Essay reflecting on Italian heritage wins new literary prize

Scotland’s newest literary award, the Anne Brown Essay Prize, has been won by journalist and documentary maker Dani Garavelli.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 1:19 pm
Dani Garavelli is the first winner of the Anne Brown Essay Prize

Her essay, The Bequest, is a moving and honest reflection on family, belonging and her cultural heritage as an Italian Scot.

Dani was one of eight finalists, with the winner being announced during a special event at the Wigtown Book Festival.

She was presented with the £1,500 prize and a trophy (designed by artist Astrid Jaekel) by Anne Brown’s daughter Jo Lawrence.

The event was introduced by Anne’s son Richard Brown, a film and TV director whose credits include True Detective, Catch-22, Outlaw King and 44 Inch Chest.

Richard said: “My mother was a tireless champion of this festival. She was never happier than when she was here and the festival was in full flow.

“At the time of her passing we thought, as a family, that the creation of this prize would be an excellent way to commemorate Anne and support the festival in a way that reflected her many interests in literature, her curiosity about people and love of Scotland – she really loved Scotland.”

The judges praised The Bequest as: “An account of family, belonging and what ties us together as humans that is emotionally astute, brilliantly observed and moves flawlessly between the particular and the general.”

Dani is an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in features, columns and reportage, and has work published in Scottish and UK titles including Scotland on Sunday, The Guardian, LRB, The New Statesman and The Big Issue. She has also made Radio 4 documentaries.

Dani said: “It’s just an absolute thrill to win this prize. It was it was so exciting just to see my name alongside other people whose work I love and respect and to be among them. And then to win was so unexpected.”

She welcomed the creation of the prize as providing a much needed new forum in Scotland for long reads and went on to pay tribute to Anne’s journalism – which she described as “inspirational” and “forensic”.

The judges also gave a special commendation to Jemma Neville for her essay Away with Birds, a heartbreaking account of losing a newborn baby during the pandemic.