Famous screenwriter and co-creator of The League of Gentlemen Jeremy Dyson has been named the winner of the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize 2010.

He received the first prize of £5,000 at a special awards ceremony last night (8th July) at Blackwell’s bookstore in Charing Cross, London for his collection of macabre short stories, The Cranes that Build the Cranes. Brimming with black humour and the promise of something sinister just around the corner, the collection explores the dark depths of the human condition, offering tales of death, disaster and – just occasionally – redemption, which captured the imagination of the judges.

Upon receiving the accolade, Jeremy said: “I’m delighted to win the Edge Hill prize. Writing can be a lonely business and you can feel very sensitive towards your work so it is a boost to know that people enjoy reading it.”

Jeremy, who has been writing short stories for nearly 20 years, started as a child through his love of ghost stories and despite writing for TV, theatre and novels, he still finds this the easiest and most enjoyable genre of writing.

“There is such a purity in it, almost like a bedtime story and fairytale-like. I come up with my ideas at the oddest times, so if I think of something I’ll jot it down on a piece of paper and then store all the ideas until I’m ready to write a collection. A lot of the time a story will develop from two colliding ideas. For example, my idea for Bound South came from an image I had about an Edwardian carriage with a fire in it, quite odd but cosy. It’s such a pleasure to make up this type of story as you go along because you can really surprise yourself along the way and the reader too.”

Encouraging others to take up short story writing he said: “It is a vocation and a passion and if you have it in your heart then write short stories and make sure you get them out there, enter competitions, send to magazines and make sure people read them.

“I’d just like to thank Edge Hill for running this award, it is hugely important and highlights that the short story is publishable and it is popular. It is the oldest form of writing and I hope that people recognise and celebrate this.”

Born in Leeds, Dyson went to Leeds Grammar School before studying philosophy at Leeds University and later an MA in screenwriting at the Northern School of Film and Television. He is best known as the co-founder of the multiple award-winning TV series, The League of Gentlemen. Due to his self-confessed lack of acting skills and a rather camera-shy nature, he does not appear in the series or any of its offshoots, apart from very brief cameos. He also co-wrote and co-created the highly acclaimed comedy drama series Funland with Simon Ashdown which was nominated for a BAFTA. He is also co-author of Ghost Stories, currently playing to packed houses in the West End.

Jeremy has pursued a successful solo career as a writer. The Cranes that Build the Cranes is his third work of fiction, following a previous collection of short stories Never Trust a Rabbit (2000) which was nominated for the Macmillan Silver Pen award, and an equally acclaimed novel What Happens Now (2006) which was nominated for the Goss First Novel award.

Winner of the 2010 Edge Hill University Short Story Prize, Jeremy Dyson reads from his winning entry, The Cranes that Build the Cranes. 

This year’s £1,000 Readers’ Prize went to Robert Shearman. For the first time ever, this was judged by groups of A-level English students from the North West. It is the first time that the University have invited students to judge this category in a bid to engage young people in literature.

Upon receiving the accolade, Rob said: “The short story is very non-commercialised. When you are nominated for a prize like this it is fantastic because you always hope that people will read your work and it is evidence that people not only read it but like it. To win the Readers’ Prize means so much to me because it raises the profile of what the short story is all about – it is readable and fun and builds a complete world. Knowing that my collection appealed to the younger generation is also thrilling because they are the writers of our tomorrow.”

The shortlist included newcomer and critically acclaimed novelist Jane Feaver with Love Me Tender (Random House); Costa prize-winner turned comedian A.L. Kennedy with What Becomes (Jonathan Cape); Irish fiction writer and poet Nuala Ní Chonchúir with Nude (Salt Publishing); and Robert Shearman with Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical (Big Finish), who is best-known as a writer for Doctor Who.

Judge Chris Beckett, winner of the 2009 Edge Hill Short Story Prize said: “Jeremy’s was the most varied collection, the different moods were both dark and gentle yet all enjoyable and made you want to go on reading.”

Judge Katharine Fry, Trade Buying Manager at Blackwell added: “The shortlist of collections was of an incredibly high standard and ticked all the boxes of our criteria. Regarding the new MA Creative Writing category it was great to see new and upcoming literary talent and I look forward to seeing how their careers progress.”

To help celebrate the University’s 125th anniversary, a new category was also introduced to acknowledge one of the rising talents on the institution’s MA Creative Writing course. The winner was Carys Bray for her story Just in Case. Carys receives £500 and a commemorative copy of her winning story, printed by the prize’s co-sponsor, Blackwell’s.

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