The 2021 David Selwyn Prize has been awarded to Madeleine Whitmore of the Royal High School, Bath. The prize is awarded in association with the Jane Austen Society for a piece of social satire in the form of a short story exposing social issues.
The competition is open to pupils under 18 studying at schools in the Bath and Bristol area. The runners up were Poppy Janke and Ishbel Bird, both of Clifton College.
David Selwyn (1951 – 2013) was Chairman of the Jane Austen Society from 2009 until 2013, besides being Editor of the Society’s Newsletter and Annual Report from 1997. His contribution to Austen scholarship was matched by his bonhomie, apparent at branch and national meetings, and at the Society’s annual residential conferences, of which he was academic director. He was the author of two well-researched books, Jane Austen and Leisure and Jane Austen and Children, both published by Hambledon. He also edited for the Society several volumes of Austen family poetry and verse.
In his ‘day job,’ at which he excelled, he taught both music and English at Bristol Grammar School, spending the whole of his career there cultivating the minds of several generations of students. He produced plays, sang in the school choir, accompanied other performers on the piano, and led theatre trips and cultural visits to look at art and architecture. His gifts of mind and ability to convey his enthusiasms made him many friends and admirers, and resulted in the very appropriate establishment of this Prize in his honour.
David Briggs, Head of English at Bristol Grammar School, and one of the judges said: “Madeleine’s story caught our attention for its sensitive and alert portrayal of a burgeoning relationship. Rendered in third-person narrative but interwoven fluently with free-indirect discourse, ‘Object Permanence’ gives us a heightened sense of the characters’ interiority, and makes quotidian details – a crow on a drainpipe, a spot of blood on denim – rich with intent.
The trustees congratulate all three prize winners.