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Jonathan Taylor's speech at the Man Booker Prize dinner

Jonathan Taylor's speech at the Man Booker Prize dinner

Read the full script from Jonathan Taylor, Chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation at the Man Booker Prize winner's announcement dinner delivered on 16 October 2012

"Friends and guests. Welcome.  

"Good evening. I am Jonathan Taylor and, as Chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation, I would like to welcome you all to the 2012 Man Booker Prize awards ceremony – the 44th occasion on which our prize has been awarded. Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of the Man Group, will be adding his words of welcome in a moment.

"This time a year ago, the Chairman of the Man Group announced the renewal of its sponsorship of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. We are delighted with this far-sighted and long-term commitment, allowing the further development of the prize and helping us build on its unrivalled reputation as the most significant literary award in the English-speaking world.

"As Robert McCrum wrote recently in the Observer, The Man Booker Prize ‘… has become the indispensable literary thermometer with which to take the temperature of contemporary fiction.’

"One of the distinguishing features of the Man Booker Prize is that every book is read by every judge. In 2012 they read 145 submissions, the highest number ever.  

"This year the judges are Peter Stothard in the chair, along with Dinah Birch, Amanda Foreman, Dan Stevens and Bharat Tandon.  They have risen to the challenge over the last eight months with an outstanding longlist, and then a much-praised and widely discussed shortlist, and we will hear this evening the result of their final deliberations earlier this afternoon. Our thanks go to them.

"This year’s prize shines a light on the changing nature of publishing today. Two of our shortlisted writers are first-time novelists. And three of the shortlisted books come from new publishers who not only are independent but are also based a long way from Bedford Square – in Newcastle, High Wycombe and North Norfolk.  

"It’s an important strength of the Man Booker Prize that small, new publishers can operate on a level playing field alongside larger, older publishing houses.

"The judges have had a busy year, and so has the Booker Prize Foundation.  

"The key objective of the Foundation is to secure the widest possible readership of literary fiction of the highest quality. The prize itself, with related discussions, conversations, arguments and not infrequent controversies, is very successful in achieving this objective.

"But in addition the Foundation is seeking to bring the best of literary fiction to groups for whom access to books can be challenging. One aspect of this is our long-term support for the RNIB to produce each year’s shortlist in formats for the blind and visually impaired.

"During 2012 and as a consequence of our new sponsorship agreement we have been involved in a wider collaboration with the Man Charitable Trust which aims to provide a bridge between literacy and literature. We are supporting a unique programme which is being developed by the National Literacy Trust in one of the most deprived communities in England, one of the nation’s literacy blackspots. Peter Clarke will tell you more about this.  

"A second strand is already up and running. This involves reading in prisons, and is again led by the National Literacy Trust, to use great writing and a fantastic story to create an appetite for reading and literacy skills.

"Over the coming weeks 41 prison reading groups will be reading the 2011 shortlisted book Pigeon English. This will reach a third of the prisons in England and Wales. Prison radio will also be serialising it, taking the book to thousands of other prisoners. Its author, Stephen Kelman launched the project by visiting Lewes prison last week to talk about his writing. We’ve already received feedback that enthusiasm for the project in Lewes prison is ‘palpable’, involving as it does the engagement of both prisoners and staff.

"It is, perhaps, a slightly curious juxtaposition of prisoners with students, but I should just finally mention that our universities programme continues successfully. The six participating universities have all confirmed the value of good books and good literature to new students, whatever their area of study and specialisation. 

"I would now like to hand you over to Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of the Man Group."

- Jonathan Taylor, Chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation