Jhalak Prize Celebrations 2023 - British BAME authors

The Jhalak Prize has opened doors and opportunities by celebrating British BAME writers. Forest had the pleasure of taking place book singings and interviews from some of the talented shortlisted authors, Janelle McCurdy and Christine Pillainayagam.

On a bright and sunny June day, four schools in North East London, a mixture of independent and state, gathered together at Forest School to celebrate the shortlist of the Jhalak YA and Children’s Book Prize. The Jhalak Prize, founded in 2020, seeks to celebrate books by British BAME writers. These include fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels, poetry and all other genres aimed at young readers.

Each school read one of the four shortlisted YA novels and created an artistic response to it which they presented to each other, and a panel which included Jamilah Ahmed, from the Jhalak Prize, and two of the shortlisted authors, Janelle McCurdy and Christine Pillainayagam – ranging from drama, through installations, to music.

Forest School wrote a song for Ellie Pillai is Brown by Christine Pillainayagam.

Clapton Girls Academy built a tiny Nubis city in a box as their response to Mia and the Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy.

The two authors were interviewed by Jamilah Ahmed and we learned that Janelle McCurdy was an enthusiastic gamer who recommended tenacity and self-belief to any burgeoning authors present. Christine Pillainayagam talked about her upbringing as an immigrant from Sri Lanka in Norfolk where there were very few ethnic minorities at that time. She wrote her book for her 15 year old self.

George Mitchell School created extraordinary floating origami as their comment on Rebel Skies by Ann Sei Lin.

Stoke Newington School performed the crucial central scene from When Our Worlds Collided by Danelle Jawando.

The day finished with each school being presented with a previous Jhalak prize-winning book to take away.

With the success of this year’s event in the Martin Centre, the intention is to repeat the event next year with more schools and after today’s experience this seems like an achievable ambition.

Click here for more information about the Jhalak Prize: https://www.jhalakprize.com/