Val McDermid, chair of this year’s judges, hails a selection that crosses divide between arts and sciences.
Crime writer Val McDermid, who is chairing the judges for this year’s Wellcome book prize, has criticised the divide between arts and sciences in the UK’s education system, speaking out as the longlist for the £30,000 award was announced.
In an interview with the Guardian about the longlist, which identifies the best science writing across fiction and nonfiction, The Wire in the Blood author said: “Science is clearly something that we need to be focusing our energy on, because that is where the economic future of the country lies and we really should be driving our education towards it – but that does not mean we should turn our back on the arts.”
Citing her own education in Scotland, McDermid said she feared the modern curriculum left little opportunity for students to be creative and investigate things that engage their interest “for the joy of it”.
“I have concerns about what is happening in education,” added the author, who has a son at school. “Everything is so curriculum-led now that there is very little opportunity for teachers to encourage students to go off and discover things for themselves.”
Developments in education, she added, meant that the Wellcome prize – one of the richest in the UK – was more important than ever because it focuses on making science accessible through both fiction and nonfiction.
The 12 books chosen for the 2017 longlist are split between seven factual and five fiction titles, ranging from Victorian gothic in Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent to Jo Marchant’s Cure, which investigates how the mind can cure the body. French novelist Maylis de Kerangal’s blow-by-blow account of a heart transplant in Mend the Living is also longlisted, and is the first foreign-language book to be considered for the award.
More than 200 authors, writers and celebrities, including Ian Rankin, the Makar Jackie Kay, Val McDermid and many more, will be attending Glasgow’s annual book festival, Aye Write!, this year.
Rankin will be marking 30 years of his most famous creation, John Rebus, while the new Makar, or national poet, will be at an event with former Makar Liz Lochhead and Glasgow’s Makar, Jim Carruth.
Aye Write! begins on March 9 and runs until March 19, while the Wee Write festival for children and young people, will have two family days as well as events for schools – and for the first time will have three venues.
Aye Write will be staged at the Mitchell Library as well as the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and, for the first time, at the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Sauchiehall Street.
Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, January 27.
The former Doctor Who and All Creatures Great and Small actor Peter Davison is also appearing, as are writer and artist John Byrne, Elaine C. Smith, Sanjeev Kohli and Sally Magnusson, and politicians Vince Cable, Alan Johnson, Catherine Mayer, Chris Mullen and Roy Hattersley, while David Hayman will perform plays by Chris Dolan.
Also appearing are Jenni Murray, The Reverend Richard Coles, Matthew Parris, Joanna Trollope, Miranda Sawyer, MC Beaton, Ms MacDermid, AL Kennedy, Denise Mina and the BBC’s Frank Gardner.
The BBC is airing a new documentary on BBC One tonight (29th November) about women who write crime fiction, featuring prominent crime writers Val McDermid, Patricia Cornwell, Martina Cole, husband-and-wife author team Nicci French, Sarah Phelps and Paula Hawkins in interview with presenter Alan Yentob.
The aim of the programme “Serial Killers: The Women Who Write Crime Fiction” is to explore why – with 21 billion crime novels sold last year – the readers of crime are mostly women and more often than not, are the writers too. The same riddle earlier this year sparked the launch of a new women’s crime festival in London, Killer Women, set up by a collective of female crime writers including Hawkins.
The BBC’s programme begins with an introduction to the study of forensics and continues in a series of interviews with the authors, and with one editor, Trapeze’s Sam Eades, as well as with forensic professionals actively dealing with cases, such as Professor Sue Black who has been assisting McDermid with her research for 20 years.