Baileys no more: Women’s prize for fiction is seeking a new sponsor

The 2014 finalists for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, from left: Hannah Kent, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Audrey Magee and Eimear McBride (not pictured, Donna Tartt).
(Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press)

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is looking for a new sponsor and a new name, reports the Guardian.

The British literary award, given annually to a novel written in English by a female author, is losing the sponsorship of Baileys, the liquor company best known for its Irish cream.

The founder of the prize, novelist and journalist Kate Mosse, said she was optimistic that the award would find a new sponsor.


Which may be confusing, as many in the literary world still know the award by its previous name, the Orange Prize for Fiction, which it was called from its founding in 1996 until 2012. It was originally named for its then-sponsor, Orange, a British telecommunications company.

The prize had its genesis in 1992, when several literary insiders held a meeting after an all-male shortlist for the Booker Prize was announced. The idea to establish a prize for women writers came, according to legend, “after some hours and several bottles of wine.”

Women of any nationality are eligible for the award, as long as they’ve written a novel in English. Translated works are not considered for the prize.

Last year, outspoken author Lionel Shriver attracted controversy after criticizing the award, which she won in 2005 for her novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

“It is not as meaningful to me to have won the Orange prize as, say, it would have been to win the Booker,” Shriver said while speaking on a panel on International Women’s Day. “Most people who win that prize surely say the same thing: You have eliminated half the human race from applying.”

The prize was first awarded in 1996, to British author Helen Dunmore’s “A Spell of Winter.” Since then, it’s been given to writers including Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Marilynne Robinson and Barbara Kingsolver.

Mosse, the prize’s founder, put a positive spin on Baileys’ departure. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for a sponsor to champion women’s voices and we are interested in the women’s prize becoming a year-round platform for women’s voices,” Mosse said. “We feel ambitious.”

She also said that some companies have already expressed interest in sponsoring the prize. “We are talking to a wide variety of businesses across all sectors,” she said.

The most recent winner of the prize is Irish author Lisa McInerney, who took home the award last year for her debut novel, “The Glorious Heresies.”

Baileys will continue its sponsorship of the prize through 2017. The award will be presented on June 7 at the Royal Festival Hall in London.