Rory Stewart has been awarded the prestigious Hunter Davies Lakeland Book of the Year 2017 for his book ‘The Marches’ which gives a vivid account of the 30-day trek undertaken by the Penrith and The Border MP along the border between England and Scotland. It also won the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition.
‘The Marches’ was deemed by judges Hunter Davies, Fiona Armstrong, and Eric Robson to be one of the finest portraits of Cumbrian landscape and identity. Previous winners of the Lakeland Book of the Year Award include Alfred Wainwright, Cate Haste and James Rebanks.
Rory Stewart said: “This is a huge honour. To win the Lakeland Book of The Year Award is incredibly humbling, particularly when I have such respect for both the judges, and for the local readership who have chosen this book.
“I felt great anxiety taking on the Lake District; every stream has been written about so carefully, described so beautifully, and perfectly clarified in three hundred years of the best of English writing, which I cannot hope to emulate. It was therefore a difficult book to write. But it was also the one of which I am most proud.
“The only test I set a book is whether people who live in that landscape will recognise the truth, or the half-truths – or at least my best attempt at a truthful description – of the landscape in which they live. And that is why I genuinely cannot think of a greater honour than to receive the Lakeland Book of the Year Award, for which I am deeply grateful.”
The judges said their decisions this year were made "especially difficult" by the number of well-known and accomplished authors among the entries, including poet Helen Farish, Marie-Elsa Bragg, daughter of Lord Bragg, and Hunter's late wife, Margaret Forster. Despite being one of Cumbria’s foremost and acclaimed writers, her close relationship to Hunter meant she had never entered a book into the awards. However, on this occasion, her final novel, How to Measure a Cow, was entered by her publishers and declared winner of the Bookends prize for art and literature by Hunter’s fellow judges. It is a fitting way to remember her wonderful contribution to the literary world over so many years, and, especially, her unique ability to raise the profile of Cumbria through her craft.
James Cropper’s sponsorship of the awards is particularly appropriate, as virtually all hard-backed books published in the UK are bound using paper produced by the James Cropper mill in Cumbria.
The awards aim to encourage and celebrate writing and publishing in Cumbria, and enhance the longstanding literary heritage of the County. Whilst the awards enrich the cultural profile of Cumbria, they have also raised thousands of pounds in funding for worthy charities with Cumbrian connections.
Article Photograph: Rory Stewart MP
Cover Photograph: (L-R)
Richard Lewis - Bill Rollinson Trust
Fiona Armstrong - Judge, Broadcaster and Author
Hunter Davies - Chief Judge
Catherine Anderson - PA to Rory Stewart MP, who couldn't attend
Eric Robson - Chair of Cumbria Tourism
Mark Cropper - Chairman of James Cropper plc