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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)

National Short Story Award 2020

The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story. The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) is a proud partner with the charity First Story, since 2018. Previous alumni include Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jon McGregor and William Trevor. These awards highlight the BBC’s commitment to the short story form and to bringing it to a wider audience.  

This year's judging panel was chaired by journalist and author Jonathan Freedland and included Commonwealth Prize winner Lucy Caldwell, who was shortlisted for both the 2012 and 2019 BBC NSSA; British-Nigerian writer Irenosen Okojie, a Betty Trask and Caine Prize winner; Edge Hill Prize shortlistee and Guardian short story columnist Chris Power; and returning judge Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Audio.

Four-time nominated Sarah Hall won the fifteenth BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) for the second time with ‘The Grotesques’, a ‘timeless and unsettling story’ set against a backdrop of privilege and inequality in a university town. The first double win in the Award’s history, the news was announced live on BBC Front Row on Tuesday 6 October.

“Sarah Hall’s unsettling short story takes a good, hard look at power structures and inequalities – not just in the fascinating mother/daughter relationship at the heart of ‘The Grotesques’ – but in the wider associations between the homeless and the entitled in an ancient university city. As a second-time winner, Sarah Hall proves, again, how adept she is at introducing us to fascinating new characters and the strange worlds they inhabit.”

Dr Midge Gillies, Academic Director, Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education