Winners Announced for the 2021 Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction

We are delighted to announce the results of our annual non-fiction competition.

This popular competition again received a good number of entries from both inside and outside Hay Writers’ Circle and we very much welcome external interest in all our writing competitions.

Our memorial prize, named in tribute to Richard Booth, the self-proclaimed “King of Hay”, who among many literary interests, was a keen supporter of the Hay Writers’ Circle. He sadly passed away in 2019, still in love with books, writers and his beautiful kingdom of Hay-on-Wye.

The judge this year was the wonderful Roland White, who not only wrote encouraging and thoughtful feedback for entrants, but also graciously waived his fee. We are extremely grateful for his expertise and generosity. Thank you Roland.

Without further delay, here are the results :

 First – Gill Haigh – A Year in Wales

Second – Michael Eisele – Fritz

Third – Kerry Hodges – The Curse of Helios

Roland also added a further commendation:

Highly commended – Barry Pilton – Mayday on Mayday

The Judges comments :


A fine, powerful piece of writing. A slightly unsettling cross between Laurie Lee and The Omen, what with its ghosts and buried razor blades, this is a vivid account of a year from the point of view of a young and apparently rather knowing little girl. The short, straightforward sentences not only enhance the drama but make the text more childlike.  

There were scenes that every parent will recognise, and humour in the very literal world of young children (“It’s a wireless”… “It’s not. I can see wires coming out of it”). 

The format did make me wonder whether this was really non-fiction, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt. 


In this vivid and confessional snapshot of life as a railway worker in the United States of the early 1960s, the author confronts elements of the past that we would probably prefer to forget. Should he have really regarded his German colleague Fritz, who made light of the Holocaust, with such admiration? Includes a good line about what the writer regards as the political complacency of the time: “White America was in the throes of a passionate love affair with itself”. Finishes dramatically with a vivid quotation from Shaw’s St Joan. 

The author considers issues that have been much debated in recent years, but in an original way. 


One of the skills of the writer is to take a rather ordinary subject, and turn it into something out of the ordinary.  This takes a certain amount of technical skill and a light touch that was very much on display here. 

Curse Of Helios is essentially about sun rash, but the writing style somehow lifts it into a personal struggle between one woman and her sworn enemy – sunshine.  

I particularly enjoyed the description of her small children as they “raced around like puppies with too many legs”


A gripping account of a cottage threatened by flooding, told in a wonderfully laconic style. Apart from any other consideration, who could resist a piece of writing which contains the phrase: “It was Morris dancing that saved us”? 

Makes you want to read to the end to find out what happened. Witty turns of phrase too: “The water was about an inch short of an insurance claim”

Thank you to everyone who entered our competition this year, congratulations to our winners and highly commended, with sincerest thanks to our esteemed Judge.

In other news…
Our 2020 fiction judge, Kandace Siobhan Walker has given a thought provoking interview to AZMagazine about her writing, creativity, inspiration, artistic practice and winning awards, plus being the recent recipient of AZ Mag’s Creative Fund. Check it out – CLICK HERE

And finally, August hails a break in the Hay Writer’s year. So enjoy a quenching drink while sitting somewhere cool over the next few weeks (I know I will), and join us again with pens ever poised in September!


About thehaywriters

The Hay Writers : a highly active & forward thinking writing group based in Hay-on-Wye, the world famous 'Town of Books'. ✍️ In 2019 we celebrated our 40th anniversary.
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