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March 25, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:33am

Scottish junior football article wins writing award set up in honour of columnist Ian Bell

By James Walker

Winners of the 2019 Ian Bell new writing competition have been revealed.

Bell was a Scottish political columnist who wrote columns and leaders for the Herald titles. He won the Orwell Prize for political journalism and was named Columnist of the Year several times before his death in 2015 aged 59.

The National Union of Journalists’ Edinburgh branch and the Bell family established the award in his honour in 2017. This year’s winners were announced at the Aye Write book festival in Glasgow on Saturday.

Stirling University third-year journalism student Peter Stewart (pictured, centre) picked up first prize while Oxford student Greg Ritchie (left) and Catriona O’Sullivan (right), from Dunfermline, were joint-runners up.

Entrants were praised for writing to an “adult and intelligent audience”, with competition judge Neil Ascherson adding: “It was important that you were all angry about something.”

The winning piece by Stewart was a report on the junior football scene in West Lothian, Scotland, which he described as “so far removed from the money and polish of professional sport that it feels like a different game”.

In a statement on his winning article, Stewart said: “My piece was born of reporting on junior football for my local paper, and I thought I’d put a different spin on it, focused on things I saw and people I met.

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“I’ve always been fascinated with how Scotland performs infamously at the sport, and yet it’s our lifeblood.”

Entrants to the competition were tasked with writing up to two articles “in the critical spirit of Ian Bell” of between 1,500 and 2,000 words.

The competition is open to young writers that have yet to break into journalism and who live, work or study in Scotland.

Submissions to the award can touch on a variety of subjects – such as politics, Scotland, culture or international affairs – and be either a piece of commentary or investigative reporting.

Picture: Jen McVey

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