Saboteur Awards 2017 – The Results

It’s been another incredible year, with nearly 4,300 people voting in the second round in the hopes that their favourite indie literature would win. As always, the shortlist has had a huge amount variety, but as we saw at Abi Palmer’s special preview night, there is far more that unites them than divides them. They represent literature at its most activist, fierce, and tender, and I hope you will go forth and discover each and everyone one of them. Each category header is hyperlinked to the spotlight so that you can discover the shortlist for each in full.

Thank you

It’s also important to thank those who have made this year’s awards happen. Sophie and Jain at Vout-O-Reenees of course, for their generosity with the venue, Danielle Nearey at Sacred Gin for the prize donations, and Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day for sponsoring the Best Wildcard category.

Outside of sponsors, a special thanks to Anna Jamieson, Marianne Tatepo, and Tori Truslow for their help in organizing these awards. Abi Palmer deserves a medal also for organizing a wonderful preview of the awards, as well as performing ‘Nobel’ all night at the awards. Huge thanks to Lucy Ayrton for emceeing last night’s awards, and also to Heidi James, Kathy Pimlott, Karen Goodwin, Paul Davidson, and Rachel Buchanan for their support on the night and in the run up. Finally, a huge thank you to the supporters of Sabotage Reviews, without whose kind donations, these awards would not have happened – you can find their names here (and why not join the gang?)

The results

Without further delay, here are the results of the Saboteur Awards:

Best Wildcard  – this category is supported by Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day

Winner: Women Aloud NI
Runner up: I am not a silent poet

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • Border-crossing, trans-gendering, genre-busting, ego-eroding mass-participating revolution in women’s voicing in the making.
  • A women’s group who from a standing start have reached over 200 members in one year, going on to produce events in every county of Northern Ireland and forging precious links across the border when they are most needed.
  • Because they are amazing! They have brought together people from all parts of NI, including many writers who felt very isolated before, and created a vibrant community. They have given women writer’s a voice and platform in Northern Ireland – and further afield that simply wasn’t there before. And they have created community links across both communities, something that is often hard to do. I’ve seen posts in Gaelic and Ullans/Ulster Scots, and people reading everything using Google Translate if need be, and commenting. I’ve found a voice through it, and found support in submitting poetry and advice on how to do that. It’s just amazing – sorry to repeat myself, but coming from NI, to have done all of this in such a short time is brilliant and life affirming and should encourage other areas to do the same.

Best Anthology

Winner:Remembering Oluwale, ed. SJ Bradley (Valley Press)

Runner up: Half Moon: Poems about Pubs, ed. Peter A. White (OWF Press)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • This is an important anthology about social exclusion and racism, which has important resonances with today’s society. David’s story is one that needs to keep being told, especially with the recent rise in racism and jingoism.
  • A great city of the north really owning and owning up to its diverse and difficult histories. Art and articulacy. This *is* the best of modern Britain, in the face of Brexit and all other meanness and stupidity.
  • It is timely. Bridges gap between foreignness and native through recounting a real person’s story, deploying combination of poems, fiction and nonfiction. Societies are as welcoming as oft reminded to be; as we see today in Britain, it takes a short period for native feelings to rise.
  • Remembering Oluwale is a unique and powerful anthology that brings together voices new and more experienced, from around the world, expressing a collective will to hold power and authority to account. David’s story reminds us that issues of racial segregation and violence are still very much live and the range of writers and writings in this anthology demonstrates the bravery and importance of speaking up and keeping stories like David’s alive. A significant and relevant collection.

Best Spoken Word Performer

Winner: Dominic Berry

Runner up: Hollie McNish

 Why voters thought he deserved to win:

  • A hero of spoken word! An amazing performer for adults and children alike and hugely supportive of the whole poetry scene. Dominic truly deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest spoken word artists in the country.
  • Dominic is a real talent and puts his all into everything he does. His audience range is so eclectic and within all of his work there is something for everyone! I didn’t really care for poetry before meeting Dominic and from that point forward began attending various events. Manchester is full of a vast array of talented artists, and Dominic is one of the best I have encountered! This would definitely be well deserved!
  • Dominic is the most generous, hardest-working poet out there. He puts all his energy into his performances, and always risks something of himself, making his live performances unforgettably thrilling for the audience.

Best Reviewer

Winner: Freya McClements
Runner up: Jessica Traynor

Why voters thought she deserved to win:

  • Does great work for the Irish and Northern Irish literary community. Reviews both trad. published AND self-published books [rare].
  • Freya is a writer with a true journalist’s thirst for truth coupled with an innate sensibility for the creative process. Her reviews have credibility stamped all over them.
  • Freya’s writing is exceptional , engaging the reader in a most interesting and entertaining style. She is a gifted wordsmith and reviews with great truth and compassion .
  • Her reviews are the main reason I read more. Thanks Freya.

Best Poetry Pamphlet

Winner: Glass by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough (Paper Swans Press)
Runner up: Waves on a boring beach by Emma Hammond (zimZalla)

Why voters thought it deserved to win:

  • Very accessible poems as well as striking imagery – a poignant collection with which most readers could identify. The best and most consistently rivetting poetry pamphlet I read this year.
  • I couldn’t put this book down. I even burnt the children’s dinner! Such a page-turner!
  • Strong, moving poems based around the Fenlands, reflecting on relationships and beautifully written. Sennitt Clough writes with true elegance.
  • This is by far the most riveting, engaging and well-written pamphlet I’ve read in the past twelve months. The poet deserves to win for her craft.

Best Spoken Word Show

Winner: Fat Girls Don’t Dance by Maria Ferguson
Runner up: How To Starve An Artist by Rose Condo

Why voters thought she deserved to win:

  • This show is revolutionary: it completely changed the way I think about myself, writing, poetry and my past issues around food. Maria teaches us it’s okay to be funny in a changing climate where so much poetry is focused on politics. She is an inspirational writer.
  • One of the most disciplined pieces of theatre and writing I’ve ever seen. Nothing superfluous in here, so tight, so powerful. And the performance stunning too. A masterclass in economy and exploring humanity. I don’t feel that’s overstating it. At once a deeply personal and very universal show, as old as time and yet very very contemporary, and urgent.
  • Maria Ferguson showed an ability to place words in the best possible place, filling gaps with music, dance, and silence. It was unique, yet relatable, and despite being a harrowing personal story, there was also her infectious dry humour.

Best Novella

Winner: The Night Visitors by Jenn Ashworth & Richard Hirst (Dead Ink)

Runner up: Portrait of the Artist as a Viable Alternative to Death by Ross McCleary (Maudlin House)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • It’s really compellingly voiced, with an unpredictable, yet convincing plot, and a shocking – but brilliant! – ending. And the email-exchange is surprisingly effective as a form. It felt genuinely innovative as a ghost story.
  • Cleverly plotted, tensely written stuff. These authors deserve recognition and I’d like to buoy them into creating more like this
  • “The Night Visitors” is as intelligent and gripping as it is innovative in both style and structure. In short, a brilliantly written contribution to the current revival of the Novella.

Best Magazine

Winner: Into the Void

Runner up: Butcher’s Dog

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • Into the Void is a venue for stunning art, edgy fiction, and scrumptious poetry. The writing is clear, concise, and full of fresh imagery. I love reading the website and print issues.
  • These people care deeply about poetry and you feel you are really dealing with human beings. The process of submitting poetry can be daunting and make you feel anonymous but even their rejection letter is personal, encouraging and uplifting!
  • It is a beautiful magazine, both the work they publish and in how it is lovingly laid out. They have a spectacular feel for what is ‘right’ in literary magazines right now! Good luck!

Best Regular Spoken Word Night

Winner: Interrobang?! (Edinburgh)
Runner up: Evidently (Salford)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • A constantly entertaining evening of great variety playing to packed houses in Edinburgh venues. Well worth the journey.
  • Interrobang is not afraid to take risks, they put on an eclectic mix of the brilliant, the strange, and the unique. It’s a fun night with a charismatic pair of hosts.
  • I have been going to this night from the very beginning. It started out small with plenty of volunteers happy to showcase their work. The calibre of acts has just got better and better and the night is made by hosts Ricky and Beth, whose own work is a delight! As a regular at this night I would say Interrobang is not only brilliant at supporting Scottish artists but it’s actually helping to promote spoken word in Edinburgh. It’s definitely a winner for me!

Best Short Story Collection

Winner: Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen (MidnightSun Publishing)
Runner up: Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams (Influx)

Why voters thought it deserved to win:

  • Lucy’s work is nothing less than exceptional. Her words and content take my breath away. She is also a hard working full-time academic, single-mother of four, who somehow still finds the time to dream and write. This alone should be worthy of an award  
  • Lucy’s collection is a tremendous work of humanity at its best and worst, its strongest and most vulnerable. Every story is packed with beautiful, unexpected and original imagery – to the point of enabling the reader to perceive a fresh perspective on their own life predicaments. This is a rare achievement in recent times and must be recognised and commended in the wider arena.
  • Because this is one off the most exquisite short story collections ever published. It is funny, sad, tender, cheeky, insightful and so, so clever. Lucy Durneen may be a new star in the literature hall-of-fame but she is certainly there to stay.

Best Collaborative Work

Winner: WomenXBorders – Women Aloud 2017 & Irish Writers Centre
Runner up: 
Poetry on the Picket Line

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • This deserves to win because it shows the power of words and action to effect change. Women from both sides of the community joined forces to travel to Dublin on a train for events there and to speak on the train while travelling, which must be a novel idea in itself, but its the impact this cross border/cross community event has had on the women involved, creating deep friendships, offering support in what is often a lonely events that continues long after the event…
  • Dynamic. Inclusive. Daring. Wild and wonderful. We need this.
  • Collaborative work is essential on such a divided Island as Ireland. It promotes peace which is one of the greatest benefits of the creative arts.
  • Brought women together from all around the country – North and South to celebrate women and writer. The mass reading at the end of the event was incredibly powerful.

Most Innovative Publisher

Winner: Indigo Dreams Publishing
Runner up: 
Penned in the Margins

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • They should win because they totally 100% give their all to publishing poetry and they give complete support to their poets. They are generous and supportive and they listen to their poets and try to meet all their needs. They publish stunning books and that support is long lasting after the book is published. They also produce three fabulous poetry magazines, no publishers offer this many publishing opportunities to both known and unknown poets.
  • My vote is for IDP because they’re consistently good books, and Ronnie and Dawn are so endlessly supportive of their writers and readers alike.
  • Working with IDP is like becoming part of a great family. You’re welcomed, and worked with as a friend with everything worked at together. No them and us with these folk. Thanks IDP