In one of the biggest upsets in literary prize history, the mobile services company Orange has announced this morning that it will not be renewing its sponsorship of the prize for women’s fiction that has borne its name since the award’s inception 17 years ago.
The prize, which was set up to “celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from around the world”, is given annually to the best book by a woman written in English. Winners, who in the past have included Marilynne Robinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith, are presented with a cheque for £30,000 and a bronze figurine known as “the Bessie”.
The prize money itself is supplied through the endowment of a private donor, but the remainder of the award’s expenses have been met by Orange’s sponsorship since the prize was launched in January 1996. After this year’s award is presented on 30 May, Orange – which joined with mobile company T-Mobile to form the UK’s largest communications company, Everything Everywhere, in 2010 – will withdraw its support of the prize in order to focus on film industry sponsorship.