10th Anniversary of the Irish Book Awards
2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Irish Book Awards. Building arts projects is a slow process requiring patience, energy and determination and looking back, it’s sobering to consider how modest an outfit we were back in the day. In 2006 there were a mere three award categories: fiction, nonfiction and children’s. On the first awards night, a group no larger than one you might see at a suburban dinner party congregated in a Dun Laoghaire Yacht Club to applaud winners John Banville, Brian Dillon and Kate Thompson for The Sea, In the Dark Room, and The New Policeman.
By the time Anne Enright won Novel of the Year for The Gathering in 2008, we had expanded to eight categories which were presented in the more salubrious surroundings of The Mansion House. But the game-changer came in 2010 when Bord Gáis Energy came on board as headline sponsors, securing for the project the substantial financial underpinning that has enabled us to grow exponentially. Arts and business collaborations require mutual understanding and with BGE the synergy was there from the outset. Now, after six years and several contract renewals, it’s good to know that both parties are in it for the long haul and the future of the awards is secured.
In recent years, the growth of the awards has been staggering. We now have fifteen awards categories. The entire book industry is involved. We’ve had Presidents, Taoisigh, Nobel Laureates and most of the best writers in Ireland in attendance at the Gala Dinner which now accommodates upwards of 500 guests annually. It’s become one of the premier events in the Irish literary calendar, a glittering evening to celebrate Irish writing, broadcast to the nation on the RTÉ TV highlights show.
But more than anything, perhaps, we are proud of the way in which the awards have engaged the attention of the great reading public. Every year, readers vote in their thousands to help choose the winners of the awards. Literary prizes proliferate but often make little impression on the average reader. For the crucial two months period at the end of each year, The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards showcases Irish books and Irish writers with a level of media cut-through that surpasses all others; take a bow our longstanding PR partners, Unique Media.
Looking down from the summit in 2015, it’s extraordinary to see the scale of the ascent. We’ve come a long way from Dun Laoghaire. Here’s to another ten years!
Please check out our slideshow of pics and videos from the last 10 years at the top of the page.