Hubert Butler Essay Prize 2020

To mark the 120th anniversary of Hubert Butler’s birth
this prestigious international literary award will be presented this October in Kilkenny by President Michael D. Higgins
Submissions are now open

The 2020 prize-giving of the renowned international Hubert Butler Essay Prize, which encourages the art of essay writing across Europe, is to be held in Kilkenny. Planned for October 23rd, the award is scheduled to be presented by President Michael D. Higgins at a ceremony hosted by Kilkenny Arts Festival. The prize-giving event is of course subject to any Government guidance at that time regarding Covid-19.

The annual prize is organised by HEART London, an arts charity which promotes the best of European liberal values — values that Hubert Butler embodied. This year HEART is partnering with Kilkenny Arts Festival, who is supporting the prize and hosting the prize-giving, to mark the 120th anniversary of Butler’s birth by bringing the ceremony back to Kilkenny where he was born. The annual Hubert Butler lecture has been a much-loved element of Kilkenny Arts Festival for many years and is delivered by a different speaker each year.

Submissions are now open and the title for this year’s essay is “Communal solidarity and individual freedom: antagonists or allies?”. The application form can be found at and the closing date for submissions is September 4th 2020. Judged by Catriona Crowe, Roy Foster (Chair), Nicholas Grene, Eva Hoffman and Barbara Schwepcke, the first prize will be £1,000 with two second prizes of £500 each; in addition the winners will be published in the series Haus Curiosities.

This literary prize is designed to reflect Hubert Butler’s interest in the common ground between the European nation states that emerged after the First World War; his concern with the position of religious and ethnic minorities; his life and writings as an encapsulation of the mantra ‘Think globally, act locally’; the importance of the individual conscience; and his work with refugees.

John Banville, Honorary Patron of the award, said:

“The Hubert Butler Essay Prize is a splendid thing, both a tribute to one of the very greatest exponents of the form, and a venture aimed at ensuring the continued health and vivacity of the form itself. Montaigne would approve, and so would Orwell. Write on!”

Speaking today Hubert Butler’s daughter Julia Crampton, said:

“My father lived his whole life in County Kilkenny and was deeply involved in many local projects there including the Arts Festival. That the celebration and prize-giving will be in Kilkenny this year, with the support of Kilkenny Arts Festival, is a wonderful way to remember Hubert Butler who got little recognition during his lifetime. Perhaps this year’s essays will give us some ideas of what Hubert might have thought of the world today in all its extreme chaos. Hubert’s family are very grateful indeed to all those who make this prize possible and successful, especially Roy Foster, who chairs, and his fellow judges Catriona Crowe, Nicholas Grene, Eva Hoffman and Barbara Schwepcke. Our thanks also go to John Banville for his generous patronage.”

Olga Barry, Festival Director of Kilkenny Arts Festival, said:

“Kilkenny Arts Festival is delighted to support the Hubert Butler Essay Prize in 2020. Today, our world is increasingly in a state of flux, where despair and a sense of futility can feel insurmountable. It is always timely to remember Butler’s clarity of purpose, marrying the local with the international, and his personal belief in the possibility of change through individual action. Hubert Butler’s influence is threaded throughout the cultural life of Kilkenny and his life and essays serve as a guiding light to us all in how our personal consciences must hold dear the principles of universal humanity, now more than ever. We are honoured to celebrate his legacy and support new writing by our association with the Hubert Butler Essay Prize in 2020.”

More information here.

Keep updated on twitter @H_E_Art_London and

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