and master craftsman of short fiction, saw off strong competition, including the prize’s youngest ever shortlisted author, to take the plaudits and a cheque worth £15,000.  

The winning story, entitled ‘Tea at the Midland’ is a moving and bittersweet story about the end of a relationship set against the backdrop of the sea. It was praised by the judges for its rich interweaving of dialogue and poetic imagery.

Jon McGregor, who was shortlisted for his story ‘If it Keeps on Raining’, was awarded £3,000 as the runner-up.

Chair of judges, James Naughtie commented: ‘The winning story, "Tea at the Midland", is remarkable for the rich poetry at its heart and the economy with which David Constantine creates a story with fully formed characters and a memorable setting. It has imagination, depth and brevity. What more could you say about a short story? The shortlist produced a tempting mix of stories in which the other that attracted most of our admiration was Jon McGregor’s "If It Keeps on Raining", which is an admirable runner up. It contrasts with the winner in its style and method and between them they demonstrate what the short story can do.’

The shortlist

This year’s award brought together a high calibre group of new and established authors exploring human relationships at their most dysfunctional and yet sustaining. Splintered families, the persistence of love, the public versus the private and the plight of the outsider all provided a recurring focus for the authors in the running for the award, which marked its fifth year in 2010.

This year’s shortlist was:

  • ‘Tea at the Midland’ by David Constantine
  • ‘Haywards Heath’ by Aminatta Forna
  • ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ by Sarah Hall
  • ‘If it Keeps on Raining’ by Jon McGregor
  • ‘My Daughter the Racist’ by Helen Oyeyemi

The garlanded shortlist included Sarah Hall, whose debut, Haweswater, won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel and whose The Carhullan Army won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 2007.

Aminatta Forna’s first book, a memoir of her father, The Devil that Danced on the Water, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2003, and serialised on BBC Radio and in The Sunday Times.

Jon McGregor is the author of the critically acclaimed novels, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and So Many Ways To Begin. He is a winner of the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award, and has twice been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Helen Oyeyemi is the youngest author on the 2010 shortlist and also in the history of the award. Born in 1984, she is already the author of three novels, The Icarus Girl, The Opposite House and White is for Witching. A short story collection, Mr Fox, will be published in summer 2011.

David Constantine is perhaps best known as a poet and translator. He lives in Oxford, where he is the editor of Modern Poetry in Translation. He has published three collections of short stories: Back at the Spike (1994), Under the Dam (2005) and The Shieling (2009), which was shortlisted for this year’s Frank O’Connor Prize.

Click here for more information on the shortlisted authors

Click here to purchase the 2010 anthology, published by Comma Press

Graham Mort’s ‘Daniel’ and Edna O’Brien’s ‘Inner Cowboy’ were highly commended by the judges.

James Naughtie, Chair of Judges said: ‘The short story can expose a writer, cruelly. It takes skill to be able to complete the job, and – like a miniaturist on canvas who has to work to distil a world into a few square inches – the writer who can suggest a great span in a story that has to be kept in check is a true servant of the craft. A short story needs to waste no time. It can’t meander, unless the wandering is perfectly controlled and has a hidden purpose. As judges we found in our discussion that although our tastes and stylistic passions are probably quite different, we knew a good one when we saw one.’

The BBC National Short Story Award celebrated its fifth year. The award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000. The runner up receives £3,000 and three further shortlisted authors, £500 each.


The closing date for entries was 18 June 2010.

Click here to download the entry form (.pdf 84Kb)

Click here to download the terms and conditions (.pdf 62Kb)

Aimed at highlighting the importance of the short story and supporting the genre, the BBC National Short Story Award stands at the heart of a UK-wide campaign — story — that has run alongside the award since 2005.  The ambition of both the award and the campaign is to expand opportunities for British writers, readers and publishers of the short story.  The award aims to honour the country’s finest exponents of the form. James Lasdun secured the inaugural award for 'An Anxious Man'; last year the poet Kate Clanchy won with 'The Not-Dead and The Saved'. Other authors shortlisted in previous years have included Jackie Kay, William Trevor, Rose Tremain, Clare Wigfall, Naomi Alderman and Lionel Shriver.  

BBC Radio 4 is the world’s leading broadcaster of short stories and a staunch and long-time supporter of the form. Short stories are broadcast every week attracting more than a million listeners. The BBC hopes that the award can continue to serve as a reminder of the power of the short story in a literary environment dominated by the novel.

Click here to read about last year's prize

Contact details

Prize information
Claire Shanahan
t 020 8516 2973
e Claire.Shanahan@booktrust.org.uk

Press information
Alice Ingall
t 0208 875 4827
e alice.ingall@booktrust.org.uk

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Read an article by Di Speirs (Executive Producer Readings BBC Radio 4) about BBC Radio and its work with the short story

Read about the history and previous winners of the prize

The shortlist will be announced on Friday 27 November 2009 on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

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