News that the UK’s National Book Awards will not run in 2015 does not seem to have led to the usual Cassandra cries about the death of literary culture in the UK. In fact, the British book industry from The Bookseller on down seems to have been very sanguine about the development.
Please note that these Awards should not be confused with the US National Book Awards – although UK journalists themselves seem pretty vague on the distinction. UK coverage of the latest US National Book Awards longlist includes little to no guidance to the effect that there are separate UK awards with the same name – which suggests that the UK National Book Awards have garnered little to no recognition.
Perhaps the Awards’ rather odd pedigree is at fault. According to The Bookseller, Cactus TV, a British independent TV production company, “has produced the consumer-focused awards since the closure of Publishing News in 2008.” Cactus TV, “a dynamic, creative and highly successful independent production company specialising in broad-based popular Entertainment,” seems an unlikely host for a major literary event, with a very down-market focus. The Specsavers National Book Awards also has had a series of sponsors, renaming itself after 2011 from the Galaxy National Book Awards following a change in sponsor. UK talent agency and cultural publicity outfit Midas PR, which has previously worked with Cactus TV on the Awards, has reportedly put out an announcement hinting at a revival of the Awards in 2015, possibly with a major TV deal involved.
The slate for British literary awards is currently looking pretty flush – even if the Wikipedia entry on the topic includes only the most prominent names. Perhaps the UK really just doesn’t need another major literary award. A more cultivated and literate British reading public, now? That could be good …