The Observer/Anthony Burgess Award for Arts Journalism 2023 | The Observer/Anthony Burgess Award for Arts Journalism


Lear alone offers us a vision of theater in the post-pandemic era. Yes, that’s partly because of his demonstration of innovative ways to film and deliver theatrical content – taking the action outdoors, making the objects and sounds of street life dramatic. But it is also about his involvement in live political issues.

So wrote Calum Jacobs, the winner of the Observer/ Anthony Burgess Award for Arts Journalism 2022, in its review of Lear alone, a web movie series in which actor Edmund Dehn roams the closed streets of London performing nothing but King Lear’s lines from Shakespeare’s tragedy. It’s the perfect Burgess Prize subject, a work of art that engages with a particular moment in time and subtly reframes its form.

Entries are now open for the tenth prize. Over the past decade, judges have received and read more than 1,500 reviews from aspiring critics on topics ranging from blockbuster art exhibits to innovative Twitter accounts, from stadium pop performances to contemporary sonnets.

The prize – £3,000 for the winner, £500 each for the two runners-up – was created to honor author and critic Anthony Burgess’ 30-year association with the Observer (“my paper,” as he called it) and in the spirit of Burgess’ wandering intellect, there are no restrictions on what to examine. The winning piece may be for an album, book, concert, exhibit, film, live stream, TV show, or anything else that provides the opportunity to write a living, thoughtful piece.

This year’s guest judge is ObserverFiona Maddocks, classical music critic, alongside arts editor Sarah Donaldson and Will Carr, deputy director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

Fine Print: Entries must be unpublished reviews of new work, to a maximum of 800 words (we cannot consider longer pieces). “New work” includes anything produced, published or broadcast since September 1, 2021 and we welcome applications from everyone, from established writers and critics to complete newbies. You’ve got plenty of time: The closing date for entries is November 30, 2022. Channel Burgess himself, who was renowned for dropping off his copy on time and once hailed deadlines as “a good substitute for genuine literary envy.”

For more information or to submit an application, visit The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in February 2023

Read entries from past winners and runners-up here.


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