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Winners of the East Anglian Book Awards 2018 revealed

PUBLISHED: 16:30 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:58 23 November 2018

Prof Jules Pretty. His book The East Country is described as 'a compelling praise song for the natural world and a call to us to hold it dear' Picture: Neil Didsbury

Prof Jules Pretty. His book The East Country is described as 'a compelling praise song for the natural world and a call to us to hold it dear' Picture: Neil Didsbury

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‘Nature champion’ Jules Pretty takes the crown and there’s an honour for the founder of Norfolk Children’s Book Centre

The winners: Anna Mackmin, Niki Medlik, Matt Howard, Phyllida Scrivens, Jules Pretty, Marilyn Brocklehurst and Mitch Johnson. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe winners: Anna Mackmin, Niki Medlik, Matt Howard, Phyllida Scrivens, Jules Pretty, Marilyn Brocklehurst and Mitch Johnson. Picture: Neil Didsbury

‘The East Country: Almanac Tales of Valley and Shore’ has claimed the Book of the Year title in the East Anglian Book Awards 2018.

It’s by nature writer Jules Pretty, professor of environment and society at the University of Essex.

The East Country follows the seasons through 74 tales set in a variety of landscapes, from valley to salty shore. It’s a work of creative non-fiction that mixes memoir, natural history, cultural critique and spiritual reflection.

Peggy Hughes, one of the judges and programme director at the Norwich-based National Centre for Writing, calls it “meditative, poetic and spare, a compelling praise song for the natural world and a call to us to hold it dear. We were absorbed by it”.

The Exceptional Contribution Award went to Marilyn Brocklehurst, 'a champion of the literary arts, of children and of reading'  Picture: Neil DidsburyThe Exceptional Contribution Award went to Marilyn Brocklehurst, 'a champion of the literary arts, of children and of reading' Picture: Neil Didsbury

Prof Pretty – who receives £1,000, sponsored by the PACCAR Foundation – said at the awards ceremony: “We might think we live in troubled times but it is a quite wonderful world out there.”

The Exceptional Contribution Award 2018 was presented to Marilyn Brocklehurst, founder of Norfolk Children’s Book Centre.

Marilyn created the centre, based in Alby, more than 30 years ago. After a career in library services, she dreamed of launching the “ideal bookshop for children”.

With more than 50,000 books, and comfortable areas for reading, the centre welcomes hundreds of visitors each year from around the country.

The judging panel said the reward recognised Marilyn’s “unstinting passion and energy, and her lifetime dedication to children’s literature in East Anglia”.

Guest speaker Carl Gorham, the writer and producer, told the gathering: “Marilyn Brocklehurst is, she says, a librarian at heart. She worked her way up through the library service before leaving to set up her ideal bookshop, the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre.

“Through that centre she dispenses an unquenchable enthusiasm for books and reading. With over 50,000 personally-selected books on display at the centre, and with her huge knowledge of books and publishing, she is called on to help in many ways: for example, with school library improvement, the judging of national book awards and with book reviews for The Bookseller, The Guardian and others.

“Marilyn is a champion of the literary arts, of children and of reading.”

The winners of the East Anglian Book Awards 2018 were revealed at a literary lunch – and celebration of regional writing and publishing – held at Norwich City Football Club.

The awards are organised by the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich department store Jarrold, and the National Centre for Writing, with support from UEA’s Faculty of Arts & Humanities.

The category winners were:

History & Tradition: This Hollow Land: Aspects of Norfolk Folklore by Peter Tolhurst (Black Dog Books).

Biography & Memoir: The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923 – 2017 by Phyllida Scrivens (Pen & Sword)

The Mal Peet Children’s Award: Kick by Mitch Johnson (Usborne)

General Non-Fiction: The East Country: Almanac Tales of Valley and Shore by Jules Pretty (Comstock)

Poetry: Gall by Matt Howard (Rialto)

Fiction: Devoured by Anna Mackmin (Propolis)

The ‘Book by the Cover’ Award, sponsored by East Anglian Writers for the best-designed cover of the shortlisted titles, went to Niki Medlik for Devoured.

The ceremony also featured speeches from guest authors Simon Scarrow, Carl Gorham and Rebecca Stott, winner of the 2017 Costa Biography Award.

Since the East Anglian Book Awards began in 2008 they have showcased the work of more than 100 authors, 175 titles, and more than 80 publishers.

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