Terms of 2021 Young Writers Prize

Applications for the 2021 RPS Young Classical Writers Prize closed in February 2021. Though this may change slightly when we re-open applications for the 2022 Prize, we present here the brief for last year's prize, for general reference for anyone who may be interested in applying next year. We plan to open applications for next year's prize from Autumn 2021. Follow our social media @RoyalPhilSoc for updates. Such was the overall quality in 2021, the panel wanted to encourage all entrants to keep writing, and has specially created a set of tips and insights to help all applicants – and indeed all young people writing about music - with their next steps.

Classical music is a doorway to new worlds. While you can plunge straight in and enjoy its wonders, sometimes a helping hand is useful to guide you on your journey. As long as people have been writing music, others have been writing words about it, illuminating how the music works, what it conjures, asking questions of it and revealing features you may not realise from listening alone. For audiences with little or no familiarity this can be vital, rousing their curiosity and urging them to listen with fresh ears.

To keep encouraging new generations to delve into classical music, we need a new generation of writers to keep giving them good reasons why. The Royal Philharmonic Society is pleased to announce a major new prize encouraging young people to write about classical music. It is presented in memory of the writer Gerald Larner who devoted his life to writing about music, in programme notes for ensembles and venues nationwide, and for many years as a critic for The Guardian and The Times. He wrote one of the definitive biographies of composer Ravel, and was also a librettist and festival director.

As well as the insight and encouragement it gives others, writing about music can be hugely invigorating in itself. Young people are often only asked to write about music in essays at school, college or university, where certain formalities can limit their expression. With this new prize, we invite you to unleash your imagination, and set out to capture in words what makes classical music so boundless, enlivening and timeless.

The Prize is open to anyone living in the UK or Ireland aged between 16 and 25 on 1 January 2021. You may already enjoy writing about music or have no prior experience doing so. Even if you’ve never tried before, why not give it a go?

The prizes

  • First prize: £1000
  • Second prize: £600
  • Third prize: £400

Each winner will also receive a certificate, plus useful advice and support on how to further your interests as a classical music writer. The first prize winner will also be invited to write a programme note or short article for a major British classical music organisation which they will publish in a concert programme, promotional brochure or magazine, or on their website.

How do I apply?

Please note applications for this year's prize are now closed. The following information is provided just for reference:

Most classical music writers are asked to write to a brief, so we have a brief for you. We ask you to follow this, but still let your imagination roam free within its parameters:

Write a short article of up to 600 words about a piece of classical music that you love. Tell us a bit about the history of the piece, how it’s put together, what it evokes to you, and overall make a case for why the piece is worth hearing today. Perhaps it has some kind of contemporary resonance: maybe it’s featured in a film or TV programme or played a notable role elsewhere lately. Maybe it’s a rare gem that you’ve recently discovered through recorded or live performance which you think we should all get to know. You may like to tell us how you first encountered it. We urge you not to use too much musicological jargon that a concertgoer or magazine reader may not understand.

Your principal aim should be to engage your readers with the subject, prompting them to think further about it, inspiring them to listen to the music for themselves.

You should give your article a title. It should be written in prose (rather than poetry) and any hard facts it contains should be accurate.

We ask that you submit your entry in a clear font like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri, no smaller than point 11. We ask that you save it as a PDF. You should then complete our online entry form and upload your PDF where requested.

Only one entry may be made per person, and please do not submit multiple pieces of writing.

What happens next?

All entries will then be read and reviewed by a panel of experts which this year will include BBC Music Magazine Editor Oliver Condy and the renowned writer and presenter Katy Hamilton.

Once the panel has read all the entries and discussed them together, we will notify all entrants of the outcome. We aim to let you know within two months of the closing date. As we expect to receive a considerable number of entries, we cannot give individual feedback on your submissions but, if you are unsuccessful, you are welcome to enter again next year if you’re still eligible to do so.

We will then publicly announce the prize-winners, and their winning entries will be shared on our website and social media.

If you have any questions or queries, you are warmly welcome to contact the RPS on admin@philharmonicsociety.uk or 020 7287 0019.