Booker Prize Universities Initiative gets students and local schools involved

PigeonEnglishCoverThe University of Sheffield has been chosen to take part in the Booker Prize Foundation’s Universities Initiative for the first time.

The Initiative involves all first-year students at the University, regardless of their course of study, receiving free copies of Pigeon English, the Booker-shortlisted novel by Stephen Kelman. There are also reading groups for students, and all first-year students were invited to enter the Pigeon English essay contest on the following question:

When our daily news is apocalyptic, it’s irresponsible to read made-up stories. It’s time to start reading the serious stuff instead.’ Zoe Williams, the Guardian.

 Do you agree? Why read a novel like Pigeon English when you can follow newspaper or television coverage of real-life gang violence?

 The winner, Rosy Roche, a first year English Literature student, was presented with a Kindle by Stephen Kelman recently. Our runners up were Rosa Tarling and Hannah Whelan.

With the endorsement of the University, Fiction Writer-in-Residence Dr Paula Morris, School of English, has also invited local schools to be part of the initiative, offering free books for schools, leading reading groups, providing teaching notes, an essay competition, as well as reserved seats for the recent Stephen Kelman event.

 Currently eight schools are involved in the initiative: Stocksbridge High, All Saints, Yewlands, Sir Thomas Wharton, Forge Valley, Brinsworth, Tapton, Meadowhead, Silverdale and Fir Vale.

 The school writing contest will be judged by Dr Paula Morris, as well as other colleagues in English, with individual prizes for the best essay and best short story, and a prize for the school with the best overall submissions.

We recently welcomed Stephen Kelman to the University. He took part in a free public event, which included a reading, interview, Q&A session and book signing. Stephen’s first novel, Pigeon English, shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, was inspired by the real-life stabbing of Damilola Taylor. The novel tells the story of 11-year-old Harrison Opoku, a recent immigrant from Ghana living on an inner-city estate. When a local boy is knifed to death and no witnesses come forward, Harrison begins his own murder investigation.

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