Hubert Butler Essay Prize 2021

May 27, 2021

Hubert Butler Essay Prize 2021

HEART London and Kilkenny Arts Festival announce details and title for this years Hubert Butler Essay Prize.

Kilkenny native Hubert Butler was one of Ireland’s most respected essayists and Kilkenny Arts Festival has long paid tribute to his memory, inviting a leading thinker to the city each summer to deliver the Hubert Butler Lecture in his name.

Last year, to mark the 120th anniversary of Butler’s birth, the Festival was delighted to host the Hubert Butler Essay Prize. Though the award ceremony could not be held in person due to COVID-19, President Michael D Higgins announced the winner, Michael Amherst, online. This year, the Festival is thrilled to announce that it will be hosting the prize in 2021 and beyond.

Now in its fourth year, the Hubert Butler Essay Prize encourages the art of essay-writing across Europe. Organised by HEART London, an arts charity that promotes the best of European liberal values, the 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.

The title for this year’s essay is: 

‘“During the plague I came into my own.” Anthony Hecht. Who or what benefited from COVID-19?

Professor Roy Foster, chair of the judges, writes: ‘The year that has passed since the last Hubert Butler Essay Prize has been dominated by one terrifying issue, and it seemed right to reflect this in our choice of subject. Albert Camus remarked that in the conflict between plague and life, all that one could gain was knowledge and memories. The judges felt this idea could be taken further, looking at the world before and after the arrival of the pandemic.

Festival director Olga Barry writes: ‘Following our partnership with HEART, London in 2020, Kilkenny Arts Festival is honoured to become the ‘home’ of the Hubert Butler Essay Prize from 2021 – we are grateful to Butler’s family, Julia and Dick Crampton, Jeremy O’Sullivan and the prize panel, chaired by Roy Foster, for their support in securing the future of the prize. This prize is an affirmation of Hubert Butler’s life and work - his legacy continues to grow and inspire others. His clarity of purpose and commitment to the principals of universal humanity is as urgent now as ever.  There could be no better way of celebrating him in his home city than supporting a new generation of essayists at a time when the intrinsic links between the personal, local and global couldn’t be more apparent.


Entries will be 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. The winners will be published in the series Haus Curiosities.

Submissions are now open and the closing date is 3 September 2021. The prizegiving ceremony will be held in Kilkenny in October subject to public health guidelines.

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