In our Northern Ireland Writers Day 2 evening panel discussion, in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), we celebrated some of the finest Northern Irish writers working across form and genre today. Led by RSL Fellow Lucy Caldwell, sci-fi novelist Ian McDonald, Irish language children’s writer Máire Zepf, performance poet Abby Oliveira, and crime writer Steve Cavanagh discussed their work, routes into writing and the Northern Irish literary scene.
“The second-person narrator, when done badly, is the form of narrator that irritates me the most”: Lucy Caldwell on how to use “you” in fiction
Lucy talks to Tom Suthcliffe on Front Row about her short story “All the People were Mean and Bad”, winner of the BBC Short Story Prize. You can hear the full story in a recording here.
Two sisters, four nights, one city.
April, 1941. Belfast has escaped the worst of the war – so far. Over the next two months, it’s going to be destroyed from above, so that people will say, in horror, My God, Belfast is finished.
Many won’t make it through, and no one who does will remain unchanged.
Following the lives of sisters Emma and Audrey – one engaged to be married, the other in a secret relationship with another woman – as they try to survive the horrors of the four nights of bombing which were the Belfast Blitz, These Days is a timeless and heart-breaking novel about living under duress, about family, and about how we try to stay true to ourselves.
These days will be published by Faber & Faber in March 2022
Praise for “These Days”
Adroit, precise storytelling, atmospheric and satisfying; These Days is a novel of real substance.
— Hilary Mantel
Caldwell’s luminous novel presents a city under siege and a family in anguish. Her sense of life during wartime and her psychological portraiture cannot be faulted; the cumulative force of personal and public crisis will not be forgotten. This is storytelling of a vertiginously high order.
— Anthony Quinn
A captivating novel exploring a lesser known chapter of Northern Ireland’s story. Caldwell has managed to capture the spirit and tenacity of the Belfast I know and love. This is a novel which looks suffering straight in the eye and yet will leave you full of hope.
— Jan Carson
Beautiful, lyrical, and deeply moving, These Days is a wonderful novel.
— Louise O’Neill
These Days is a deeply moving story of family, loss, sisterhood and how you can find yourself, even in the darkest of times. A truly gorgeous piece of storytelling, I could see and feel every word. Another absolute triumph for Lucy Caldwell.
— Fíona Scarlett
Doreen Bates is a truly remarkable woman: ahead of and unvanquished by her time.
Born in Plymouth in 1906, she was posted to Belfast as a Tax Inspector in 1941, where she survived the Belfast Blitz, documenting it meticulously for the Mass Observation project, as “Diarist 5245”, and in her own private journals.
A selection of Doreen’s diaries were published by Viking in 2016 as Diary of a Wartime Affair, and deserve to take their place as one of the essential chronicles of the twentieth century. Brimming with soul, passion, candour and wit, they are an extraordinary read, giving a vivid insight into the life of a woman unvanquished by her time. Edited in an act of great love and generosity by her children, they detail the minutiae of her daily life in the 1930s and 40s, in love with her married boss.
In this event, Lucy Caldwell will be in conversation with Dr Margaret Esiri, daughter and editor of Doreen Bates. Lucy will talk of encountering Doreen Bates in the course of her research into the Belfast Blitz, and of writing her as a character into the forthcoming novel, and Margaret will talk of her memories of her mother, of how her mother’s unconventional life shaped her own, and about editing the diaries. Lucy and Margaret will present extracts from the diaries, including exclusive, unpublished extracts from Doreen’s struggles as a single mother to twins during the wartime years, and discuss the extent to which the societal pressures and issues Doreen faced are still relevant to women today, for both Margaret’s generation and Lucy’s, in the balancing act of working motherhood.
Listen to “All the People Were Mean and Bad” by Lucy Caldwell. Read by Laura Pyper.
For the third year in a row, Lucy Caldwell has been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2021
Listen to “All the People Were Mean and Bad” by Lucy Caldwell Read by Laura Pyper.
New voices dominate the 2021 BBC NSSA shortlist as three-time nominee Lucy Caldwell is joined by Dublin-born novelist, playwright and screenwriter Rory Gleeson; Orange Prize shortlisted writer Georgina Harding; former postal worker and Creative Writing lecturer Danny Rhodes and journalist, novelist and Mastermind Finalist Richard Smyth.
The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (BBC NSSA) shortlist was announced this evening, Friday 10 September 2021, during BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. Celebrating 16 years of the Award, the shortlisted writers have been influenced by a year of lockdowns with a focus on kindness, memory, loss and longing. The judges praised the shortlist for its humanity, compassion and hope with the stories inspired by teenage empathy, time passing and journeys triggered by ‘in-between spaces’ like planes and trains, folklore, loneliness, and the ‘Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature’.
The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University 2021 shortlist is:
- ‘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
The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The 2020 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Sarah Hall who won for ‘The Grotesques’. The 2021 winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on 19th October 2021.
All five stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds and published in an anthology produced by Comma Press. The readers of this year’s stories include Harry Potter and Merlin actress Siân Thomas, who reads ‘Night Train’; Northern Irish actress, Laura Pyper reading ‘All the People Were Mean and Bad’; Irish actor and screenwriter, Emmet Kirwan reading ‘The Body Audit’ and Krypton actor, Blake Ritson, reading ‘Maykopsky District, Adyghe Oblast’. TV actor, Shaun Dooley, whose credits include It’s a Sin, Innocent and Coronation Street completes the line-up reading ‘Toadstone’.