The Quiet Man Dave Prize

Today, in a special blog post, we hear from Retreat West community member Susan Wigmore on her experience of the ‘Quiet Man Dave Prize’. Named in honour of Dave Murray, a popular Manchester-based writer and critic, the Prize is run by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, in conjunction with Manchester School of Theatre. Gaynor and Amanda both knew Dave, and we are grateful to Susan for sharing this piece with us.

Dave Murray

I’d like to blow a big blast on a trumpet for the QuietManDave Prize, an award for short-form writing organised by the Manchester Writing School in conjunction with Manchester School of Theatre at MMU. I learned of it from Gaynor’s newsletter earlier this year and was intrigued by a prize in honour of a man called Dave, the much loved and respected Manchester writer, critic and polymath, Dave Murray, who died suddenly in 2019.

I loved that he liked to experience new things and write about them and how, like me, he’d come to writing later in life. I loved how he encouraged writers to test their boundaries. So I decided to enter a piece in the non-fiction category that had wormed its way under my skin and wouldn’t stop niggling. Inspired by a jackdaw in my garden one hot summer’s day, it looks at the interplay between past and present, teaching and learning, and the role of improvement and correction in our striving for an ideal whose definition shifts with each passing generation. It’s quirky in form and content and I couldn’t think what to do with it until Gaynor’s post and a wander around the QMD website. Worth a punt, I thought.

It certainly was. The award ceremony last Thursday was a joyous occasion, though such was the quality of the writing that tears were also shed in quiet sympathy with those who read heart-wrenching pieces. As one of the short-listed writers, I was invited to attend the ceremony, a writing first for me. And for the judges and organisers as it turned out as this biennial event was scuppered by Covid lockdowns in its inaugural year of 2020. It was wonderful to meet in person such an array of talented writers, several of whose work was the thread this newbie writer had been following through the maze of competition and magazine submissions. Faces were put to names, hugs shared and writing experiences recounted. There were moments that evening in such creative company when I caught myself thinking, you are actually a writer, you know. 

Do keep an eye open in 2024 for the QMD Prize, especially if you enjoy experimenting with form or voice and wonder at times where your work belongs. The organisers are hugely supportive and encouraging, even beyond the competition, and Vanda Murray is inspiring in her enthusiasm to foster Dave’s legacy. The power of words was at the heart of the award ceremony; that and the people there made it an unforgettable celebration of short-form writing. 

For more about the prize, visit: QMD Prize