Our Judges


Mary Jean Chan.jpg

Mary Jean Chan is the author of Flèche, published by Faber & Faber (2019) and Faber USA (2020). Flèche won the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted in 2020 for the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize. In 2021, Flèche was selected as a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Chan was guest co-editor alongside Will Harris at The Poetry Review, and is a contributing editor at Oxford Poetry. She will be a Writer-in-Residence at the Nanyang Technological University School of Humanities in Singapore in 2022. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chan is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University and is a supervisor on the MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.



chimene suleyman.jpg

Chimene Suleyman is a writer, poet and essayist from London. She is the co-editor of the critically acclaimed The Good Immigrant USA (Dialogue, 2019), and a contributing writer to the original best-selling award-winning The Good Immigrant (Unbound, 2015).Her debut poetry collection Outside Looking On (Influx Press, 2014) was one of Guardian Books of the Year for 2014. She is the co-creator of the monthly spoken word event ‘Kid, I Wrote Back’ in London (2010 – 2013). She has written and spoken on race and immigration for The Guardian, Independent, IBTimes, BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 2, Sky and more. 



Stephen Thompson.jpg

Stephen Thompson was born in London to Jamaican parents. His first novel, Toy Soldiers, a heavily fictionalised account of his childhood, was published in 2000 and described by Hanif Kureishi as 'beautifully written, painfully honest and deeply affecting'. His second novel, Missing Joe, was published a year later and concerns the generation of West Indians who arrived in Britain en masse during the post-war years. 2007 saw the publication of his third novel, Meet Me Under The Westway, a satirical account of life in London's theatre land, drawn extensively from his experiences as a member of The Royal Court Young People's Theatre. His most recent novel, No More Heroes, is about the 7/7 bombings.

Away from writing novels, Stephen is the editor and publisher of the online literary journal, The Colverstone Review. He is also an award-winning screenwriter (writing as Stephen S. Thompson). His debut film, Sitting In Limbo, about the Windrush scandal, won the BAFTA for Best Single Drama in 2021.



Sufiya Ahmed photo.jpg

Sufiya Ahmed is an award-winning children’s and YA author. She regularly visits secondary and primary schools to talk about her childhood dream to become an author. She also discusses her previous career in the Houses of Parliament to educate and inspire pupils about the democratic process and discusses how her political activism influences her writing. She is a public speaker on girls’ rights. Her new children’s book releasing in January 2022 is Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, published by Scholastic UK. The book on the suffragette will twin with her book Noor-Un-Nissa Inayat Khan, the story of the WWII heroine, Churchill’s spy. Both women feature in Sufiya’s Human/Girls Rights workshops as role models for their historical contribution to Britain.  Sufiya is the founder and director of the BIBI Foundation, a non-profit organisation which arranges visits to the Houses of Parliament for diverse and underprivileged children. 



Nii Ayikwei Parkes by Rosa Ablah 1.jpg

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian-British producer, editor and writer who has won acclaim as a children's author, poet, broadcaster and novelist. Winner of multiple international awards including Ghana's ACRAG award, his novel Tail of the Blue Bird won France's two major prizes for translated fiction – Prix Baudelaire and Prix Laure Bataillon – in 2014 and his latest book of poems, The Geez (2020) is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, and shortlisted for the Walcott Prize. He was the founding director of the Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing in Accra and is the founder of flipped eye publishing, a leading small press. NiiAyikwei serves on the boards of World Literature Today and the Caine Prize, and has served as a judge for several literature prizes including the Commonwealth Prize, the NSK Neustadt Prize and the Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize. He is the current Producer of Literature and Talks at Brighton Festival.



Patrice Lawrence.jpg

Patrice Lawrence is an award-winning writer who grew up in an Italian-Trinidadian family in Sussex. Her debut novel, Orangeboy, won the Waterstone's Book Prize for Older Readers and the YA Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Award. Her second novel, Indigo Donut, won the Crime Fest Best Crime Fiction for Young Adults and was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize.  She won the inaugural Jhalak Prize for Children and Young People's for Eight Pieces of Silva. Lawrence was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Honours list. Her most recent YA book, Splinters of Sunshine, was published in August 2021.




Previous Judges

Yvonne Battle-Felton - credit Ian Robins

Yvonne Battle-Felton author of Remembered, is an American writer living in the UK. Her writing has been published in literary journals and anthologies. Remembered, was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction (2019) and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize (2020). She was commended for children's writing in the Faber Andlyn BAME (FAB) Prize (2017) and has three titles in Penguin Random House's Ladybird Tales of Superheroes and three in the forthcoming Ladybird Tales of Crowns and Thrones. Yvonne has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is Lecturer in Creative Writing and Creative Industries at Sheffield Hallam University.



Louise Doughty - credit Nathalie Weather

Louise Doughty is the author of nine novels, most recently Platform Seven, out now in paperback from Faber & Faber. Her previous book, Black Water, was nominated as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year; her seventh novel Apple Tree Yard was a No 1 bestseller and adapted as a four-part drama for BBC One. She is also the author of two historical works of fiction, Fires in the Dark and Stone Cradle, based on the history of the Roma people and her own Romany ancestry.  Her sixth novel, Whatever You Love, was nominated for the Costa Novel Award and the Orange Prize for fiction and she has been nominated for many other awards including the Sunday Times Short Story Prize. She is a critic and cultural commentator for both UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly on the BBC. Her work has been translated into thirty languages. She lives in London.



Peter Kalu.jpg

Peter Kalu has had novels published in multiple genres. His short stories are published by Peepal Tree and bluemoose. His poetry, plays, creative non-fiction and essays have  won several writing awards including the BBC/Contact Dangerous Comedy Award and the Jamaica Information Service / Marcus Garvey Scholarship Award. His visual arts and literature reviews can be found in a range of journals as well as at peterkalu.com

As co-Artistic Director of Commonword/Cultureword, the Manchester based writer development agency, Kalu has edited five anthologies of poetry and short fiction by black writers under their Crocus and Suitcase imprints. He ran Britain’s longest-running writing workshop for people of colour, Identity for twenty-two of its thirty-four years, and through anthologies, mentoring and writing workshop activities, has brought to publication over 150 black writers in the last two decades. 
He has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University (2020) and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in 2013. He is a writer on the Colonial Countryside Project. 
In past lives he has been a juggler, a kung fu instructor, a translator and a post office worker.

Verna Wilkins.jpg

Verna Allette Wilkins born in Grenada, is the founder of Tamarind Books, a publishing company she set up in 1987 to produce books to give children of colour a sense of self and personal value.  This was in response to the dearth of picture books which included black children.  They were ignored.  She went on to become the author of forty picture books and eight biographies of young people.  Her books featured on BBC Children’s TV programmes, were chosen among Children’s Books of the Year, and have been included in the National Curriculum Reading Lists for Schools.   She has received many awards, among them the British Book Industry Decibel Award for Multicultural Publishing in 2008.   Verna was honoured by Newman University Birmingham as a Doctor of Letters for her work as a “Champion of Children’s Literature”.  She is an internationally acclaimed speaker, facilitating conferences in the UK, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.  A moment she has said will remain forever in her mind is when, during a school visit in the UK, a young black girl told her:   “I always wanted to be an author, but didn’t think I could be one until I met you today!”


Kiran Millwood Hargrave.jpg

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is the Sunday Times-bestselling author of The Mercies, The Deathless Girls, The Girl of Ink & Stars, The Island at the End of Everything, The Way Past Winter, and A Secret of Birds & Bone. Her novels have won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year, the Blackwells Children's Book of the Year, and the Historical Associations Young Quills Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Foyles Book of the Year, the Costa Children's Book Award, the Blue Peter Best Story Award, the Branford Boase Award, and the Jhalak Prize, amongst others. Kiran lives in Oxford with her husband and cat.


CANDY-GOURLAY-credit Paul-Musso.jpg

Candy Gourlay  was born in the Philippines, grew up under a dictatorship and met her husband during a revolution. Growing up, she wondered why books only featured pink-skinned children who lived in worlds that didn't resemble her tropical home in Manila. It took her years to learn that Filipino stories too, belong in the pages of books. 

Her latest book is a comics biography illustrated by Tom Knight, of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who happens to be credited with "discovering" the Philippines. Her novel Bone Talk was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Prize in 2019 – it is set in the moment when headhunting tribes in the Philippines come face to face with American invaders. Her picture book, Is It a Mermaid, lushly illustrated by Francesca Chessa, was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Her novels have also been listed for the Waterstones, the Blue Peter and the Guardian Children's Book Prize. She lives in London with her family, where she wages war on the snails in her garden.



Roy McFarlane is a poet and former community worker. He has held the role of the Birmingham Poet Laureate, been the Starbucks Poet in Residence and is currently the Birmingham & Midlands Institute Poet in Residence.

His debut collection, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was published by Nine Arches Press in September 2016.  Roy’s second collection, The Healing Next Time, was  nominated for the Ted Hughes award, longlisted for the Jhalak Prize, a Poetry Book Society recommendation, selected by the Guardian as one of the best poetry titles of 2018.

Roy has co-edited an anthology of poems by locally based artists, Celebrate Wha'? - Ten Black British Poets from the Midlands. He was featured in the major 2012 anthology of Black and Asian poetry, Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets. 
He is presently a Jerwood Bursary recipient looking at mothers and daughters of Windrush, voices drawn from troubled waters. 

Nikesh Shukla.jpg

Nikesh Shukla is an author, journalist and screenwriter. His latest adult novel The One Who Wrote Destiny was published in Spring 2018 and his first young adult novel Run, Riot was published in June 2018. His debut novel, Coconut Unlimited,was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2010. His second novel Meatspace was released to critical acclaim in 2014. Nikesh is also the editor the bestselling essay collection, The Good Immigrant, which won the reader’s choice at the Books Are My Bag Awards.

Nikesh was one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Global Thinkers and The Bookseller’s 100 most influential people in publishing in 2016 and in 2017. He is the co-founder of the literary journal, The Good Journal and The Good Literary Agency. In 2014 he wrote Two Dosas, an award-winning short film based on his short story. His Channel 4 Comedy Lab Kabadasses aired on E4 and Channel 4 in 2011. He has been commissioned by Little House Productions, Cinestaan and Ink Factory and is developing new ideas with for television. Nikesh has written for The Guardian, Observer, Independent, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Vice and BBC2, LitHub, Guernica and BBC Radio 4.

He is also a founder of the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour.



Anita Sethi.jpg

Anita Sethi is an award-winning journalist, writer and critic. She has written for publications including The Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times and New Statesman. Her writing has appeared in Common People, We Mark Your Memory, Seaside Special: Postcards from the Edge, Seasons nature writing anthology, and The Good Journal among others. 

Anita has appeared on BBC Radio 4's Open Book and Front Row, has been a judge of the British Book Awards, Costa Book Awards, and Society of Authors Awards, and is an Academician in the Folio Prize Academy. She has been shortlisted for Journalist of the Year at the Asian Media Awards and Writer of the Year at the Northern Writers Awards. She has also been an International Writer-in-Residence and Ambassador for Journalism at the Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne, Australia.


Kerry Young is a novelist with three books published by Bloomsbury: Pao (2011), Gloria (2013) and Show Me A Mountain (2016).  Pao was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Book Prize and the East Midlands Book Award. Gloria was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award, longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Kerry’s background is in youth work where she published widely and undertook research, training and consultancy for central government departments, local authorities, voluntary organisations, charities, universities and public bodies. She has masters’ degrees in organisation development and creative writing, and a PhD in youth work. 

Kerry is a reader for The Literary Consultancy and a tutor for the Arvon Foundation. She was a Fellow on the Royal Literary Fund Fellowship Programme where she was writer-in-residence at The University of Sheffield. She is also Honorary Assistant Professor in the School of English at The University of Nottingham and Honorary Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leicester.



Sabrina Mahfouz s a playwright, poet, screenwriter and performer who has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and is the recipient of the 2018 King's Alumni Arts & Culture Award for inspiring change in the industry. She has been shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Award for Performance Poetry and has won a Sky Arts Academy Award for Poetry, a Westminster Prize for New Playwrights and a Fringe First Award.



Anna Perera has written six children’s and YA books including the critically acclaimed Guantanamo Boy which was translated into more than a dozen languages and shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Branford Boase, nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and adapted into an Arts Council supported play. Her book The Glass Collector was also nominated for the Carnegie Medal.



Sarah Shaffi is a freelance literary journalist and editor. She writes about books for Stylist Magazine online, co-hosts the pop culture podcast Eat, Read, Stream, Repeat, is books editor at Phoenix, and is editor-at-large at independent publisher Little Tiger Group. She regularly chairs author events, and is co-founder of BAME in Publishing, a networking group for people of colour in publishing.



Siana Bangura is a writer, poet, performer and producer hailing from South East London. She is the author of critically acclaimed debut poetry collection, Elephant, and the founder and former editor of No Fly on the WALL, a platform centring the voices and experiences of Black British women and Black women living in the UK. Siana is the producer of '1500 & Counting', a documentary film investigating deaths in custody in the UK. With experience in indie publishing, journalism, and campaigns under her belt, Siana’s wide portfolio of work focuses on bringing voices on the margins to the centre.

tanya byrne.jpg

Tanya Byrne is an award winning author and freelance journalist. She left BBC Radio to write her debut novel, Heart Shaped Bruise, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger and the Branford Boase as well as nominated for the New Writer of the Year at the National Book Awards. She has since published two more critically acclaimed novels, and numerous short stories and essays.


vera chok.jpg

Vera Chok is a multi-disciplinary writer, performance maker and poet. She grew up in Malaysia and is of Chinese descent. She holds an MA in Archaeology & Anthropology from Oxford and trained as an actor at The Poor School (London) and Ecole Philippe Gaulier (Paris).  More recently, Vera gained a Distinction in a creative writing MA with a poetic collection excavating the sexual identity of an immigrant woman.She is a co-author of the award-winning anthology, The Good Immigrant and has had her poetry, short stories and essays published by The Guardian, Brain Mill Press, Rising, and Transect. Vera founded The Brautigan Book Club, an international creative society, in 2013. Vera is Trustee of Tête à Tête, the world's largest community for new opera. She is acts as Ambassador for Fearless Futures, a female-led social justice training programme, and for Apple and Pears, a charity which enables primary school children and their families to explore new worlds.


Catherine Johnson.jpg

Catherine Johnson writes YA fiction as well as for Film and TV. Her  2015 novel, The Curious Tale of The Lady Caraboo was shortlisted for the Bookseller's YA prize. er most recent books are Freedom, nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal in 2019, and Race To The Frozen North. She is also included in Margaret Busby's anthology of Black Women's writing, New Daughters of Africa.She has been an RLF writing fellow and writer in residence in Holloway Prison and worked for the British Council, Arvon, and taught at various universities. Catherine also writes for film, television and radio. 

noo saro wiwa.jpg

NooSaro-Wiwa was born in Nigeria and raised in England. 
Her first book, Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (Granta, 2012), was selected as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in 2012, and named The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year, 2012. Shortlisted for the Author’s Club Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award in 2013, Looking for Transwonderland was also nominated by The Financial Times as one of the best travel books of 2012. The Guardian newspaper included it among its 10 Best Contemporary Books on Africa in 2012.  In 2016, it won the Albatros Travel Literature Prize in Italy. 
Noo was awarded a Miles Morland Scholarship for non-fiction writing in 2015. The following year she contributed stories to the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London (Influx Press, 2016); A Place of Refuge (Unbound, 2016), an anthology of writing on asylum seekers; and La FelicitàDegliUominiSemplici, an Italian-language anthology based around football. Her short non-fiction story about Africans living in China is featured in the Daughters of Africa anthology (Myriad Editions, 2019).   Condé Nast Traveler Magazine named her one of "The World's 30 Most Influential Female Travellers" in 2018.



Sunny Singh is a London-based writer. She has published three novels, a non-fiction book on lives of single women in India, numerous short stories & essays. Her most recent novel is Hotel Arcadia (2015). Her latest book, on the film star Amitabh Bachchan, was published by BFI/Palgrave in December 2017.



Yvvette Edwards.jpg

Yvvette Edwards is a British author of Montserratian origin, who grew up in Hackney.  Her debut novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats, longlisted for the Man Booker prize and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ prize.  Her second novel, The Mother, was published in 2016 to much critical acclaim. She continues to live in East London with her family.


Musa Okwonga.jpg

Musa Okwonga is a poet, author, journalist, broadcaster, musician, social commentator, football writer and consultant in the fields of creativity and communications. He is the author of two books about football, A Cultured Left Foot and Will You Manage?, the first of which was nominated for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. His poetry collection, Eating Roses for Dinner, marks his first ten years as a poet.Musa has recently signed a publishing deal with Berlin-based Bosworth Music, and is co-founder of BBXO, a duo who make a genre of music they describe as “future blues – music of defiant happiness at a time when so much around us is so bleak.” He lives and works in Berlin.


Alex Wheatle_edited.jpg

Alex Wheatle M.B.E is an award-winning novelist, with eleven published novels. His first novel, Brixton Rock, was published to critical acclaim in 1999. In his mid teenshe was a founder member of the Crucial Rocker sound system, where he wrote lyrics for performances in youth clubs and blues dances. Alex’s first YA book, Liccle Bit, was published in 2015 and won the Guardian Children’s Book Prize 2016.Alex was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008.