It is an honour to be able to host the first Christopher Al-Aswad Prize for outstanding contribution to breaking down barriers in literature and the arts, held in honour of the brilliant young man who built Escape Into Life. When I first conceived of the prize, I was fairly sure that Chris would be its first recipient. Tragically, circumstances overtook things, and instead it will serve as a small part of what I am sure will be a huge, and lasting, memorial to a remarkable man and his beautiful vision. I hope that this will be the first of many years for the award, and that it will benefit both the recipient, those for whom the recipient works tirelessly, and those whose generosity constitutes the substance of the prize.
It is usually the job of prize winners to say thank you, but in this case it would be more appropriate if the thanks came from me. First, and above all, to Christopher’s family for their kind permission to hold this prize in his name. Second, to those who work tirelessly to ensure that Escape Into Life continues to be the remarkable community that Chris built. Third, to the wonderful, generous people who have offered time and resources to support the work of the winner. I hope their number will grow over the year, to the benefit of all concerned.
Finally, thanks to everyone who does such incredible work to break down barriers in the arts. I’ve come across the most inspirational people and projects in the past months. I hope that I have formed relationships that will last for years to come. There was only space here for a few of the thousands worthy of recognition. In coming years there will be space for more. Please take the time to get to know everyone who made the longlist and the shortlist.
So, without, as they say, further ado, it’s my great pleasure to announce the first winner:
Johanna Harness, for her #amwriting community