The Booker Prize Foundation is a registered charity (no 1090049) established in 2002, since when it has been responsible for the award of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and for the Man Booker International Prize since its inauguration in 2005.
The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation are: Baroness Kennedy QC – Chair, former Chair of the British Council and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford; Lord Baker of Dorking CH; Bidisha – writer, critic and broadcaster; Victoria Glendinning CBE – biographer; James Naughtie – broadcaster; Christopher Pearce – former Finance Director of Rentokil plc; Dr Louise Richardson – Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford and Ben Okri – writer and former Man Booker Prize winner. Jonathan Taylor CBE is President of the Foundation and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Sir Ronald Harwood and Baroness Neuberger are Vice Presidents.
As well as awarding the Man Booker Prize and the Man Booker International Prize, the Booker Prize Foundation also works to promote the art of literature for the public benefit through various schemes, initiatives and projects.
The Foundation supports a diverse range of activities which promote and foster literature, and has a special interest in encouraging reading of high quality contemporary fiction.
Libraries and schools
The Foundation has worked with libraries across Britain for many years, promoting the prize, especially the shortlist, to library users. In recent years school sixth forms have become involved in our libraries project.
The Foundation is also active elsewhere in the education sector. Its university initiative encourages first year students at universities across the UK to appreciate and engage with the very best contemporary literary fiction. Regardless of their chosen field of study, students are given a winning or shortlisted Man Booker Prize novel to read and discuss followed by a visit from the author who takes part in a combination of workshops, lectures and reading groups.
The initiative was launched in 2009 and has expanded year on year. Participating universities have seen visits from: Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry, Jim Crace, Karen Joy Fowler; Linda Grant; Kazuo Ishiguro; Lloyd Jones; Andrea Levy; Deborah Levy; Stephen Kelman; Hilary Mantel; Yann Martel; Hisham Matar; Simon Mawer; A.D. Miller; D B C Pierre; Ali Smith and Sarah Waters. The scheme is jointly funded by the Booker Prize Foundation and the individual universities.
Linking literature and literacy
The Booker Prize Foundation undertakes important activities linking the promotion of the art of literature and improvement in literacy skills. It has collaborated with the National Literacy Trust (NLT) on two major projects.
The first NLT project saw the Foundation contribute £150,000 over the period 2012 to 2014 to enable the NLT to establish its first ‘Literacy Action Hub’ in Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough is an area where literacy levels and the demand for literacy skills are amongst the lowest in the country. The aim of the project is to promote reading and increase access to books across Middlesbrough by bringing together ‘Hub’ partners at strategic, operational and community levels. The activities include involving authors associated with the Man Booker Prize in community and public library reading programmes. The project has also forged links with the public library service in Middlesbrough to plan how local volunteers can be used to deliver library reading activities in community locations, thereby increasing the library service’s capacity to become a local leader in community literacy linked literature activities. With the Foundation’s funding over a 3 year period from June 2012, the Hub created a network of organisations (private, public and voluntary sector) committed to working together over a number of years to realise sustainable improvement in literacy skills to promote reading. The Foundation’s funding acted as a catalyst for access to other funding streams, and, the NLT has identified that Booker Prize Foundation helped the Hub project to reach over 310,000 people in Middlesbrough. The Foundation was delighted to be instrumental in establishing what continues to be such an important model, now drawing in other funding and being replicated in other areas.
The second, ongoing project the Foundation undertakes with the NLT is known as Books Unlocked. Started with the Foundation's funding in 2012, it involves reading in prisons in conjunction with prison libraries. Focussed on novels from Man Booker Prize shortlists, it has forged a link with National Prison Radio enabling prisoners throughout UK to hear and read outstanding contemporary fiction. In 2014 the Foundation also supported the commissioning of a new work by Roddy Doyle in the Quick Reads series, which seeks to engage and encourage readers to improve literacy skills. The new title, Dead Man Talking, was introduced into the 2014 -15 Books Unlocked project to encourage participation by emergent or lapsed readers, so increasing the potential for participation. Another important development in 2014 was the expansion of a community model by Staffordshire Prisons Library Service. Dead Man Talking was read in 11 selected settings in Staffordshire, including prisons, young offender institutions, secondary schools and public library groups. The prison librarians facilitated the sharing of responses. The aim is to promote greater engagement with literature, increased awareness of the importance of literacy, improved self-esteem, empathy and an enhanced sense of social inclusion.
To complement Books Unlocked, the Foundation also provides support to Prison Reading Groups, a programme run by the University of Roehampton which sets up and facilitates reading groups in UK prisons.
The visually impaired
The Foundation believes that visual impairment should not be a barrier either to enjoying contemporary fiction of the highest standard or joining in the debates and discussions which surround each year's Man Booker Prize. So an annual donation by The Foundation enables the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to produce braille, giant print and Talking Books of each year's prize shortlist.
The Foundation works with the Royal Society of Literature to provide a series of masterclasses which offer a unique opportunity for both established writers and newcomers to writing to learn what it takes to become a successful writer and to have their work professionally critiqued.
Authors' Lives at the British Library Sound Archive
Although each year's Man Booker Prize is all about the here and now, with the judges identifying what is for them the best novel of the year, the Foundation is well aware of the importance which is attached to the books and authors which have been recognised by the annual prize throughout all the years since it started (as the Booker Prize) in 1968. A partnership with the Life Stories sound archive at the British Library has seen the Foundation give financial support for the recording of interviews with authors who have been associated with the Booker/Man Booker Prize as part of the Library's 'Authors' Lives' project.
Other prizes and activities
The Foundation's support is important to literary awards other than its own Man Booker Prizes. It has offered guidance in the setting up and ongoing development of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, now in its fifth year; given financial support to the internationally acclaimed Caine Prize for African Writing; and provided vital core funding to the less high profile, but nonetheless powerful, Asham Award for women's short story writing. It also makes donations to support events linked to the Man Booker Prizes at a number of literary festivals, in recent years notably at Cheltenham and Edinburgh.