The Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer's Award

Authors Hannah Lowe and Alia Trabucco Zerán have been announced as the 2024 winners of the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award. Lowe and Zerán are each awarded £20,000 and up to a year’s writing residency at the British Library to develop their forthcoming books using the Library’s Americas collections, as well as the opportunity to showcase their finished work at Hay Festival events in the UK and Latin America.

The Eccles Centre at the British Library and Hay Festival are delighted to announce the winners for the 2024 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award: Hannah Lowe and Alia Trabucco Zerán. Now in its twelfth year, the prize grants £20,000 annually to both writers for a yet-to-be-published book relating to the Americas (North, Central and South America and the Caribbean).

Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe’s lyrical, hybrid memoir, Moy: In Search of Nelsa Lowe, uses the intimate story ofher Chinese Jamaican aunt - a folk healer, amputee, hostess of a famous waterfront restaurant,and ‘madam’ of a portside brothel - as a device for exploring the history of the Chinese in Jamaica, women’s sexual labour, and the culture of folk healing.

The judges were "enthralled by Hannah Lowe’s inventive approach to conjuring Nelsa, her Afro-Chinese Jamaican aunt. Remarkably, Lowe evokes Nelsa through a single portrait photo and along the way excavates other marginalised women whose lives are rarely noted in official archives.”

Alia Trabucco Zerán

Combining a thriller at its core with the diary of a female academic obsessively writing a book about the face following a prosthetic procedure, Impudence ('Descaro') by Alia Trabucco Zerán weaves fiction with memoir and essay to explore portrayals of Latin American women and our relationship with the female face, identity and loss.

The judges said: “We were inspired by what promises to be an original and radical mix of fiction, autobiography and essay and a piece of writing which asks the question: how does our face inform who we are?”

Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library Polly Russell said “We could not be more excited to support Hannah Lowe and Alia Trabucco as the 2024 Eccles-Hay Writer’s Award winners. Both their projects – one focussed on the Chinese population oft he Caribbean and the other on Latin American identity - promise to explore untapped British Library Americas collections and to uncover aspects of Latin American and Caribbean culture and history that have been much overlooked. We look forward to welcoming them to the Library and supporting their work as they delve into the Library’s rich holdings.
Hay Festival International Director Cristina Fuentes La Roche said “We are delighted to award the grants to two writers that explore shifting identities, belonging and its meanings on today´s world, and that would link up their literary project with the work of amazing writers and researchers from the British Library archives. Alia Trabucco’s project, about identity, specifically that of women, will connect the literary work of a writer who is already one of Latin America more exciting voices with the quest to explore identities by writers and artists such as Frida Kahlo. Hannah Lowe´s looks into the past, more specifically her own family, exploring race, colonial complexities and the legacy of the British Empire. We can´t wait to learn about their explorations and findings at the archives.”


Applicants are expected to make extensive use of the British Library’s Americas collections and curatorial support via a research residency of between six months to a year to develop their idea. In addition, winners will receive £20,000 in four quarterly grants and special access to the Eccles Centre Platform at Hay Festival events in Wales, Mexico, Peru and Colombia, as well as the events programme at the British Library, to promote their published work.

A number of critically acclaimed books have been published with the support of the Eccles Centre and Hay Festival Writer’s Award including Bob Stanley’s Let’s Do It: The Birth of Pop, Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Naomi Wood’s Mrs. Hemingway and The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf.

The 2023 Award holders are Ayanna Lloyd Banwo and Jarred McGinnis, who since November have been working with the Eccles Centre and British Library curators to develop their forthcoming books, Dark Eye Place and The Mountain Weight. They will be participating in events at the British Library in 2023 and beyond.

Submissions for the 2024 Writer’s Award will open next summer..

The Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer's Award is a highly prestigious annual literary award of £20,000 for a current writing project exploring the Americas.

The award facilitates and inspires world-class storytelling in the UK and across the Americas, supporting writers in the creative stage of a new fiction or non-fiction project. The prize grants a year-long residency at the British Library and access to curatorial expertise within the Library’s world class Americas collections.

The Writer’s Award is celebrated globally through a dynamic series of events profiling winners at Hay Festival editions in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Wales, as awardees join forces with other celebrated writers and thinkers to explore themes central to the Library’s Americas collections, championing new perspectives to audiences in the UK and Latin America.

What's the prize?

Two winners will hold the Writer’s Award for one year from 1 January 2024, and will receive:

  • £20,000, in four quarterly grants

  • Unique access to the expertise of the British Library’s curatorial staff

  • The chance to appear at future Hay Festival editions with their published work.

The winners will also have the opportunity to work with the Eccles Centre to develop and facilitate activities and events related to their research at the British Library.

They’ll be in good company. Previous winners include...



Ayanna Lloyd Banwo and Jarred McGinnis are the current Writer’s Award holders. Lloyd Banwo won for Dark Eye Place which tells the story of a family house, passed down to the daughter of each generation. McGinnis won for The Mountain Weight, which mines his family’s history, from the American Civil War to the present day, to examine themes of masculinity, family and migration.


Philip Clark won for Sound and the City, a history of the sound of New York City and an investigation into what makes New York sound like New York. Javier Montes won for Trópico de Londres (Tropic of London), telling the story of Latin American artists, writers and intellectual exiles in London during the second half of the 20th century.


Pola Oloixarac won for Atlas Literario del Amazonas (Literary Atlas of the Amazon) ­– a work of creative non-fiction revealing the secret history of the Amazon. Imaobong Umoren won for Empire Without End: A New History of Britain and the Caribbean – an expansive new history of the 400 year relationship between Britain and the Caribbean.
Chloe Aridjis & Daniel Saldaña París


Novelist and writer Chloe Aridjis for her novel Reports from the Land of the Bats and writer and editor Daniel Saldaña París for his novel Principio de mediocridad.
Authors Rachel Hewitt and Sara Taylor


Writer Rachel Hewitt and novelist Sara Taylor. Hewitt is a Lecturer in Creative Writing, and author, Sara Taylor is a novelist as well as co-director and editor of creative-critical publisher Seam Editions. 

Portrait of the award winners by Clara Molden.

Authors Tessa McWatt and Stuart Evers


Novelist and short story writer Stuart Evers, and the author, librettist and screenwriter Tessa McWatt.
Writer and musician Bob Stanley and author Hannah Kohler


Author Hannah Kohler and writer and musician Bob Stanley. 
Author and editor William Atkins and author Alison MacLeod


Author and editor William Atkins, and author Alison MacLeod. Atkins' The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places was published by Faber in 2018. 
Professor Sarah Churchwell and novelist Benjamin Markovits


Professor Sarah Churchwell and novelist Benjamin Markovits. Markovits' novel A Weekend in New York was published by Faber in 2018. 
Critic and writer Olivia Laing and journalist Erica Wagner


Critic and writer Olivia Laing and journalist Erica Wagner. Laing's book The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone was published by Picador in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize. Wagner's Chief Engineer: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge was published in 2017 by Bloomsbury.
Historian Andrea Wulf and poet and novelist John Burnside


Historian Andrea Wulf and poet and novelist John Burnside. Wulf’s book The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost Hero of Science was published by John Murray in October 2015 and won the 2015 Costa Biography Award and 2016 Royal Society Science Book Prize. Burnside's novel Ashland and Vine was published by Jonathan Cape in 2017.
Writers Sheila Rowbotham and Naomi Wood


Writer Sheila Rowbotham and novelist Naomi Wood. During her 2012 residency, Wood researched her novel, Mrs Hemingway, which was published by Picador in 2014. Rowbotham's group biography Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers, and Radicals in Britain and the United States was published by Verso in 2016.

How do I apply?

Details of how to apply for the 2024 award will be revealed in spring 2023.


Portraits of the 2012–2018 award winners by Eccles Photography Fellow Ander McIntyre.

About the Eccles Centre

The Eccles Centre for American Studies was founded in 1991 to increase awareness and use of the British Library's extensive collections of books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers and sound recordings related to the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Housed within the British Library, the Centre works in collaboration with the Library's Americas curatorial team and external partners interested in the promotion of North American studies in the UK. The Centre runs a diverse events programme, funds research, offers training in the North American collections, and produces publications and digital exhibitions designed to introduce the quality and breadth of the collections.

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