the shortlisted entries
Please note that Prize entries included a 300 word plot summary, and 1,000 words of a finished or unfinished manuscript. The 1,000 word selection is all that is offered here - if you'd like to get in contact with a shortlisted entrant, please contact us using the link on our website.
CASEY PAUL: WINNER
The Docks is a fictional novel based on the lived experiences of young West Indians who arrived in the United Kingdom as part of the Windrush generation in 1948. The story focuses on the trials and tribulations faced by a young Jamaican couple, Joy and Winston Wright, who like many people, headed to the “mother country” in hopes for a new beginning.
The journey from the Tilbury Docks to their newfound home in Brixton, London, the Wright’s are faced with the harsh reality of just how prejudiced and racist Britain really is. Winston, the main protagonist, quickly realises he needs to improve their living conditions when Joy reveals she is pregnant. In a desperate attempt to earn more money, Winston begins to work with his best friend, Kirby, who also embarked on the journey to England.Throughout the novel, Winston is presented as a prideful, yet mild-mannered young man in comparison to his friend Kirby, who is troubled by his past in Jamaica and the terror he faces on the streets of Brixton from the National Front. Torn between the idea of keeping his head down and avoiding any trouble as his wife and mother remind him to, Winston also wants to help Kirby avenge his attackers and take to the streets to stand for his race and pride.
The Docks explores several themes including love, sadness, motherhood and friendship. Like many West Indians, there coping mechanism for struggle is resolved through laughter and enjoyment – hence why many anecdotes are told with such jest, but it is only when you begin to read between the lines that many of the characters are dealing with depression, anxiety and heartbreak from their new reality.
“Winstaan! Pick up my purse!”
“Is that all yuh do? Moan an shout! Why caan’t you get di purse?”
“Look here, it’s yuh that asked me to come to dis blasted, stinking country – di least yuh could do is pick up my purse, believe me!”
Winston picked up his wife’s purse, deeply exhaled and thought to himself, why on earth did he come to this country? He remembered his mother’s crooked smile, the smell of the sea, and palm trees that towered over his being. His mind often wandered to memories of him being a small boy, walking on rugged and winding roads with his closest friend, Kirby.
He thought of the times his mother brushed his hair and explained the importance of hard work and praising God, whilst the church bells rung loudly across the parish. He remembered Mr. Williams standing outside his green house, bidding a “Good Maarnin Miss” to every single woman that walked past.
“Winston, I caan’t believe how English people is wicked! I wanted to pick up some flowers for May, since har mother die - mind yuh, dat woman was wicked as well! Anyway, can yuh believe this likkle ol’ white womaan tell me that I caan’t go inna di shop!” Joy exclaimed, almost breathless, she continued to wipe down the small kitchenette, moving jars of spices and seasonings that she often inhaled to remind her of home.
Winston blinked slowly, pouring his last bit of rum into an ornate whiskey glass. “.... May’s mother die?” He said, slipping slowly.
“YES! She’s dead! Can unu believe it? Bless har, they say har heart was broken after Trevor cheat on har wid a woman at di bakery!”
One thing Winston did know, was that Joy, like most West Indian women could exaggerate. He knew Joy didn’t really want to speak about the little old white woman not letting her into the shop, as this was a daily occurrence for them, and naturally would be mentioned in every anecdote they shared.
Joy was a beautiful woman, her skin – an almost velvet-like complexion, was dark and rich and her face was complete with high cheekbones and brooding brown eyes. She was tall, slender and untrusting in her nature, her shoulders rarely relaxed.
“When di 9 nights ah start?” Winston asked as he winced at the sharpness of his rum. “Tomorrow! In Brixtun! Suh don’t budda bein’ late!” Joy glared.
Winston smiled and laughed at his wife’s jab and poured another glass of rum. Joy often complained about his drinking – but really it was the only thing that kept him warm and that took the pain away from working in the sorting office at the Royal Mail.
As he sipped from his glassed, he stared at her, her skin radiating like she’d never left. She pressed play on their small stereo, Alton Ellis – her favourite artist began to play.
Joy was a beautiful woman.
Winston met Joy back home at a dance organised by his friend Kirby. Many women threw themselves at Kirby, his tall frame, high-yellow skin and brown hair oozed a sex appeal that Winston didn’t have.
Winston was also tall, but very quiet unlike Kirby – he obeyed his mother and was often found in a corner smiling but never saying much.
“Look pan Winstaan! Yes bredrin, unu look smart!” Kirby grabbed Winston and pulled him in for a hug.
Winston smiled, wiped his brow with his trilby hat and felt Joy’s eyes on him.
The party was full of young men and women, wearing their best clothes – some of them, their Sunday best. Kirby hired sound systems and DJ’s from across Kingston, in hopes to become one of the biggest dance hall owners in Jamaica.
Rocksteady and reggae played throughout the night, slow, sweet and euphoric were the only words to describe it. Winston danced by himself but watched all of his friend’s peacock to capture the women’s attention.
“Suh yuh nuh gunna ask mi to dance?” A woman’s voice graced Winston’s left ear.
He smiled, cocked his head back and saw his next-door neighbour – Elizabeth. Keeping his distance, he looked towards Kirby and then locked eyes with Joy.
“Eliza, why don’t yuh go back over to yuh frens deh”
“How yuh mean? Winstan, mi tell yuh mi like yuh an all now yuh ain’t take me out” Eliza shot back, angered at his rejection, she walked away – her pin curls now frizzing from the heat of dance.
“Why yuh do her like that?” Kirby laughed
“She is no good. I see har wid a new man every weeken!” Winston said unamused, still smiling, still locking eyes with Joy.
The weather in London was nothing like Winston had ever experienced before. The wind was sharp, and not like the breeze back home. It was 5am, and Joy was already up making them their breakfast ahead of a long day of work.
“My madda mek mi cornmeal porridge every marnin, and it is what we’ll eat until we dead” Joy said as she stirred the pot on their gas stove, the smell of cinnamon, bay leaf and nutmeg filled the room.
Winston sat down and slowly ate his bowl of cornmeal porridge, swirling the soft grains against the side of the bowl. Joy placed a small mug of tea next to his bowl – the table was small, cramped and wobbled when you rested your elbows on it.
“Teachin yuh manners! No elbows on the table! And nat too much condensed milk” Joy reminded Winston, just as he was about to hunch over.
It was 5am, and as much as Joy often annoyed Winston on a weekday morning – he couldn’t imagine life without her. She would stay up late to sew the holes in his uniform, to polish his shoes and to iron his shirts. She would wake up each Sunday morning, seasoning meat for their dinner, making his favourite dishes because she wanted him to feel better about what they had left behind. She would kiss his cheek every morning and smile at him whilst wishing him a good day and to keep safe.
Her love knew no bounds, and whilst it was not ‘conventional’ love like they showed in books that Winston had learned in school, or films with Marylin Monroe. Joy was love – intricate, deep and profound.
And she was pregnant.
My manuscript “Rapture” is a collection of eight short stories that centres Nigerian women living in the diaspora. It explores the consequences and benefits felt by these characters upon either resisting or adhering to cultural, religious and/or social expectations. “The Fruits of Your Labour” is about an unnamed teenage protagonist in New England who comes from an upper middle-class family. Normally in wealthy white spaces, she has grown accustomed to suppressing her Blackness and Nigerianness in efforts to belong. However, her investment in respectability is brought into question when a new Black boy, Samson, joins her school. Seeing how Samson navigates the same spaces as her without rejecting essential parts of his identity, the protagonist must confront the toll her own sacrifices have taken on her psyche and selfhood. Other stories include “See Through” which follows Titilayo, a nanny for a wealthy Nigerian family in London, who begins an affair with the eldest (adult) daughter. This story turns the usual “Black nanny” trope on its head -- Titilayo has a formal higher education and grew up in London just like her employee’s daughter. However, the power and class dynamics between the two are still potent, as shown through the exploitation and dispensability of Titilayo when she begins a sexual relationship with the daughter. A third story “Inheritance” follows Deola who leaves her husband for another woman. Rejected by her Christian and Nigerian community as a result of this, Deola’s feelings of isolation are heightened when her new girlfriend becomes abusive. Deola is surprised when she finds herself turning to her faith to cope (albeit behind her atheist partner’s back.) As Deola fights to embrace her most salient identities -- queer, Nigerian and Christian - she must fight those within each of these three communities who dare to question her place in them.
1,000 WORDS: currently aren't available - if you're interested in reading some of Dunni's story, please contact Bad Form at
Danyal Rahim, a twenty-six year old painting prodigy, is enjoying his new-found fame in London’s art scene. Making a fortune from selling his painting at auctions, he finds himself rubbing shoulders with some of the richest and most powerful people in the capital. Everything takes a turn for the worse when he begins to plagiarise the work of a dead artist after finding their sketchbook.
Despite his copied art being more successful than his original pieces, he begins to receive anonymous messages from someone threatening to expose him as a fraud. Choosing
success over embarrassment, Danyal initially ignores the threats.
However, things get dangerous when the people around him begin to drop dead, and the killer leaves cryptic messages for Danyal, always hinting at who the next victim will be. Torn between his dangerous desire for success and the fact that if he doesn’t do something more people will die, Danyal decides to take things into his own hands and find the killer himself. Following clues across London over the course of a summer, skirting from one party to another, Danyal works out that the killer is planning his murders based on Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, with the final victim planned to be none other than Danyal’s girlfriend, Mia, who has been kidnapped.
Racing against time, Danyal tries to figure out who the killer is and where they have kept Mia. In the final confrontation, Danyal discovers the killer is his deranged agent, who believes that the greatest art can only be created through pain, and is therefore trying to inflict as much psychological pain on Danyal as possible.
Danyal begrudgingly kills his agent before Mia can be harmed. His agent dies happy, believing Danyal now knows true pain, since he has experienced killing someone.
I tended to paint people that I’d see in my dreams, and it’s a well-known fact that the people you see in your dreams are reflections of those you’ve encountered in reality. Doppelgangers of doppelgangers, you might say. My paintings were selling surprisingly well, thanks to the pretentious self-proclaimed modernists who were willing to give up a grand for the rubbish I’d put up for sale at Sotheby’s. “Wow, a feminist breakdown of post-Marxist anarchy”, they’d muse – hand on chin – while gazing at a painting I’d done of a naked couple juggling apples. After selling my first six or seven canvases, it had become apparent to me that Londoners were especially fond of nudity and fruit, an artistic combination that has persisted through the ages. But as much as I enjoyed spewing works of art like a machine, I couldn’t help but crave something more. It just so happened that after my twenty-first painting (a naked old lady, piercing a papaya with long talon-like fingernails), I found myself invited to a party being held at the Fishers’ manor in honour of the twins’ return from their excursion to India. After establishing a school for deaf orphans in West Bengal – and having an overly-flattering piece written about them in The Goa Gazette – the Fisher twins had returned to London to throw a ‘charity gala’ (in reality, an excuse to get extremely drunk).
The manor itself was gratuitously huge, standing at the end of a long, winding road somewhere
in the Hampstead Garden Suburb. In the moonlight, it gave off an ethereal, silver glow. Hordes
of visitors snaked their way in through the front, laughing and murmuring in accents from around the world. Walking in, I was consumed by the pang of perfume and privilege rising from the necks of the rich.
The Fishers greeted me with plastic courtesy, warm yet rehearsed. It was remarkable just how similar the siblings were in terms of style and synchronicity.
“Mr Rahim!” exclaimed the vivacious Roxanne Fisher, extending a jewel encrusted hand for me to kiss. Her hair was red, like the blood-orange canapés.
“A pleasure to meet you”, I said, with a smile that was the product of politeness and nothing more.
“We’re – oh so – glad you could make it!” gasped Tobias Fisher, a sickly looking ginger boy who seemed like a poor copy of his robust sister. He too put his hand forward, much meeker than
his sister. I grasped it firmly, leaving him quite exhausted by the experience.
“We have heard that you are quite the artiste”, stated Roxanne, the way a Hollywood actress
may say her lines in front of a difficult studio audience. I could not understand why she moved her arms around so much – like the propeller of a helicopter – or looked at me as if I was the most scandalous thing she had ever laid her mascara-laden eyes on.
“I like to paint”, I said shrugging.
Roxanne Fisher threw her head back and screeched. Her laughter diffused across the cavernous hall like mustard gas.
“You like to paint!” she gagged, “Well of course you do, otherwise you would not be an artiste, now would you?”
“We are all painters in this endless tapestry called life”, mused Tobias, whose existence I had aptly forgotten in the ten sweet seconds he had not spoken.
I do not know how, but – forgive me – I hated the Fishers the first time I met them. I had never met any two people so detestable and infuriating in my life. Just watching their mouths expand and contort as they formed words filled me with a sense of dread. “I would rather be dead”, I thought to myself silently.
“Do you think you could paint me?” leered Roxanne, twirling a strand of hair with her pale, stout
“Yes, yes!” added Tobias, wheezing, “In the nude!”
More atrocious laughter from the pair. How vile.
A few older guests threw frequent glances at us, smiling and whispering about god knows what (stocks, shares and secrets I presumed). I deflected most questions and comments with verbal agreement, or a polite nod, but after a while I began to feel fatigued. A waiter handed me a
drink and I allowed my mind to slowly soften to the bubbles in the champagne I was sipping. Even the flutes had been festooned with the same golden lining that followed the bannister up the staircase and onto the balcony, where I finally found myself after an hour.
The air was cruel and the night was hot. And the more I drank, the hotter I got, yet I continued to drink because it was what I did best. There were trillions of stars in the sky that night, sparkling, spectating, waiting for me to break out into song. The moon grinned, so I grinned back. My mum would lay my head on her lap some nights and tell me that a rather curious, ancient man lived on the moon. Of course, I knew better than to believe in children’s stories, yet I still could not help but wonder: every time I gazed up at the moon, did a man – older, wiser and lonelier than me – stare back?
I turned around to see a man – silver hair, a thick white beard, and large round eyes – approaching me at a hefty pace. Reaching me, he wheezed and let out a sigh.
“Don’t worry. So am I,” he said. His left hand gripped the slender neck of an unopened bottle of chilled rosé.
“Just needed some air,” I responded, trying my best to avoid a conversation.
He nodded, glancing at me to feign polite interest, but he was clearly more engrossed with the bottle he was struggling to open with his bare hands.
“Would you like me to go in and find a corkscrew?” I asked, worried he may hurt himself.
“No, I’ve got this,” he said, biting his lip as he continued to prod at the cork that wouldn’t budge.
After a few more seconds of battling with the laws of pneumatics, he furiously flung the bottle in the air, letting it sail over the balcony and smash against the mosaic floor below. Leaning over, I saw fragments of glass adorning the faces of Roman gods and goddesses, who looked
“Wasn’t even thirsty anyway”, he sniffed, resting an elbow on the railing.