Belfast's Lucy Caldwell nominated as BBC National Short Story Award 2021 shortlist revealed

By Alex Green & Dave Clark

Belfast-born Lucy Caldwell has been shortlisted for the 2021 BBC National Short Story Award for the third time.

Caldwell is shortlisted for All The People Were Mean And Bad, a story taken from her 2021 collection Intimacies, about a woman navigating a long-haul transatlantic flight with her 21-month-old daughter after a family loss.

A Mastermind finalist and a former postal worker also feature among the shortlist.

Judges praised the five writers for their humanity, compassion and hope – and noted that more than a year of lockdowns had led to the works being focused on topics including kindness, memory, loss and longing.

Nominees for the award, which is celebrating 16 years, were announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Friday.

Night Train by Georgina Harding was inspired by a sleeper train journey she took from Kyiv to Lviv in Ukraine, while novelist, playwright and screenwriter Rory Gleeson is nominated for Body Audit, about a group of boys at a residential camp.

Former postal worker and creative writing lecturer Danny Rhodes is tapped for Toadstone, the story of a lonely, awkward man who has become “obsolete in his own life”.

Meanwhile, journalist and non-fiction writer Richard Smyth features with Maykopsky District, Adyghe Oblast, which includes characters informed by his interest in classic Russian fiction – his specialist subject on Mastermind in 2008.

Di Speirs, editor of books at BBC Audio and judge of the award since its launch, said: “In a year when so many of us have been isolated and apart, the joy of these stories in which strangers offer comfort, and sometimes love, was notable.

“This year radio has played its part in providing companionship; these tales of unexpected encounters and kindnesses remind us of the importance of connection.

“Whether you hear them brought to life by the impressive cast of actors, or read them on the page, they serve as a reminder of the power of short fiction not only to entertain, but to enhance life and to widen horizons.”

All five stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds and published in an anthology produced by Comma Press.

The winning author will receive £15,000 with the four other shortlisted authors getting £600 each

Last year’s award went to Sarah Hall, who won for The Grotesques, a story set against a backdrop of privilege and inequality in a university town.

It was her second time winning the award.

– The BBC National Short Story Award shortlist:

All the People Were Mean and Bad by Lucy Caldwell

The Body Audit by Rory Gleeson

Night Train by Georgina Harding

Toadstone by Danny Rhodes

Maykopsky District, Adyghe Oblast by Richard Smyth

For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.