John Lewis-Stempel, Wainwright Prize speech transcript
May 7, 2015
Gosh, I really don’t know what to say – probably because I have had so little practise at making winner’s speeches. This is only the second thing I have won since leaving school (and I was at school just after the Reformation of the Monasteries), the other thing being third in the three-legged race with my son at the village show. As you’ll appreciate collecting my 50p and word-processed certificate didn’t require a great deal of speechifying.
It seems obvious to toast the spirit of Alfred Wainwright. I was recently asked for my advice on nature writing: My advice is ‘Go outside, and stay there’. Wainwright understood better than almost anyone how wisdom about nature begins with exposure to it. Familiarity with landscape doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds love, and from love respect.
A toast to the Thwaites brewery too – for the good-tasting beer, and for the good taste to sponsor the Wainwright Prize. Incidentally, if you ever need any help in the tasting department guys I am prepared to accept that heavy yoke.
I wish to pay tribute to my fellow shortlistees. People say nature writing in Britain is on a roll; their books are the proof it.
Now I have to come over all ‘Oscary’ – there are some people I have to thank, beginning with my publishers Transworld -especially Susanna, Patsy, Lizzy and Sophie- and my agents LAW, especially Julian Alexander and Ben Clark. Then there is my wonderful wife and wonderful children – actually, that should be my wonderful and long-suffering wife, and wonderful and long-suffering children. Their advice to you would probably be ‘Never have a peasant farmer for a husband and father’.
Finally, Meadowland is about one of the few pieces of nature rich farmland left in Britain. There’s an ecological holocaust going on out there in Britain’s fields. I hope Meadowland does something to help people appreciate how wonderful and how precious traditional farmland is – that the book acts as a wake-up call.