Speaking today Alison Williams said, "Winning the Hubert Butler Essay Prize means so much to me on so many different levels, but two in particular: As a self-defined European Scot, it is a joyful experience to be joined once again with the honourable and ancient lineage of European-ness and European values that Hubert Butler espoused and promoted. Then, to have my writing recognised publicly, in such a prestigious setting, is to know beyond doubt that the work is worth the doing. Words cast spells, and I hope that the words of this essay reach out to others and cast good spells.
And it is a joyful experience indeed to find myself in such excellent good company. My heartfelt thanks for their imagination and energy in creating and supporting this prize go to the Kilkenny Arts Festival, HEART, and the Essay Prize itself, for giving me the meaty subject matter to work with."
“Alison Williams addresses the question of who profited from Covid 19 with insight, wit and compassion. She connects the pandemic’s effects to universal issues of communication, privilege and vulnerability, demonstrating the accomplished essayist’s ability to illuminate large themes by scaling up the everyday- very much in the tradition of Hubert Butler, whom this Prize commemorates.” Roy Foster, Chair of the Judges
Alison Williams's marvellous essay is a worthy winner, one that surely Hubert Butler would have approved. It is warm, witty, unapologetic and - for once the cliché is entirely apposite - life-affirming. I offer her my heartiest congratulations.John Banville
On the second year of Kilkenny Arts Festival’s support of the Hubert Butler Essay Prize, Festival Director, Olga Barry said “Kilkenny Arts Festival is honoured to continue its support of the Hubert Butler Essay Prize, 2021. We’re grateful to Jeremy O’Sullivan , for his stellar work in establishing this important recognition of essay-writing in Butler’s name. We’re particularly grateful to the judging panel for their time and energy and to Julia and Dick Crampton and their family for their ongoing encouragement and support. We heartily congratulate Alison and the runners up for their fine work. Butler’s legacy is alive throughout the civic and cultural life of Kilkenny and indeed the nation – this prize in his name is an important part of this legacy.”
Alison Williams is a visual artist and ‘late-onset academic’, whose 2013 PhD thesis proposed a visuo-spatial grammar of creative workplaces. Co-editor of BITE: Recipes for remarkable research (2014) and EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education (2017), she has written and presented extensively on the creative process, and has published in journals as diverse as Regenerative Medicine and Business Innovation and Disruption by Design. She is currently working on Between the mountain and the tree: A journey of wilding women, and growing an international community of wilding women.
In a former life she designed glasswork for Freddie Mercury and Dustin Hoffman, ran an arts centre for amateur painters, and was a consultant in creativity to multinationals.
This essay is moving, deeply engaged, fundamentally heroic, and unashamedly positive. In a time seared by negative and negating information, it lights up some nearly derelict synaptic circuits.Sebastian Barry
This renowned literary prize was founded by Jeremy O’Sullivan and the 2021 prize is supported by Kilkenny Arts Festival to mark the 30th anniversary of Butler’s death. The prize reflects 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.
Hubert Butler was born in Kilkenny in 1900, and he travelled extensively throughout Europe during his life. With his wife, Peggy, he founded the Kilkenny Lectures to encourage dialogue between the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic, and he found international recognition in his eighties for his essay collections Escape from the Anthill, The Children of Drancy, and Grandmother and Wolfe Tone.
The winning essay is available to read from www.hubertbutleressayprize.com