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Adam Farrer wins NorthBound Book Award

Memoir Cold Fish Soup awarded prize as part of 2021 Northern Writers’ Awards


Manchester-based writer Adam Farrer has won the third annual NorthBound Book Award as part of the 2021 Northern Writers’Awards for his non-fiction debut, Cold Fish Soup. The prize was announced on New Writing North’s social media channels on Friday, July 9.


The NorthBound Book Award, supported by the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York and New Writing North, was created in 2019 to celebrate the richness of writing from the North of England and the innovative spirit of independent publishing. It is judged by representatives of the partner organisations with guest judges each year. Adam wins £5000 plus publication with independent publisher Saraband.


Cold Fish Soup is a memoir of linked pieces reflecting upon aspects of life in the author’s former hometown, the Yorkshire coastal resort town of Withernsea. Often darkly humorous, they explore themes including economic decline, severe coastal erosion and mental health crises, alongside evocative descriptions of the surrounding countryside and wildlife – as well as his mother and sister’s brief Burlesque appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. In a collection described by one reader as ‘“a Yorkshire David Sedaris writing The Outrun”, the book asks, what does it mean to love and be shaped by a place that is dying?


Adam Farrer said: “During the writing of my manuscript, I lost count of the times when I wondered why I was doing it. There I was, an up-and-coming writer, working away on these stories about my family and my experiences in an area of the East Yorkshire coast that few people seemed to know or care about. But the motivating force that pushed me past this always came from my belief that the people and the place I was focusing on were valid and deserved to be written about. Winning the NorthBound Book Award, and getting to work with a renowned publisher like Saraband, has given me the confidence to believe that these stories, and my voice, deserve to be heard.”


Saraband publisher Sara Hunt says, “Adam has pulled off a rare combination of confronting grave, even taboo subjects with clarity and sensitivity alongside glimpses of pure humour in his descriptions of an undeniably quirky town, community and family. Cold Fish Soup is unforgettable, providing real insight into male mental health and an affectionate account of a downtrodden seaside resort. It’s an outstanding read and a worthy winner.”


Dr JT Welsch from the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York commented: “The Department is thrilled to be sponsoring and involved with the NorthBound Book Award. New Writing North and Saraband Books are major features of the North’s literary landscape: the support they provide for writers and writing is invaluable. The NorthBound Book Award is an important intervention into the UK’s wider book culture and the careers of its winners. We’re particularly delighted to build on our partnerships with New Writing North and Saraband in a year with this extraordinary prize winner. Adam Farrer’s manuscript brings extraordinary care, humour, and honesty to places and lives that are often overlooked.”

Judge Polly Atkin, a Cumbria-based nonfiction writer, poet and academic who received a Northern Writers Award in a previous round, says: “Cold Fish Soup is so wide-ranging and thought-provoking, covering masculinity, mental health, sense of belonging, carving out a creative life in a geographically marginalised place, and burlesque, amongst other things. It drew me in, and kept me hooked, and made me both cry and laugh heartily and fully. It is a love letter to Withernsea and all the people in it, its crumbling cliffs, its strange beauties and its losses, that made me love Withernsea too.”


Will Mackie, Senior Programme Manager at New Writing North, said: "The NorthBound Book Award would not be possible without the commitment, imagination and support of our partners at the University of York and Saraband – it’s an absolute pleasure to work with them to create and deliver this transformative opportunity. Adam Farrer’s beautifully written collection of linked personal essays about his hometown of Withernsea is insightful, challenging, moving and entertaining – everything that we hoped for from the third winner of the NorthBound Book Award. It’s a book that I can’t wait to see published by Saraband so that other readers can share the unforgettable reading experience that I’ve been fortunate to have."


About Adam Farrer

Adam Farrer is a creative nonfiction writer and spoken word performer based in Manchester. He is the editor of The Real Story, an Arts Council England-funded online nonfiction publisher and spoken word event series, working to nurture creative non-fiction talent in the UK. In 2019 he became the inaugural writer-in-residence for Peel Park, Salford. He has performed his work at a number of arts and literature festivals and has run workshops on creative non-fiction writing and spoken word skills for a number of festivals and conferences, and the University of Salford, where he also works as a support technician. Cold Fish Soup is his first book.


More information can be found about the Northern Writers Awards, including a full list of winners, on the website Home - Northern Writers Awards

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