Remembering Deric Longden: a writer’s prize worth £500 | 15 November 2013

November 15, 2013

Story by Tony Britton

deric longdenWe are teaming up with a famous summer school to launch a humorous writing competition in memory of the author, Deric Longden, who died in June at the age of 76.

The Deric Longden Swanwick Memorial Prize will be awarded to a writer/carer who, like Deric, has a witty way with words and is fulfilling the role of carer to a friend or family member for love rather than financial reward.

Deric’s first book Diana’s Story, about his wife’s severe ME, was turned into the BAFTA-nominated TV drama Wide-Eyed and Legless and was voted by Radio 4 Woman’s Hour listeners as the most popular serial in 50 years of broadcasting. It sealed his world-wide reputation as a writer who brought a gentle humour to the problems of living with disability.

After Diana’s Story came Lost for Words, a book about life with Deric’s mother. This was adapted for TV by Deric with Pete Postlethwaite playing the role of Deric and Thora Hird as the eccentric and courageous Annie Longden. It won Deric an international Emmy for best foreign drama plus another Emmy for Dame Thora as best actress.

Now the Writer’s Summer School in Swanwick, Derbyshire – where Deric met his second wife and widow, Aileen Armitage – has asked the MEA to help publicise the contest and we’re happy to oblige.

The venue for Swanwick Writers' Summer School
The venue for Swanwick Writers' Summer School
Next year’s summer school will take place in the week beginning August 9 at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, near Alfreton. The winning entrant will be the school’s guest for the week, including all meals and accommodation.

“Aileen and I are looking for humorous entries of around 500 words in length (roughly two pages)”, said Swanwick chairman Diana Wimbs.

“Other than that, she and I are happy for the ‘piece’ to be open to any kind of entry – e.g. a short story, article, play, radio item or anything else of a witty and entertaining nature – to reflect the versatility of Deric’s own work.”

The winner will have the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of courses, workshops and entertainment during the week, including a talk by a guest speaker most evenings. Past speakers have included Iain Banks, Bel Mooney, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Norman Wisdom, Terry Pratchett… and Deric Longden.

Derbyshire was home to Deric who had been raised in the county and worked there before Diana died in 1985. He and Aileen married five years later and spent the rest of their lives in the home they lovingly renovated together in Huddersfield.

Aileen Armitage will be guest speaker on Monday August 11 when she will be joined by her daughter Annie Quigley and son-in-law Martyn. They are looking forward to awarding the prizewinner with a commemorative certificate.


Age and caring relationship: Entrants must be aged 18 or over and fulfilling the role of an unpaid carer for a friend or family member. Please be sure to tell us who you are caring for and your relationship to that person.
Entry fee: £5 (cheque payable to ‘The Writers’ Summer School’ or by online payment direct to the school’s bank account). We can give you those bank details on application.
Closing date and where to send your entry: Post your entry to ME Essential, 60 Broadgate, Weston, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE12 6HY to arrive by midday on Friday 2 May 2014. Typed entries only please, in double spacing, with a front cover sheet including your name, address and email. All initial inquiries to Tony Britton, email:
Judging: Entries will be judged by a small panel set up by the Writers’ Summer School in association with Deric’s family.
Prize: A fully inclusive week worth about £500 at the 2014 Writers’Summer School in Swanwick, Derbyshire, from August 9-15, including all meals, en-suite accommodation and access to the renowned programme of courses, speakers and evening entertainment during the week.
The programme for next year’s summer school is still being arranged. Watch their website for further details:

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