A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

The Stone Age wins the 2021 Highland Book Prize

Jen Hadfield’s beautiful poetry collection, The Stone Age, is named as the 2021 Highland Book Prize.

Presented by the Highland Society of London, the winning title was announced at a celebration of Highland talent and culture, live streamed from the heart and hearth of Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre, high in the hills above Loch Ness.

Along with a small live audience of special guests, the digital audience enjoyed readings and discussion with all four of the shortlisted authors: David Alston, for Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean(Edinburgh University Press); Cal Flyn, for Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape (William Collins); and Donald S Murray, for In a Veil of Mist (Saraband).

Lochaber based instrumentalists, Ingrid Henderson and Megan Henderson wove music from harp, fiddle, and Gaelic song throughout the evening, all set against the stunning backdrop of the mountains of Glen Strathfarrar.

The Stone Age, published by Picador, was described by a member of the volunteer reading panel as “a remarkable collection; highly polished, skillfully arranged, and elegantly composed.” Another reader added, “This exploration of neurodiversity in poetry is authentic and original. The individual poems each have a jewel-like quality that grab the reader with a host of fresh images and apercus.”

Alex Ogilvie, Trustee of the Highland Society of London and Chair of the Judging panel, said: “The judges undoubtedly had a difficult job selecting one winner from such a high calibre longlist and shortlist, but were ultimately unanimous in their decision.  The Stone Age does a rare thing in that every poem in the collection brings a fresh perspective to the reader; Hadfield makes the ordinary quite extraordinary. This is a special collection that we are delighted to honour with the Highland Book Prize.”

Jen Hadfield

Jen Hadfield said: “I was so glad to be part of this moving and important shortlist. I am deeply appreciative of this prize and so happy to celebrate it at Moniack Mhor.”

Rachel Humphries, Centre Director at Moniack Mhor, said: “This was a magical evening and such a fitting way to celebrate some of the finest literature of the year created in or about the Scottish Highlands.”


For more information contact Kirsteen Bell, Highland Book Prize Co-ordinator, on highlandbookprize@moniackmhor.org.uk or 07842 040 165.

Notes to Editors

  • Jen Hadfield lives in Shetland. Her first collection, Almanacs, won an Eric Gregory Award in 2003. Her second collection, Nigh-No-Place, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. She won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition in 2012.

The Stone Age, published by Picador, is an astonished beholding of the wild landscape of her Shetland home, a tale of hard-won speech, and the balm of the silence it rides upon. The Stone Age builds steadily to a powerful and visionary panpsychism: in Hadfield’s telling, everything – gate and wall, flower and rain, shore and sea, the standing stones whose presences charge the land –  has a living consciousness, one which can be engaged with as a personal encounter.

This collection is a timely reminder that our neurodiversity is a gift: we do not all see the world the world in the same way, and Hadfield’s lyric line and unashamedly high-stakes wordplay provide nothing less than a portal into a different kind of being. The Stone Age is the work of a singular artist at the height of her powers – one which dramatically extends and enriches the range of our shared experience


The Highland Book Prize, established in 2017, celebrates the finest published work that recognises the rich talent, landscape, and cultural diversity of the Highlands. This annual prize is open to work in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Presented by the Highland Society of London and facilitated by Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, this literary prize aims to bring recognition to books created in or about the Highlands. The winner is awarded £1000 prize money and a week’s writing retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.

The William Grant Foundation provides funding to encourage public engagement with the Highland Book Prize.

The Highland Society of London is a charity which exists to promote and support the traditions and culture of the Highlands of Scotland.

Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre is situated in a beautiful rural location in the Scottish Highlands, Teavarran, Kiltarlity, 14 miles outside Inverness. Since 1993, Moniack Mhor has been working with the finest writers from the UK and beyond to deliver creative writing courses, retreats, and other support for writers of all ages and abilities and from all walks of life.

Moniack Mhor is a registered charity and is supported by Creative Scotland as a Regularly Funded Organisation. It also offers courses, mentoring and a leadership programme for care experienced young people aged 14-26 in Scotland, via funding from Life Changes Trust.

The Centre also facilitates several writing awards as well as providing residential opportunities for professional, published artists to develop their work. It works closely with other key Scottish literature organisations and other UK and international partners, and runs a broad community programme. It also runs a wide programme of creative opportunities for care experienced young people in Scotland and provides writing tuition in Highland schools.

Moniack Mhor champions equality and aims to break down barriers to the creative process, including offering a bursary scheme to support fees where needed.

Reproduced from the press release.

May 27, 2022

Jackie Kay marks Christmas with Makar to Cracker special

The National Poet for Scotland or Makar Jackie Kay’s popular online show Makar to Makar returns for a Christmas special on Thursday 17 December. Re-named Makar to Cracker, Kay will host a line-up that includes the former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Jen Hadfield (the youngest poet to win the T.S. Eliot Prize) and Imtiaz Dharker, with music provided by Mercury Music Prize-nominated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams.

Created and curated by Kay, Makar To Makar was a weekly show streamed via YouTube every Thursday at 7pm between May and August, with audiences enjoying the best of Scottish and UK contemporary poetry. Guests included the former National Poet for Scotland Liz Lochhead, Don Paterson, crime novelist Val McDermid, actor Adjoa Andoh, Ted Hughes Award-winners Raymond Antrobus and Jay Bernard, and folk music legend Peggy Seeger.

With the lockdown closing literary festivals around the world, Kay conceived of Makar to Makar in the early days of the lockdown as a way to provide hope and solace during a dark period.

Makar to Cracker will stream via the National Theatre of Scotland’s YouTube channel and its Facebook page on Thursday, 17 December at 7pm, with the show lasting approximately 90 minutes. Audiences can tune in directly via the National Theatre of Scotland YouTube channel, the National Theatre of Scotland’s Facebook page or by clicking the home page link of Makar To Makar’s website (makar2makar.com). The event is free to enjoy.

Carol Ann Duffy says, ‘I’m thrilled to be invited to perform with such an exciting poetry and music line-up for Makar to Cracker – my favourite online series during lockdown.’

Jackie Kay says, ‘Curating and hosting Makar to Makar was a joy and got me through the first lockdown! Christmas this year is going to be so different for everyone. We hope to bring some joy and some festive spirit to our Makar to Cracker and have a cracking line up of poets and singers to help you kick off your festive season. Crack open a bottle – bring your own cracker and join us!’

Makar to Makar is produced by National Theatre of Scotland in association with HOME Manchester and Edinburgh International Book Festival, the University of Caledonia and the School of Arts and Media University of Salford

– ENDS –

For further information and to request interviews, please contact Colin Waters T: 0740-052-9150. E: cwaters1974@yahoo.co.uk

Editors Notes

  1. Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Glasgow. Her first book The Adoption Papers won the Saltire and a Forward Prize. Trumpet, a novel circling the life of a fictional jazz musician, Joss Moody, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Red Dust Road, her memoir telling the story of her Nigerian Birth father and Highland birth mother won the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Award and was toured by National Theatre of Scotland last year, adapted for the stage by Tanika Gupta. Her latest collection of poetry Bantam was published to great acclaim. She is the third modern Makar, the National Poet of Scotland and the Chancellor of the University of Salford. Her book on the blues singer Bessie Smith is due out in 2021.
  2. Carol Ann Duffy was born in Glasgow in 1955 and grew up in Stafford. She has written poetry for both children and adults. Her adult collections are published by Picador (most recently Sincerity, 2018) and her Collected Poems for Children by Faber. Duffy lives in Manchester where she is Creative Director of The Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.
  3. The National Theatre of Scotland is dedicated to playing the great stages, arts centres, village halls, schools and site-specific locations of Scotland, the UK and internationally. As well as creating ground-breaking productions and working with the most talented theatre-makers, the National Theatre of Scotland produces significant community engagement projects, innovates digitally and works constantly to develop new talent. Central to this is finding pioneering ways to reach current and new audiences and to encourage people’s full participation in the Company’s work. With no performance building of its own, the Company works with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. Founded in 2006, the Company, in its short life, has become a globally significant theatrical player, with an extensive repertoire of award-winning work. The National Theatre of Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government. nationaltheatrescotland.com
  4. HOME is Manchester’s centre for international contemporary culture. Since opening in 2015, HOME has welcomed over two million visitors to its five cinemas, two theatres, art gallery, book shop and restaurants. HOME’s ambition is to push the boundaries of form and technology, to experiment, have fun, take risks and share great new art with the widest possible audience. The patrons of HOME are Danny Boyle, actress Suranne Jones, playwright and poet Jackie Kay CBE, artists Rosa Barba and Phil Collins, filmmaker Asif Kapadia, and actress and author Meera Syal CBE. homemcr.org
  5. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest public celebration of the written word in the world, bringing together over 900 writers, poets, politicians, illustrators, journalists and thinkers with audiences to discuss, debate and share ideas in the heart of Scotland’s capital city over 18 days in August.
  6. The School of Arts and Media University of Salford is a dynamic creative hub which offers a range of interdisciplinarity programmes. They are the heart of creativity in Salford, offering a programme of events that encourage engagement with our staff, students, industry and the local community. Their £55 million New Adelphi flagship building offers a diverse range of spaces and equipment to suit all creative requirements including the New Adelphi Theatre. They are also the only UK university to have a campus at MediaCityUK – an international media hub with neighbours such as the BBC and ITV – with industry-standard facilities that offer a professional environment for their students. The school has a strong legacy of successful alumni across a range of fields, including actors, stand-up comedians, musicians, journalists and designers. They are delighted that Jackie Kay is our writer in residence, as well as our Chancellor of The University of Salford.
November 30, 2020