The Neil Gunn Writing Competition

 Full details 

The Neil Gunn Writing Competition takes place every two years and has been running since 1988. It is organised by the Neil Gunn Trust in partnership with High Life Highland and with assistance from The Highland Council.

Good News!  The 2021/22 competition opened on Monday 20th September 2021 and closes on Friday 4th March 2022.  For full details including rules and entry forms please go to

Aims and structure of the competition
The aim of the competition is to follow in the footsteps of Neil Gunn by encouraging writers of all ages and abilities. The competition gives writers the opportunity to write on a theme and to have their work read and judged.
The competition has four sections – adult short story, adult poetry, secondary school (S3-S6) and primary school (P5-P7). The adult sections are open to writers anywhere in the world writing in either English or Scots; the schools’ sections are limited to pupils in the specified year groups attending Highland Council schools.

The themes are usually quotes from the works of Neil Gunn.

About the 2018/19 competition
The 2018/19 competition was launched by Scottish Makar Jackie Kay on Friday 14th September 2018. The entry forms (which included the themes) and the rules (which contained all the information needed to enter) were available to download on the High Life Highland website The fee for each adult entry was £8, the schools sections were free. Fees could have been paid by PayPal, bank transfer or cheque. The closing date for all sections of the competition was Friday 8th March 2019. The award ceremony took place on Wednesday 12th June at the Strathpeffer Pavilion. The prizes were presented by Robert Davidson, a founder Trustee and managing director of Sandstone Press which published Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, winner of the Man Booker International prize 2019. Names of all the prizewinners and copies of their entries are available on the High Life Highland website


Adult Short Story and Adult Poetry prizes
• First Prize = £500
• Second Prize = £300
• Third Prize = £200
• Highly Commended and Commended certificates at the judges’ discretion

Secondary School prizes
• First prize = £100
• Second prize = £60
• Third prize = £40
• Highly Commended and Commended certificates at the judges’ discretion
• High Life Highland prize for the school with the best entries overall = £100 + trophy

Primary School prizes
• First prize = £50
• Second prize = £30
• Third prize = £20
• Highly Commended and Commended certificates at the judges’ discretion
• The Lydia Michael Award for the primary school with the best entries overall = £100 + trophy

The lead judge for the adult sections is always a prominent Scottish literary figure. He/she is assisted by a panel of shortlisting judges for each section, appointed from the Neil Gunn Trust, High Life Highland Library Service and Highland Council Education Department. The judges have no information whatsoever about the entrants until the judging process is finished. The lead judge and shortlisting judges attend the award ceremony, following which the judges’ comments together with the prizewinning entries in all sections are published on the High Life Highland website
The lead judge for the 2018/19 competition was journalist and broadcaster Ruth Wishart.

The lead judges for the last 5 competitions were as follows:
• 2016/17: Michel Faber
• 2014/15: Rosemary Goring
• 2012/13: Jackie Kay
• 2010/11: Andrew Greig
• 2008/09: James Robertson

Award Ceremony
This is held in June three months after the close of the competition and usually takes place in Inverness or the Dingwall area. The prize winning entrants from all sections plus their guests join together with the judges, officials and competition sponsors to celebrate their success, receive their awards and hear comments from the judges on their writing. The ceremony is followed by refreshments where there is the opportunity for informal conversation.



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