Arts Council Honours Three Leading Writers

Carlo Gébler, Glenn Patterson and Damian Gorman are Major Individual Artists

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has honoured three of Northern Ireland’s leading writers with major awards of £15,000 each.

Novelists Carlo Gébler and Glenn Patterson and playwright Damian Gorman were selected from a strong field of applications by artists to the Arts Council’s annual ‘Major Individual Artist’ awards.

The Arts Council awards recognise the special contribution made by established artists, writers, actors and musicians to the arts in Northern Ireland. The financial support makes it possible for these artists to produce a substantial and ambitious piece of work that will make a significant contribution to the development of their careers.

Congratulating the three writers, Roisín McDonough, Arts Council Chief Executive, said, ‘Through these major awards, the Arts Council recognises three professional writers whose careers will benefit greatly from being able to spend the year concentrating purely on their writing, with less pressure to earn their living through other means.

Glenn Patterson'Each writer has already made a notable contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland and to the positive cultural profile of the region abroad. Our support will now help them to produce work of lasting value and establish themselves nationally and internationally as leading writers of the generation.’

Carlo Gébler’s works are regularly published on both sides of the Atlantic. His fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, drama, and documentary film-making, include How To Murder A Man, which was long-listed for the Booker Prize, and Caught On A Train, which was awarded the Merit Award of the Bisto Prize.

In addition to his many books, Gebler’s contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland includes work as writer-in-residence at HMP Maghaberry since 1997 and as a teacher of creative writing.

Gébler will use the Arts Council’s ‘Major Individual Artist Award’ to develop several projects, including three full-length plays, completion of a collection of short stories and an unfinished script based on his experience of teaching in jail.

The Enniskillen-based writer says that, ‘The award will allow me to spend time doing what I want to do, which is write a novel, without feeling under pressure about having to do other things.’

Damian Gorman’s work spans television, film, radio and the stage, and has earned him many accolades, including Irish Times Best Production Award for the play Convictions and a BAFTA award for the thirty-minute drama, Untitled. The Newcastle, Co Down born writer received an MBE in 1998 for his services to the arts.

Gorman will use the Arts Council award to develop an ambitious script about the ‘Great Revival’, a religious awakening which swept through the country in the 1850s, and a musical play focusing on depression. He said, ‘The Arts Council award will allow me to open up my shoulders and have a real fearless go at developing a couple of projects I’ve been nursing for a long time – in exactly the way I want to develop them.’

Glenn Patterson’s novels, including Fat Lad and, most recently, That Which Was, have established him in the front rank of contemporary prose writers in Ireland. These books are set in and around his home town of Belfast, and he intends to expand on this theme with a historical novel spanning an entire century of life in Belfast.

Welcoming the Arts Council award, Patterson said, ‘I received an Arts Council award in 1989, just before the publication of my first novel. This award, nearly 20 years later, as I embark upon my eighth, is every bit as valuable, because whether it is a first novel or an eighth, the needs remain the same: the time in which to write and the morale to sustain you while you write. The Major Individual Artist Award provides both, in spades.’

Carlo Gébler, Damian Gorman and Glenn Patterson join the ranks of Northern Irish artists whose careers have already benefited markedly through the support of an Arts Council Major Individual Artist award, including leading contemporary artists, Rita Duffy and Susan MacWilliam, Patricia Craig whose ‘Ulster Anthology’ was published last month, and Brian Irvine who won a British Composer Award this year.