A celebration of the power of art and friendship has been unveiled as the winner of the tenth East Anglian Book Awards.

Lapwing & Fox, based round a series of letters between critic and writer John Berger and his friend, the artist John Christie, won the overall East Anglian Book of the Year Award at the EABA Literary Lunch held on Friday 24 November.

Produced by Framlingham-based imprint Objectif Press, the book features the friends’ reflections on life, nature and art – and especially the collections of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

The book was produced to mark John Berger’s 90th birthday last November. Poignantly, he died in January this year. Awarding the £1000 overall prize donated by the PACCAR Foundation, the judges commented: “We were impressed by the combination of fine writing and production values in this handsome book from a local publisher and with a strong local flavour.

its approachable style will whet readers’ appetite to experience this art for themselves

“The conversations via letter between John Berger and John Christie throw new light on a much-loved art collection and its approachable style will whet readers’ appetite to experience this art for themselves.”

Earlier, an audience of almost 200 at the Top of the Terrace, Norwich City Football Club, had heard talks from best-selling authors Elly Griffiths, Sarah Perry, Rory Clements and Raffaella Barker.

The overall winner was chosen from the six category winners, which were themselves drawn from an overall shortlist of 18 titles. The category winners were:

  • Fiction (judge: Sarah Perry) – Madame Zero, by Sarah Hall (Faber)
  • Biography & Memoir (judge: D J Taylor) – The Owl at the Window, by Carl Gorham (Coronet)
  • History & Tradition (judge: Chris Rushby) – Holkham, by Christine Hiskey (Unicorn Press)
  • Poetry (judge: Jeremy Noel-Tod) – Was and Is, by Neil Powell (Carcanet)
  • The Mal Peet Children’s Award (judge: Rowan Mantell) - The Nearest Far Away Place, by Hayley Long (Hot Key Books)
  • General Non-Fiction (judge: Rebecca Stott)  – Lapwing & Fox, by John Berger and John Christie (Ojectif Press)

Lapwing & Fox follows in the footsteps of last year’s overall winner, Jill Dawson, for her Suffolk-set novel The Crime Writer.

The awards, organised by the Eastern Daily Press, Jarrold, and Writers’ Centre Norwich in association with the UEA, were founded in 2008. Since that time they have highlighted the works of well over 130 authors, almost 170 titles, and more than 90 local, regional and national publishers.

The event also saw the presentation of the ‘Book by the Cover’ design award, sponsored by the East Anglian Writers. The winner was Neil Powell’s Was and Is, with detail from ‘Fishermen in Finisterre’ by Keith Vaughan. The Award is going to the Keith Vaughan Society, and Gerard Hastings accepted it on behalf of the society.

And Peter Stibbons, of Poppyland Publishing in Cromer, received this year’s Exceptional Contribution Award. The judges described him as ‘an East Anglian publisher par excellence’ who had now released around 150 books, and building a considerable reputation for publishing well-researched books that inform as well as entertain.

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