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Sean O'Brien Andrew Crumey Gillian Allnutt Tony Harrison Julia Darling
  Anne Stevenson    


Gillian Allnutt first said, "I'm going to be a writer" when she was seven. Almost half a century on, she has scooped the UK's most lucrative literary prize.



Gillians success in winning the £60,000 Northern Rock Foundation Writers Award 2005 places her alongside previous winners Tony Harrison (2004), Julia Darling (2003) and Anne Stevenson (2002).

Born in London, and a graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge, Gillian left her job as poetry editor of City Limits magazine to move to the North East in 1988 drawn by friends, the support it offered to writers and her own memories (she spent formative childhood years living in Newcastle).

Her escape to the North East began in Benwell in Newcastle, moved across the city to Sandyford and ended in the former pit village of Esh Winning in County Durham. I wheeled my bike over the ridge one day, saw the For Sale sign outside this house and just knew I was going to live here in the terrace. It is a very supportive community.

While the Northern Rock Foundation Writers Award is a great gift for Gillian, there will be mixed feelings from the students of her creative writing workshop, Writing From the Inside Out, at the Centre for Lifelong Learning in Newcastle, as Gillian plans to take a sabbatical from teaching in order to move more deeply into writing. I have taught for many years and I am nervous about having a real break but I just feel it is the right thing to do.

But teachings loss may be literatures gain. As Gillian explains, It is increasingly difficult to find ways of letting my writing and my teaching feed one another as they have done for a long time. I feel I may be holding the writing back by holding onto the teaching.

Gillian has published six collections, four of them with Bloodaxe Books including, most recently, Sojourner (2004); withLintel (2001) and Nantucket and the Angel (1997) both shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize. She also published a pamphlet, Hob Green, with Grand Phoenix Press last year.

Her poems cover many topics. She writes about women (from Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write a book in English, to her mother who died last year); about spirituality (though much of her imagery is drawn from the treasure trove of the Bible, she is perhaps most accurately described as spiritually non aligned) and about places close to her heart, both past and present the North East, the Fens, Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Russia.

Living in quiet solitude in a former miners cottage, Gillian eschews many of the luxuries of the 21st century. She has no plans to buy a TV (Theres nothing on) or a washing machine (I find washing by hand incredibly therapeutic. If I cant write, I wash).

What will I do with the money? Im hoping to have a very restful year. Ill be reading, writing and travelling. I dont think this country has enough time for poetry any more. I plan to travel to places that do. Ireland Eastern Europe Germany.

How will she know she has succeeded as a poet? All my life Ive been so grateful when Ive found a writer who has been there before me, who has made me feel not alone. I feel I will have achieved what I set out to do if I am able to help even one person in this way to walk with them, to accompany them in their solitude.