Saboteur Awards – The Results!

After over a 4000 votes, these are our winner! Scroll down for a break-down of each category, including runner ups.

Saboteur Awards Winners 2016

Best Collaborative Work: Fool’s World – A Tarot by Tom de Freston and Helen Ivory

Best Anthology: Being Dad: Short Stories about Fatherhood (Tangent Books)

Best Spoken Word Performer: Emily Harrison

Best Poetry Pamphlet: Border Lines by Stuart A. Paterson (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

Best Wildcard: Alchemy by Abi Palmer

Best Magazine: Prole

Best Regular Spoken Word Night: Bad Language (Manchester)

Best Short Story Collection: Dinosaurs on other planets by Danielle Mclaughlin (Stinging Fly)

Best Reviewer: Bethany W Pope

Most Innovative Publisher: Burning Eye Books

Best Novella: The Lost Art of Sinking by Naomi Booth (Penned in the Margins)

Best Spoken Word Show: What I learned from Johnny Bevan by Luke Wright


Best Collaborative Work

A really exciting shortlist which included The Enemies Project, a worldwide collaborative project which one voter described as: ‘an unexpected, open-ended, thought-provoking theme, involving hundreds of poets and performers’. One voter praised Haunt Harrogate, a project about and for the homeless, for being ‘A brave collaboration which aims to celebrate voices that are rarely heard whilst creating innovative work of high artistic quality.’ Little Metropolis is a multimedia celebration of Stroud, one voter said they were ‘original, funny and paint such an original and accurate image of their town, Stroud, in our lifetime.’

The runner up in this category was And No Animal Is Without An Enemy by Megan Nolan with Linda Stupart, Penny Goring, Eoghan Ryan, Rachel Benson. One voter described it as ‘An event with really different artists performing through different media and yet a clear and robust thread ran through all the work, making the event cohesive and moving’

However, the winner was Fool’s World – A Tarot by Tom de Freston and Helen Ivory. Here are some of the reasons why voters wanted it to win:

Absolutely beautiful. An amazing work of visual and verbal art in a box. I love the way the different combinations of cards speak to each other.

Because it is a truly unique thing from two of the edgiest poets and artists out there.

This is an absolutly beautiful piece of work by both poet and artist. Presented as a set of cards the images are of the highest inventive quality and the poems hauntiing, quietly spoken, perfectly balanced.

An original and beautifully executed project – a genuine two way collaboration.


Best Anthology

Another cracking shortlist, which included the Open Pen Anthology, a testament to the magazine’s popularity. One person said they voted for it ‘because of the huge variety of stories in this anthology. Some hilarious, some thought-provoking, all very good.’ Schooldays,  an anthology that takes its readers back to their childhood was praised for being ‘a very evocative, well written and brilliantly put together anthology’. Meanwhile, Over the Line: an Introduction to Poetry Comics was championed for being ‘amazing display of talent for anyone who likes poetry, comics and/ or poetry comics!’

Alice – Ekphrasis at the British Library was the runner up for Best Anthology, one voter said that it ‘Made me think afresh and in multiple ways about a book I’d known forever – insightful, dark, surprising and moving’. You can watch a video of it here.

Ultimately the winner was Being Dad: Short Stories about FatherhoodHere’s why voters thought it deserved to win:

I felt quite beaten up by the conveyance of fatherhood – a light on my own melancholy but also a guiding force. I wanted more and still do. Superb.

Unusual to have fatherhood illustrated in such a fun and entertaining collection of stories!

There is so much discussion about motherhood, it’s lovely to see some exploration of fatherhood

Insightful, though-provoking yet humorous – a brilliant collection of parental reflection.


Best Spoken Word Performer

In list form here is one comment made by a voter about each of the shortlisted performers:

  • Sophia Walker‘Because she is absolutely the best.performer I’ve heard all year out of the many hundreds I listen to. Her incorporation of what she hears is both professional and stylistically excellent!’
  • Susan Evans: ‘Because she’s simply brilliant and takes the audience on a wild, fun, epic journey. Susan also seems to be everywhere sprinkling her poetic word, working hard and spreading a healthy layer of wry wit on the toast that is poetry performance.’
  • Jemima Foxtrot: ‘Understated, naturalistic performance that breaks you open and builds you again.’

The runner-up was Luke Wright, described by one voter as the ‘Jamie Oliver of the performance poetry- finely tuned sense of the English palate/sensibility’.

The winner was Emily Harrison, I’ll let the voters speak for themselves:

Emily is a fabulous performer. More importantly she is using her talent to help break down the stigma that still exists around mental ill health in our society. TUC disabled workers’ committee booked her for our inaugural conference social event last year; she was such a hit with the audience that we invited her back for our 2016 conference social last week. Juggling her writing and performing with qualifying as a teacher is an admirable task, not least because she (like me) lives with fluctuating hidden disability. I just wish there’d been someone like Em out there when I was a young woman!

Her poems are unbelievably emotive and get me under the skin every time, no matter how often I listen I either burst out laughing or crying. Her performance style is also deliciously understated, wry and mature for her young age, a true performer. Her poems are both hilarious and extremely important in spreading mental health awareness, a topic that still remains drastically misunderstood in our society. For all this I am extremely grateful and take my hat off to Emily.

Because she is simply the most inspirational performer, she has made such a difference in my life

Never seen her do a bad gig. Always has the audience begging for more and brings a wit and much needed levity to dark and personal topics.


Best Poetry Pamphlet

Codes of Conduct by Neil Elder, was described by one voter as ‘the most readable and enjoyable poetry I have read for ages. And one poem, Reckoning, in particular says it all. And the Henderson poems will be recognised by officer works everywhere.’ Julie Morrissy’s I Am Where ignited one voter to say ‘This is the best pamphlet I have read in the last 12 months, and one I have returned to again and again which doesn’t often happen.’ Meanwhile, Camille Ralphs’ Malkin prompted one voter to say: ‘Camille Ralph demonstrates the most innovative use of language with historic narrative – an electrifying reimagination of a persecuted type – the witch. Utterly original.’

The runner up was Tania Hershman’s Nothing here is wild, everything is openfor its ‘Expansiveness of ideas, lateral approach, unexpected, and beautiful images. This is truly authentic writing. A voice you can believe in’.

The winner was Border Lines by Stuart A. Paterson. Here’s what voters said:

for the passionate, engaged and lyrical work that speaks of places and our being and our sharing of those places. The work often opens doors to new thoughts, is always sincere and free of cliché.

Stuart’s poem’s are multi-layered nuggets of Galloway language, culture and place which many people might never have the chance to visit but can now in their head.

Now that’s what I call gravelly down the dirt poetry. Wonderful imagery, seen by the squint eye of a detailed poet.

Stuart is already an icon within the Scottish canon and deservedly so. His work is at once sensitive and bombastic and he is a master of not only his native Scots tongue but in English as well.

Cause S.P. Has been makin poetry relevant tae a wheen new fowk, bi gien artistic voice tae a widespread unease.


Best Wildcard

This new category truly lived up to its name. It included Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, who one voter described as ‘Something different : a Gaelic-speaking Yorkshireman! He deserves some recognition for all his hard work. Very talented’.  Sophia Walker’s COP21 performance, which ‘showed the human impact of Climate Change in a new and utterly engaging way’ earned her a place on this shortlist. Finally, Seymour Poets at BlueSCI prompted one voter to exclaim: ‘Just wonderful! Quirky, inclusive, authentic. Drawing in all those who would otherwise find themselves totally alienated by the ‘scene’. As someone who works in mental health I know that people who feel shoved out elsewhere can engage with this. Remarkable.’

The runner up was Deerhart, an art and poetry exhibition by Yvonne Reddick and Diana Zwibach, described by one voter as ‘Literally stunning impact. Like a freight train. Amazing’.

However the winner was Alchemy by Abi Palmer, a live installation, or a boxset to play at home. Here is what voters said:

Magically transformative. Bold. Ridiculous. Wonderful.

It is an experience like no other. Thought-provoking, moving and totally original.

Totally changed my view of words. Loved how different tactile experiences changed the interpretation. Box set was my best Christmas present ever!

‘Alchemy’ is a brave, intense, innovative, and immersive experience that grabs its audience with both hands and delves deep into their unsuspecting psyche, taking poetry back off the page and into their ears, eyes, and minds. It should be rewarded for not only trying something unnerving and bold, but for pulling it off.

She is definitely one to watch; a true wildcard.


Best Magazine

  • Bunbury magazine: ‘They let new writers have their work published and bring the best of the Fringe to viewers which the mainstream reviewers wouldn’t cover’
  • Funhouse: ‘Innovative, daring, goofy, refined; everything unexpected fits into this slim mag’s tincan with matching packaging.’
  • Reach Poetry: ‘it is challenging, always interesting, fresh and an invaluable source of good-quality writing and inspiration.’

Open pen was the runner up, one voter praised it for its ‘amazing range of fiction from writers at all stages, have really come far since inception and the most Beautiful presentation and design in a personally produced free mag’

However, Prole was the winner in the end, here is what voters had to say about it:

Prole ran a workshop in a Welsh castle that made me properly feel like a writer, and then they got me drunk

Prole is always full of interesting and well-written poetry and prose, has helpful editors, and really cares about its contributors as well as about the quality of the writing it publishes.

The editors of Prole consistently deliver poems that are both deep and accessible. And their sympathy with society’s underdogs gives voice to the voiceless.

Goes from strength to strength. Consistently readable and thought-provoking prose and poetry. It practices what it preaches too – sharing profits with contributors.

The work they publish is consistently engaging – the writing is always intelligent without being pretentious, serious without being humourless, and moving without being schmaltzy. It’s good in a deep, grown-up way – I always find something in there that stops me in my tracks, and that sticks with me for months afterwards.


Best Regular Spoken Word Night

  • Evidently ‘Well organised, well attended, an open mic night that really is open, and Kieren, Ella and Liv work tirelessly to make it the success it is. My favourite spoken word night, bar none.’
  • Liars’ League‘Consistently supportive of the short story form in a world lacking proper appreciation for same. Awesome evening of fun and erudition every month. They rock!’
  • Stanzas: An Evening of Words: ‘Freshness, abundant energy, innovative ideas, wonderful atmosphere, run by young things who generously open their arms to poets of all ages and styles.’

Loud Poets were the runner ups this year, one voter described their night this way: ‘Loud Poets are beyond amazing – they’ve taken spoken word and added so much fizz, vim and life to it that it almost becomes a whole new genre!

The winners, for a second year in a row, were Bad Language!  Here’s what voters had to say:

Bad Language is so welcoming and just a really fun night out, great spoken word, inclusive open mic, and even entertaining for spoken word ‘virgins’!

I’ve been attending spoken word events for many years and Bad Language stands head and shoulders above for lots of reasons. The quality it attracts and the warmth the evening carries comes from great respect for all involved. While the organisation is tangible the very entertaining and imaginative comperes free up the possibilities for a very fun and cerebral evening.

Because they are incredibly welcome, hosted by some of the most hilariously hilarious people I’ve ever been lucky enough to meet, and just feel like a proper community – a community that I feel part of despite not having the time to regularly attend and never having performed!

It’s a brilliant, friendly night, of consistent high quality, charmingly presented, with a real community around it. Gives writers a reason to write.

The most extraordinary night for combining prestigious acts with a warm and supportive forum for emerging talent. They’ve always been brilliant, but they’ve really branched out this year into a variety of events and spaces previously unexplored The other’s on the SL are fabulous, so I don’t say this lightly. How many nights draw in established talent whilst making new talent feel welcome and valued? Wonderful!


Best Short Story Collection

  • Between Here And Knitwear by Chrissie Gittins: ‘A marvellous combination of what’s familiar and what’s strange in a collection that traces and leaps beyond a woman’s coming-of-age.’
  • Children’s Children by Jan Carson: ‘a number of stories in this collection made me nostalgic for times / experience I was never part of, Carson’s sensory writing style delivers a really vivid narrative drawing you in. I have rarely experienced litterary journeys as these stories delivered.’
  • Treats by Lara Williams: ‘From disastrous parents’ evenings to deviant penguin fetishists, Williams locates the hideous pant-seat of the 2010s, and doesn’t stop kicking for a moment.’

The runner up was Spiderseed by David Hartley! Here’s what one voter said: ‘Dark, twisted, surreal, bleakly comic; and yet Hartley’s stories always hold tight to a kernel of truth about what it means to be human…’

The winner was Dinosaurs on other planets by Danielle Mclaughlin. Here’s what voters said:

This is meticulously edited work (she has said that every story is edited at least 50 times) and the layers of subtlety show an astute understanding of human nature. Clean, simple writing that cuts to the quick.

A fantastic complex but accessible short story collection that captures the intri

Dinosaurs! Seriously though interesting ideas, solid writing, very captivating.cate landscape of the human spirit.

The stories are just brilliant. Her writing is crisp and clear, and the stories – so carefully crafted – are laced with despair and disappointment that feels utterly real. An exciting writer.


Best Reviewer

  • Joey Connolly: ‘Joey’s reviews strike me as unusually honest, perceptive and intelligent. He always has something interesting and thought provoking to say’
  • Emma Lee: ‘Incisive, perceptive reviews that make you want to rush out at the earliest opportunity to buy that book’
  • Fiona Moore: ‘She knows her stuff more deeply than any of these others, yet never loses her warmth or perspective. Writes very well too.’

The runner up was last year’s winner, Dave Coates! Here’s what one voter had to say: ‘Dave is a critic of great integrity who works hard to support the work of poets under appreciated by mainstream literary critics, and so with a keen awareness of the political impulses that work both to marginalise such poets’ writing and to shape his position as a cishet white male poetry critic.’

The winner was Bethany W PopeHere’s why she won:

Reviewing widely and often, Bethany manages to be incisive and informative in all of her reviews.

Bethany’s reviews are excellently written, often vividly beautiful, and never bland. I respect the honesty of her opinions: even when I don’t agree with her verdict, it prompts me to check out the work under discussion.

Bethany thinks creatively and her points come from every angle, making her writing full of ideas and possibilities. Bethany’s writing and thoughts get you thinking. She rolls out a possibility and opens her readers up to ideas and supposition.

Bethany is ever-present, and never dull. Love her reviews.

Bethany Pope’s reviews are always thoughtful, insightful and crucially – they help me decide if I want to read the work she’s reviewed.


Most Innovative Publisher

One of the most fiercely fought categories, here what some voters had to say about the shortlist:

  • Eyewear Publishing: ‘Inventive publisher with its thumb firmly on the pulse of contemporary poetry’
  • Penned in the Margins: ‘superb mix of innovative poetry and fiction. Incredible design. Passion and intelligence and consistently high standards.’
  • The Emma Press: ‘Publishing consistently brilliant, innovative, beautifully-illustrated books, and executing their excellent vision with grace and good humour’

Indigo Dreams Publishing were the runner ups, here’s what one voter said: ‘Their development in recent years to a first class publisher, guiding and caring for their authors, is incredible.’ 

And the winners, in their 4th year of being shortlisted, were Burning Eye BooksHere’s what voters said:

They’re all great, but I like Burning Eye’s commitment to spoken word and their bravery in publishing a lot of stuff that’s not easy to categorise

Burning Eye consistently demonstrate a diverse and encompassing approach to publishing. The quality is not affected as a result.

It’s punk publishing: artistic control and putting it out there.

A fantastic outlet for Spoken word artists. Most of the best book I have bought in the last 12 months have been Burning Eye books.

Burning Eye’s innovation goes beyond gimmicky format – though great design is a big part of their success – and well into content. No-one else publishes spoken word to this extent, or with such commitment to unusual formats, diverse voices and genuinely engaging content. Clive Birnie’s drive and loyalty is unrivalled by any other press.


Best Novella

  • Preti Taneja, Kumkum Malhotra: ‘Preti Taneja is just superb. She is the only writer who can make her main character vanish from the plot and still keep you going. Seriously, she’s the one.’
  • Karen Little, Filled with Ghosts: ‘Karen Little is a unique and brittle wordsmith. “Filled with Ghosts” is survivor art.’
  • u.v ray, Black cradle: ‘u.v ray is one of my favourite authors! His writing leaves you feeling refreshed and dirty at the same time.’

The runner up was Harry Gallon’s The Shapes of Dogs’ EyesHere’s why one of the voters backed him: ‘TSODE IS a perfectly executed, brilliant Novella that was my gateway back into a world of books following an addiction to my Ipad. The story is gripping and engaging. I wish i had savoured it…’

The winner was Naomi Booth with The Lost Art of Sinking, read why so many people voted for it:

This novella is utterly beautiful. I loved that the story was written based on a theme and variation, rather than just going from A to Z. Despite the tragic undertones, this novella offered a surprising amount of humour.

Penned in the Margin gave us an author of future promise with a story that was captivating and enthralling.

Interesting and engaging language. Engrossing narrative and representation of characters.

Superb novella by a very talented author. She should be winning every award going!


Best Spoken Word Show

  • Cult Friction by Sophia Walker: ‘A show that was as fun and fast-paced as it was jam-packed with eye-opening knowledge.’
  • God Save the Teen by Andrew Graves AKA The Mulletproof Poet: ‘Explosive, mesmerising, thought-provoking and just downright brilliant.’
  • If You’re Happy And You Know It – Take This Survey by Agnes Török: ‘Agnes is immensely talented, articulate, funny, poignant, and is always on point. This show is definite proof of that.’

The runner up was Melody by Jemima Foxtrot, co-written and directed by Lucy Allan. Here’s why one voter backed it: ‘Melody was exquisite – it seamlessly blended spoken word, music, and storytelling. I loved every minute.’

However, the grand winner was What I learned from Johnny Bevan by Luke Wright. Here is what voters had to say:

This performed poem is a witty, gritty observation of class, growing up, friendship, politics and loss. I found it deeply reminiscent, talented and moving.

Great show. Powerful performance with expertly executed characters that forced you to give a damn

Luke is a natural story teller inhabiting the characters and personae he creates with a single movement sometimes as casual as an eyebrow twitch. I was riveted from start to finish during Johnny Bevan, believing every statement, every word to be a true rendition of real events. I know it isn’t but such was the force of nature that is Luke Wright, it all became real and I was experiencing the whole tale from within, not as a casual observer.

I saw this show in Bracknell last night and it blew me away. The language is rich and pulses, the characters so real and relatable and the performance utterly mesmerising. And the whole thing is in verse. I bought the book and was astounded that the whole play is in proper metered verse! Is anyone else doing that today? Amazing.

A fantastic political poetry monologue, Luke has arrived as a playwright with this engaging hour of cutting, humorous and touching play, or comedy, or is it a poem?!