This year’s shortlist for the Orwell Prize for Books features an alumnus of Goldsmiths, University of London.
Dan Taylor, who completed a BA in History & History of Ideas in 2008 and a Cultural Studies MA in 2011, has been recognised for his book ‘Island Story: Journeys Around Unfamiliar Britain’.
Described as ‘a poetic mixture of travelogue, class polemic, fable and myth’, Island Story chronicles Taylor’s cycle across the UK in an attempt to capture a sense of modern day Britain.
In between long stints in the saddle, Taylor - who is also an Associate Lecturer in History at Goldsmiths - stops in pubs, cafes and hostels to speak with strangers about life in their town.
The trip was taken in the final years of the Coalition government, with the UK preparing for the Scottish Independence referendum while then-Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the possibility of asking the public to vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Taylor is one of six nominees in contention for the £3000 prize. The winner will be announced at a University College London ceremony on 15 June.
He said: “It’s a real honour to have been nominated for the Orwell Prize for Books, and I’m delighted to have been recognised this way. The book was inspired by a number of things, particularly a wariness of being stuck in a London echo chamber and wanting to learn more about what life was like throughout the rest of the country.
“The specific idea of writing a political travelogue came after giving a paper at a politics conference in which audience members nearly came to blows over esoteric, theoretical disputes. I spent the second day of the conference in the Goldsmiths library reading Orwell’s ‘Road to Wigan Pier’. It was from that that the desire to go out and observe what’s going on materialised.”
The judging panel was made up of Jonathan Derbyshire, Bonnie Greer, Mark Lawson and Erica Wagner.