Dying Matters writing competition judges announced

19 March 2012
Playwright Nell Dunn FRSL, academic and poet Yasmin Gunaratnam, publisher Roger Kirkpatrick and author Diana Melly, the widow of the legendary Jazz musician George Melly, will judge Final Chapters, a new groundbreaking creative writing competition about dying, being run by the Dying Matters Coalition.

The competition, which runs until 31 March 2012, is part of the Dying Matters Coalition’s work to raise public awareness about the importance of more openly discussing dying, death and bereavement. The judges will be looking for original writing of up to 2,500 words of prose or 40 lines of poetry in English, in which the experience of dying, death or bereavement has been crafted into a work that excites and retains the reader’s interest. The competition is free to enter, with winners due to be announced at a high profile event, supported by BT, to be held in Central London during Dying Matters Awareness Week which runs from 14-20 May 2012. More information including full terms and conditions can be found at www.dyingmatters.org/finalchapters.

Since it was set up in 2009, the Dying Matters Coalition has played a key role in encouraging people to discuss dying, death and bereavement more openly so that they can talk about the type of end of life care that they would want and have their end of life wishes met. Research for Dying Matters has shown that although most of us would like to die at home or in some other community setting, the majority of us die in hospital, often because our wishes have not been known about.

Roger Kirkpatrick, the Chair of the judging panel and whose idea the competition was, said:

“I am delighted that the Dying Matters Coalition enthusiastically agreed to host the Final Chapters writing competition, which has already attracted a wide range of stories and poems about the anxieties, grief, anger, acceptance and regrets generated by the end of life. Many are strikingly original and some - not being professionally polished for effect - are particularly affecting. Several contributors have remarked on the comfort of writing. We look forward to receiving many more reflections on experiences that are poignantly part of living, and trust that the competition will also lead to people talking to those close to them about their end of life wishes.”

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition, said: “Being more open about dying, death and bereavement is essential if people are to get the end of life care they want, where and when they need it. At the Dying Matters Coalition we are really excited about the Final Chapters creative writing competition and want to see as many people as possible enter and write about an issue that affects all of us.”

Caroline Waters, Director of People and Policy for the BT Group, said:  “At BT we’re absolutely delighted to be supporting the first ever Dying Matters creative writing competition and to be hosting the awards ceremony during Dying Matters Awareness Week 2012. All of us can benefit by communicating more openly about dying, death and bereavement, which is why the Final Chapters writing competition is such a great idea and why BT became a member of the Dying Matters Coalition last year. There are few certainties in life but dying is one of them, and unless we are more open about end of life issues we will never be able to provide the support needed to those who are ill, to their carers and family members and to those who have been bereaved.”

Judges’ biographies

Nell Dunn’s plays include Home Death, Cancer Tales, Sisters, The Little Heroine, Steaming and I Want. Television includes Every Breath You Take (1985) and Up the Junction (1963), directed by Ken Loach. Film includes Poor Cow (1966), directed by Ken Loach; and Steaming (1985), directed by Joseph Losey, with Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles and Diana Dors. Books include My Silver Shoes, Grandmothers Talking to Nell Dunn, I Want (with Adrian Henri), Poor Cow and Up the Junction (winner of the 1964 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize).

Yasmin Gunaratnam, a senior lecturer in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths College (University of London), has been carrying out research on palliative and end-of-life care for more than 15 years. The research grew out of her experiences as a carer for her mother and father. Yasmin has a particular interest in qualitative research methods and is author of 'Researching 'race' and ethnicity: methods, knowledge and power' (2003) and has jointly edited a book with David Oliviere on ‘Narrative and stories: in health care illness, dying and bereavement’ (2009). Yasmin is currently working on a book based upon her research on transnational dying (to be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2013). She is a published poet.

Roger Kirkpatrick is a social campaigner with a distinguished publishing career. He has been enterprise manager at Shaw Trust, the largest national charity helping disadvantaged people into employment; managing director of Berlitz Publishing; marketing director of the Random House group and a member of England's Library & Information Services Council. Before publishing he held a fellowship at Stanford.

Diana Melly has written two novels, some short stories and most recently a memoir. She is a patron of Dementia UK and Dignity in Dying, and has written extensively on dementia and end of life care. She cared for her late husband, jazz musician George Melly, who had dementia and lung cancer. He had a peaceful, pain-free death at home.

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Find out how to enter the Final Chapters writing competition at www.dyingmatters.org/finalchapters.

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