Islington writers among the winners of 2021 awards

Collage of Sabrina Mahtani and Santanu  Bhattacharya.

Sabrina Mahtani and Santanu  Bhattacharya. - Credit: London Writers Awards 2021

Two Islington writers are among a cohort of 30 to be selected for awards which highlight underrepresented people. 

Santanu  Bhattacharya and Sabrina Mahtani have been selected for writer development agency Spread the Word's third London Writers Awards, which recognise people of colour and those who are working class, LGBTQIA+ or disabled.

All the 2021 winners, who were selected from 257 applications, will have access to a ten-month development programme which includes fortnightly critical feedback groups, nine masterclasses by industry professionals, and networking sessions with editors and agents. 

Spread the Word has set up an alumni network for the 58 previous recipients.

Sabrina, selected for her narrative non-fiction, is a British-Zambian lawyer who co-founded AdvocAid, an organisation in Sierra Leone which provides access to justice for women in detention.


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In her work, she has helped to free six women on death row, collected evidence of human rights abuses by a dictator in Gambia and contributed to overturning a ban on pregnant girls from attending school in Sierra Leone.

Santanu, selected for his literary fiction, grew up in India and has lived in eight cities across three countries.

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He is working on a novel which explores displacement and affiliation in our divisive times which was longlisted for the BPA First Novel Award 2020.

Angelique Tran Van Sang, one of the judges, said: "Spread the Word has been making real and concrete change in an industry that is often reluctant to see the structural inequality at its heart.

"The London Writers Awards is a forward-thinking, long-term initiative that offers not just encouragement and advice, but also support, championing, knowledge and insight to underrepresented and marginalised voices."

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and feedback from previous awardees, the 2021 programme will include workshops on mental health and self-care led by clinical psychologist Dr Su Yin Yap.

Writers most in need will have access to bursary and access support.

Rishi Dastidar, chair of Spread the Word's trustees, said: “I’m delighted that, once again, the London Writers Awards are able to showcase a new group of wonderfully talented writers from diverse backgrounds previously under-represented in traditional publishing.

"The programme remains unique in giving these individuals the chance to develop their skills so they are then ready to launch their professional writing careers. In both fiction and non-fiction genres, it’s a privilege to work with these writers so their stories can be told on the biggest possible stages."

READ MORE: Islington writer highly commended in national life writing competition

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