Shine A Light

openDemocracy writers longlisted for Orwell Prize

Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi and Clare Sambrook are among 15 writers in contention for one of journalism’s highest honours.

ourKingdom editors
28 March 2015

George Orwell

Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, who has exposed the impact of government policy on ordinary lives, has been longlisted for the Orwell Prize for political journalism.

Also longlisted is Clare Sambrook, who edits openDemocracy’s Shine a Light project, exposing injustice, challenging official lying, and providing intelligence and ammunition to people working for policy change.

rebecca short.jpg

Rebecca Omonira-OyekanmiOmonira-Oyekanmi’s prize submission gives voice to single parents struggling to survive in Austerity Britain and to women incarcerated at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The work investigates the mistreatment of insecure tenants and institutional racism within the mental health service.

“This work takes time,” says Omonira-Oyekanmi. “These are not people who readily talk about their problems, they are people always close to the breadline, the people who feel most keenly the effects of government policy and economic change. I meet them somewhere they feel comfortable. We meet over days, weeks, sometimes months. They tell their stories. I listen.”

Published online and in print, Omonira-Oyekanmi’s work appears in openDemocracy, Lacuna, the New Statesman, The Friend and Socialist Lawyer, with original illustrations by Patrick Koduah and Lottie Stoddart.

Clare Sambrook’s Orwell submission exposes waste, greed and dishonesty in the privatisation of public services and the PFI fiasco —  Fail and prosper: how privatisation really works .


Clare SambrookFor “The racist texts; What the Mubenga trial jury was not told” Sambrook dredged inquest transcripts to gather violent racist material that was found in possession of two of the three G4S guards who were cleared of the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga.

“Nice work: G4S wins $118 million Guantánamo contract”, a Sambrook scoop, was followed by The Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, and the Daily Mail, and provoked a complaint from Reprieve to the UK government.

From hundreds of entries, the judges selected 12 books, 15 journalists, and 14 pieces of social reporting to be considered for three Orwell Prizes. All three longlists follow below. 

Lara Pawson, who explored Britain’s relationship with Angola on openDemocracy after Jimmy Mubenga’s unlawful killing, is longlisted for the Orwell book prize for: In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre.

Shortlists will be announced on Tuesday 21 April.

A new Orwell Youth Prize remains open to entries until Thursday 30 April 2015. Anyone aged 14 to 18 who is at school or college, from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales may apply.

The theme is: Exposing a lie. Young writers may be guided by George Orwell’s words from Why I Write:

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”


Orwell Prize Longlists: 

(Click on the blue subheads for links to submissions.)

Book Prize:

  • Jamie Bartlett, THE DARK NET (William Heinemann)
  • John Campbell, ROY JENKINS (Jonathan Cape)
  • Rana Dasgupta, CAPITAL: THE ERUPTION OF DELHI (Canongate)
  • Nick Davies, HACK ATTACK (Chatto & Windus)
  • Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, REVOLT ON THE RIGHT (Routledge)
  • Zia Haider Rahman, IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT WE KNOW (Pan Macmillan)
  • David Kynaston, MODERNITY BRITAIN (Bloomsbury)
  • Louisa Lim, THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF AMNESIA (Oxford University Press)
  • David Marquand, MAMMON’S KINGDOM: AN ESSAY ON BRITAIN, NOW (Penguin)


Journalism Prize:

  • Ian Birrell, Mail On Sunday, The Guardian
  • Rosie Blau, The Economist
  • Martin Chulov, The Guardian
  • David Gardner, The Financial Times
  • Anthony Loyd, The Times
  • James Meek, London Review of Books
  • Suzanne Moore, The Guardian
  • Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi,, Lacuna, New Statesman
  • Melanie Phillips, The Times, The Spectator
  • David Pilling, Financial Times
  • Steve Richards, The Independent
  • Mary Riddell, The Daily Telegraph
  • Peter Ross, Scotland on Sunday
  • Clare Sambrook,
  • Kim Sengupta, The Independent


Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils: Supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

  • George Arbuthnott, Slaves in peril on the sea
  • Lucy Bannerman, FGM: Child abuse that’s gone mainstream
  • Michael Buchanan and Andy McNicoll, Mental health crisis
  • Aditya Chakrabortty and Guardian team, London’s housing crisis
  • Steve Connor, The lost girls
  • Edward Docx, Walking with Karl
  • Alison Holt, Care of the elderly and vulnerable
  • Nick Mathiason, A great British housing crisis
  • Lindsay Pantry, Loneliness: The hidden epidemic
  • Lindsay Poulton and Guardian team, The shirt on your backs
  • Randeep Ramesh, Casino-style gambling
  • Louise Tickle, Domestic abuse: How victims are failed by society and the state
  • Times team, Secrets of Britain’s teen terror trade uncovered
  • Mark Townsend, Serco: A hunt for the truth inside Yarl’s Wood
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