THE woman who has overseen the rise and rise of the Bridport Prize is leaving after 12 years.
Frances Everitt has been associated with the arts centre for the past 20 years and for the last 12 has been co-ordinating the increasingly prestigious Bridport Prize.
In her time at the helm she has seen entries more than double.
It is not a decision she’s made without sorrow, she said.
She said: “It’s been a fabulous time and it’s a fabulous job. Some jobs can be really meaningful and it has been one of those.
“This April I will have been at the arts centre for 20 years. I was employed as the administrator there with Kate Montefiore and a part time marketing officer, so things have changed a lot since then.
“But 20 years is a good long time, and it is such a brilliant place and the Bridport Prize is such a fabulous project to be involved with. It has really put Bridport on the cultural map and helped start the literary and film festivals.
“I’m very sad to be leaving the Bridport Prize – it’s been such a wonderful job over the last 12 years but I’m also very excited about a new business I took on last year which I’d like to concentrate on. And it’s definitely time to let someone else have a go.
“It has been an amazing experience – I feel very privileged to have continued on from Peggy Chapman-Andrews and John Pugsley and I’ve enjoyed it hugely.”
Polly Gifford, Director of Bridport Arts Centre, said: “Frances has made an enormous contribution to the arts centre and to the Bridport Prize over her many years.
“ Under her care the prize has grown in both size and stature, and her recent development of the Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award is a great testament to her passion for creating new opportunities for new writers. “We will miss her enthusiasm, ideas and dry humour, particularly in dealing with some of the more unusual requests from entrants. We wish her all the very best.”
Ms Everitt, who needs more time to devote to her Bridport bed and breakfast business, paid tribute to the art centre directors past and present and the Bridport Prize volunteers, readers, designers, marketers and website team who have all helped to make it so successful - Sue David, Jon Wyatt, Candy Neubert, Harriet Laurie, Peter Laurie, Ray Gibbs, Graham Shackleton and Tamsin Loudon.
Ms Everitt said it had also been a privilege to meet some great British writers during her tenure.
She said: “We’ve had such interesting judges including U A Fanthorpe, Rose Tremain, Carol Ann Duffy, Andrew Motion, Jim Crace, Lavinia Greenlaw and my all time favourite writer Ali Smith.”
The Bridport Prize was started by Peggy Chapman-Andrews as a fundraiser for the arts centre and has raised many thousands of pounds since it started in 1973.
Under Ms Everitt entries doubled from 8,316 in 2002 to 16,812 in 2011 when Carol Ann Duffy was a judge.
The total number of entries since 2001 is 151,864, of which 74,705 are online entries.
The Bridport Prize International Creative Writing Competition was founded by Bridport Arts Centre in 1973 and has steadily grown in stature and prestige. Right from the start the competition attracted entries from all parts of the UK and from overseas. Today, entries number many thousands and are received from more than 80 countries.
The prize money and entry fees have risen over the years as well and now the first prize in each category is £5,000, second prize £1,000 and third prize £500. An additional 10 supplementary prizes (for each category) of £50 each are awarded. The top four poems are entered for the Forward Prize for Poetry (Best Single Poem), an award not open to the general public. The top 13 stories (British citizens only) are submitted to the National Short Story Prize and the Sunday Times EFG awards. 2010 saw the launch of the new category of Flash Fiction with a first prize of £1,000.
In 2001 the Bridport Prize became the first competition to offer writers the opportunity to submit their entry online, receiving 865 entries that year. 2013 saw over 12,000 online entries, the highest figure yet - 30% of which were from overseas. Over 4,000 postal entries were also received.
Fay Weldon became Patron of the Bridport in 2006 and notable judges include Margaret Drabble, Jo Shapcott, Rose Tremain, U A Fanthorpe, Andrew Motion, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jane Gardam, Tracy Chevalier, Don Paterson, Ali Smith, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy, Gwyneth Lewis and Patrick Gale.
In many cases a win in the Bridport Prize has led to further successes and helped to launch new writers. Kate Atkinson (a short story winner in 1990) said that it was very important, confirming that she had found her "voice". Her short story went on to become the first chapter of her novel, “Behind the Scenes at the Museum”, winner of the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year. She returned to judge the Short Story section in 2001.
Other noteworthy names include Helen Dunmore (also a 1990 winner) whose “Spell of Winter” won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996; Tobias Hill, a winner in both categories (poetry 1994, short story 1996) and Kathryn Simmonds, a winner in 2005, who won the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection