Booker Prize Foundation launches online celebration of the prize

News - Prizes Wednesday, 05 September 2018

Vintage Man Booker brings together 'a wealth of stories, images and video from the archive; as well as newly commissioned content' for prize's 50th birthday

The Booker Prize Foundation has today launched Vintage Man Booker, an online celebration of the Man Booker Prize's 50th anniversary. Hosted on the Man Booker Prize website, it charts key moments in the prize's 50-year history, bringing together a range of stories, images and video from the archive as well as newly commissioned content.

The British Library has released Behind the Scenes: The Man Booker at 50, a new film by National Life Stories. It draws on the many hundreds of hours of audio interviews held in the Author's Lives collection of the Library's Sound Archive, to tell a history of the prize. It reveals the resignation of Malcolm Muggeridge as a judge in 1971 because of the amount of sex in the books submitted (too much, not too little); the coin toss that led to David Storey winning the prize in 1976 as told by former administrator Martyn Goff; Elizabeth Jane Howard's successful attempt to include a novel by her husband, Kingsley Amis, in the 1974 shortlist as recollected by the late literary director Ion Trewin; and answerphone messages left for Graham Swift by Pat Barker and Salman Rushdie following his win in 1996.

Oxford Brookes University has created 50 years of the Booker Prize in 50 items, a web page hosting stories and digitised items from the official prize archive, which has resided at the university since 2003. It includes correspondence about the beginnings of the prize between publisher Tom Maschler and Charles Tyrell of Booker McConnell, the documented discussion about the prize's name, judge Dame Rebecca West's "painfully honest" judging notes and the resignation letter from judge Nicholas Mosley in 1991.

The university has also digitised all the papers from 1969, the first year of the prize, which can be accessed by the public for free.

The celebration also includes a Man Booker 50th anniversary song, written and performed by comedian and writer Adam Kay, which features all 51 winners' names in under a minute.

Gaby Wood, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: "It's wonderful to have so much of this material available to a wider public. The prize has had its famous — and entertainingly infamous — moments, but behind each one is a more textured story. The voices stored in The British Library and the wealth of documents at Oxford Brookes University allow the prize to be better known, in all its intrigue and complexity. A fact worth celebrating with a song, and much else."

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