Big Issue Changemaker and teen nature campaigner Dara McAnulty has become the youngest winner of a major literary prize as he scooped the prestigious Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing.
A leading light of the conservation and climate movement at 16, the Northern Irish author starred on The Big Issue’s cover back in May, explaining how the natural world brought stability and solace to his world during lockdown.
Now Dara’s debut book Diary of a Young Naturalist has been him recognised with the Wainwright Prize after he took the title at a virtual awards ceremony yesterday. The book is an extraordinary portrayal of his intense connection to the natural world alongside his perspective as an autistic teenager juggling exams, friendships and a life of campaigning.
I’m an autistic teenager. I’m not polished. I don’t rehearse (sometimes I wish I did!). I’m raw and real and very very imperfect. But look what can happen, to an ordinary boy who had a story to tell, in all its rage and love. I forgot to say here – but THANK YOU TO MY FAMILY 🙌🙌 pic.twitter.com/IGCS1TCnAl
— Dara McAnulty (@naturalistdara) September 8, 2020
Responding to the historic win, Dara said: “It is an astounding moment, not just for me, but for young people, young writers, young nature lovers.
“This tells our community that our voices matter, our ideas worthy, our stories captivating.
“It is astonishing and tremendous and I’m going to use the prize money to attempt to enhance people’s lives. I’m going to try and make young people, young writers’ lives easier.
“When young autistic people are nurtured and accepted, miraculous things can happen. And this is certainly one of them.”
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Now in its seventh year, The Wainwright Prize is awarded annually to the book which most successfully inspires readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world.
And Dara’s effort blew away the six-strong judging panel, led by another Big Issue favourite, television presenter Julia Bradbury.
“Diary of a Young Naturalist is a significant nature book – made all the more so because it is Dara McAnulty’s first, completed before his 16th birthday,” said Bradbury.
“Our Wainwright Prize winner this year is nuanced, passionate and caring. It’s a wonderful diary that fits around Dara’s personal endeavours and family experiences, but ultimately, shaped by the nature that surrounds us all.
Such a writer, such a book!
My friend & inspiration @naturalistdara has won this year’s Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing.
His superb book is published by the amazing small independent press @littletoller.
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) September 8, 2020
“The judges were almost breathless from reading it and would like to call for it to be immediately listed on the national curriculum. Such is the book’s power to move and the urgency of the situation we face.”
Dara wins a £5,000 prize fund to be shared with Benedict Macdonald, the winner of the new Global Conservation Prize for his book Rebirding. The pair also receive framed trophies featuring Jon Tremaine’s stunning artwork.