News | Friday, 24th January 2020

Portico Prize winner announced

Jessica Andrews wins £10,000 prize for her book Saltwater

Jessica Andrews with her winning book, Saltwater
Jessica Andrews with her winning book, Saltwater

A book chronicling the self-discovery of a girl from Sunderland who heads to London has won the Portico Prize for Literature.

Jessica Andrews' book Saltwater won this year’s Portico Prize – the UK’s only award for outstanding literature that best evokes the spirit of the North.

She takes home the £10,000 prize for her debut novel. The announcement was made at an evening ceremony at the Portico Library in Manchester on Thursday (January 23).

Saltwater, published by Sceptre, is a story of self-discovery by a girl from Sunderland who heads to university in London, taking her northern roots with her.

Lucy's transition to a new life is more overwhelming than she ever expected. As she works long shifts to make ends meet and navigates chaotic parties from East London warehouses to South Kensington mansions, she still feels like an outsider among her fellow students.

When things come to a head at her graduation, she takes off for Ireland, to seek solace in her late grandfather's cottage and the wild landscape that surrounds it, wondering if she can piece together who she really is.

Saltwater is an exploration of the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the challenges of shifting class identity. The Sunday Times described it as ‘raw, intimate and authentic’. Like her protagonist, Jessica grew up in Sunderland.

Commenting on behalf of the jury, Simon Savidge, chair of judges, said: “Saltwater shows the ‘spirit of the North’ is diverse and multifaceted. The North is not just around us, or a particular location to visit – but a place within us. It’s something we take with us when we set out to find our space in the world and when we spread Northern stoicism, joy, grit, humour and hope wherever we go. Saltwater celebrates all this in a powerful, provocative and poignant tale.”

Lynne Allan, chair of The Portico Library, added: “The Portico Prize aims to shine a spotlight on the very best writing about the North and the voices that deserve to be heard. We are more than proud to award this year’s prize to Jessica Andrews whose remarkable debut is full of optimism. It is a tender tribute to women across generations, and an important exploration of women’s lives today.”

Dr Jess Edwards, Head of English at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Manchester Metropolitan’s Centre for Place Writing has been delighted to work in partnership with the Portico on this year’s prize, helping to promote and celebrate the diversity of new writing exploring Northern lives and landscapes. Manchester’s recently awarded City of Literature status, which we worked with partners in the city to achieve, recognises the richness not just of literary heritage in Northern cities such as ours, but of contemporary writing, publishing and performance. Many congratulations to Jessica.”

Journalist and broadcaster Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads was joined on the judging panel by Holliday Grainger, stage and screen actor; Kate Fox, stand-up poet; and Zahid Hussain, author of The Curry Mile.

Other titles shortlisted for the Portico Prize are Ironopolis by Glen James Brown (Parthian); The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney (Picador); Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place by Benjamin Myers (Elliott and Thompson); The Mating Habit of Stags by Ray Robinson (Lightning Books) and Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe (Fleet). Each of the shortlisted authors will be gifted with honorary membership of The Portico Library in 2020.

The Portico Prize was established in 1985 by The Portico Library in Manchester to celebrate the strong regional and literary identity of the North with the aim of raising awareness of its historical, cultural and literary heritage.

This year it announced a new partnership with the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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