Thursday, 20 November 2008

and the winners are...

This was the week of the long-awaited Royal Mail Awards: webmaster Paul tells us how it all went down…

So after many months of planning, promoting, voting, stressing and preparing, The 2008 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books took place in Aberdeen this week and, after all that build-up, they didn’t disappoint. The whole of the Scottish Book Trust staff decamped from Edinburgh to Aberdeen for the day, along with over 550 pupils from schools all around Scotland, the authors and illustrators of the nine nominated books, the day's host, BBC broadcaster Kirsty Wark, and a further assorted collection of publishers, parents and parliamentary persons (sorry, slightly shoehorning the alliteration in there).

It all made for an atmosphere that was genuinely buzzing in the packed Beach Ballroom; when the shortlisted authors were announced they walked out to the kind of adulation generally reserved for pop stars (“now I know how Kylie feels” was one of the nominee’s later comments). This year's awards saw over 9,500 votes cast from pupils across the UK, and you could tell that every child present really felt part of the proceedings; not just spectators but truly invested in the outcome of the Awards.

But there was fun to be had before the announcement of the winners, as first a brilliant group of pupils from Riverbank and Smithfield primary schools presented dramatised excerpts from the six books nominated in the 0-7 and 8-11 years categories. I particularly loved the Goat and Donkey in Strawberry Sunglasses section, as the kids delivered a hilarious ‘behind-the-sheet’ transformation of their main character. Everyone involved has earned themselves a high five from me, and I’ll have you know I don’t dish them out lightly.

Then it was the turn of Aidan Turner, one of our very cool pupil ambassadors, to take the limelight, as he hosted a Q&A with the three authors in the 12-16 years category. He did a great job (hey, anyone who can confidently carry off an interview under the watchful gaze of pro Kirsty Wark is doing well in my book), and asked very intelligent questions, bringing out the key differences and similarities in the nominees’ approaches and novels.

After Marie Macaulay presented the Gaelic prize, won by Rachel Kate McLeod, whose story was chosen from an incredible amount of entries, Kirsty Wark announced that we had reached the key moment, the announcement of the winners. As MSP Maureen Watt opened the envelope for the 0-7 category you could feel the tension rising in the crowd; feet were stomping, kids were shouting out their favourite titles – it was about as far from a library environment as you could imagine, and all the better for it! – and there were genuine woops of delight when Alan Durant and Ross Collins’ Billy Monster’s Daymare was announced as the winner.

D A Nelson’s Dark Isle and J A Henderson’s Bunker 10 were announced as the 8-11 and 12-16 category winners respectively, each eliciting similarly ecstatic reactions from the crowd (I’m certain I saw some kids actually jumping on their chairs…), and it was clear from each of the winning authors’ speeches that they felt truly humbled and honoured to have won, and all were full of praise for their fellow nominees.

So now it’s all over for another year, but my single description can’t really do justice to the day in all its fullness, so we’ll have more of the Scottish Book Trust staff members’ thoughts on the day up on the Blog shortly, as well as a special Royal Mail Awards interviews podcast on our site. But for the time being there are some pictures from the day up on the website, which can be found on our Awards Ceremony page.

But we need your contribution too! Were you at the Awards? What was your favourite bit? How was the whole experience? Tell us by adding a comment here or sending an email to and we’ll post it here.

We already knew that Keith Gray was a hugely talented author and that his novel Ostrich Boys was brilliant but he has now been nominated for the Costa Children's Award, one of the biggest in the UK! Congratulations Keith, good luck and everyone at Scottish Book Trust is rooting for you.

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