Andrew Williams: Orwell Prize Winner and Lacuna Editor in Chief
In this piece, Orwell Prize Winner 2013 and Editor in Chief of Lacuna A.T. Williams, explains what motivated him to write his prize winning book: “A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa”. He also reflects on what George Orwell might have made of the death of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist, at the hands of British forces in Iraq, and the reaction of the British establishment to the attempts of Baha Mousa’s family to understand what had happened. Andrew writes:
When A Very British Killing won the George Orwell Prize in May 2013, I wondered what Orwell would have thought about all this. Wouldn’t he have recognised the detachment of so many British army personnel and bureaucrats when faced with the system’s own injustice? Wouldn’t he have thought about his story of a hanging in Burma and hear again the awkward laughter of men who’ve participated, if only as witnesses, in something that is palpably wrong? Wouldn’t he have read the bureaucratic and political language of ‘lines of enquiry’ and ‘learning lessons’ and seen them as ugly and degenerate?
I don’t know. But I think he would have agreed that the writing of the story of Baha Mousa’s death and the failure to address the wrong was a necessary act. I think he would have agreed that political writing fuelled by anger is still an essential response. Orwell wrote once that ‘It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.’ His main target then was the evil of totalitarianism. But I would like to think his underlying aim was to challenge indifference to the suffering of others. That for me was the real devil which emerged amidst the detail of my book.
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Members of the Lacuna team headed to the Home Office to find out. Researcher Rebecca Munro (pictured) met with the Chief Civil Servant to the Hillsborough Independent Panel to discuss the mechanisms through which historic injustices can be brought to light. This meeting revealed some surprising and moving insights and is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how protest can bring about change at the highest levels of government.
The feature based on this interview will be published in the first edition of Lacuna which launches in February 2014. To ensure you don’t miss out on this or any of our other original features follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our mailing list.
Shashank Joshi, Research Fellow at the award winning Royal United Services Institute, believes there are lessons we can all learn from Egypt about the dangers of leaderless protest. His piece, which will be published in the first edition of LACUNA, offers a nuanced analysis of the factors that impact the ability of protest to effect positive political change . Shashank, who is currently based in London, has previously written for the New York Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Times of India, Hindu, Foreign Policy and Caravan, amongst others. For more of his work, click here.
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Andrew Williams, Orwell Prize Winner and Editor-In-Chief of Lacuna magazine has spent today sharing his experiences with the next generation of political writers at Peter Symonds College, Winchester. Andrew spoke about his motivation for writing: “A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa” and gave students insight into how he went about the project. He also shared some tips for writing well. Andrew says: “I really enjoyed my day at Peter Symonds College, the students were bright and really engaged with both the book and my experiences of writing it. They are exactly the sort of people we hope will read Lacuna and feel inspired to contribute their own views and experiences”.
For hints and tips from Andrew on how to write well, please sign up to our mailing list here
Andrew T Williams, winner of the Orwell Prize 2013 for his book “A Very British Killing” has been announced as editor-in-chief of “LACUNA”. Andrew has a special interest in writing on issues of international justice. His personal blog focuses on the institutional response (or lack thereof) to the death of Baha Mousa at the hands of British forces in Iraq. His most recent piece for the Guardian can be accessed here and describes Andrew’s motivation for writing “A Very British Killing”. Andrew is currently in the process of planning the first edition of “In Justice”: sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on progress.
Orwell Prize nominated writer Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi has joined the “In Justice” team as a feature writer. Rebecca, who has previously written for the Guardian, is a freelance journalist with a special interest in social justice and immigration. Read more of Rebecca’s work here.