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Ian Bell New Writing Awards

This is the third year of a writing award in honour of the radical journalist Ian Bell.  Aspiring young writers in Scotland are today invited to enter an award competition in memory of the radical journalist and author Ian Bell, who died at the age of 59 in December 2015.

The National Union of Journalists Edinburgh Branch, of which Bell was a longstanding member, set up the successful award together with his family in 2017. For the third year of the competition, we are delighted to announce that Ian’s son Sean Bell, a writer and journalist on the Scottish-based news website CommonSpace, will be one of the judges. He is joined by Libby Brooks, The Guardian’s Scotland correspondent and co-chair of Women in Journalism Scotland; and Rob Edwards, chair and production manager of the award-winning investigative journalism co-operative, The Ferret.

Sean Bell said: “It has been enormously gratifying to see how the Ian Bell New Writing Awards have been able to offer a distinctive and valuable opportunity to Scotland’s emerging journalists over the past few years. I’m very pleased sit on the award’s judging panel for the first time, particularly alongside Rob Edwards and Libby Brooks, two of Scottish media’s most respected professionals. I hope we can anticipate more entries than ever.”

Rob Edwards commented: “Ian Bell was one of the finest journalists of his generation, always challenging, insightful and entertaining. It’s an honour to judge this award in his memory.”

The competition is aimed at young writers who have yet to break into professional journalism. Entries should be in the critical spirit of Ian Bell and written in a style – lively, taut, provocative but thoughtful – suitable for online and newspaper publication.

Entrants should be aged 30 or under at 30 November 2019, and be living, working or studying in Scotland. Submissions should not have been previously published in any medium. Each entrant may submit up to two entries, each of between 1,500 and 2,000 words, which should be submitted by email, together with the contestant’s name, date of birth and place of work/study (if any), to [email protected] by midnight on 30 November 2019.


The winner and runners-up will be announced in early February 2020, and we expect to publish their entries in a major Scottish media outlet. A prize of £500 will be awarded to the winner, and £100 to each of the runners-up.

For further information please contact Hilary Horrocks, NUJ, at the above email address.

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  1. Jo says:

    Sean should know his dad is still missed deeply. I still remember how shocking it was to learn of Ian’s death that morning.

    A huge loss to journalism and, as for the Herald, well, the less said the better.

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