We’re delighted to announce that Northern Soul is the Media Partner for the fourth annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction. This is our third year as partner for the prestigious prize, run by Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire. Comma’s commitment to the short story and its place in today’s literary narrative is second to none, as is its work to blur cultural and social boundaries.

About the prize

The Dinesh Allirajah Prize is an annual award for short fiction. It was set up by Comma Press in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire following the death in 2014 of Comma’s much-loved director and founding board member, writer Dinesh Allirajah.

The prize is open to anyone 18 years or over who is a UK resident. The submitted story cannot have been published anywhere else, online or in print. Entry is free, but only one submission per writer please. All entries will be made anonymous upon receipt and will remain so until after the shortlist has been decided.

northern-soul-photoThe winning writer will receive £500 and all 10 shortlisted authors will be featured in an ebook anthology which will be published by Comma Press and sold online. The winner will also have their story published online by Northern Soul.

Submissions for the 2021 prize, with stories on the theme of ‘Home’, are now being accepted. The judges this year are Dr Philip Braithwaite (UCLan), Abi Fellows (The Good Literary Agency), Alfred Searls (Northern Soul) and author Courttia Newland.

How to submit

You must submit your story electronically. All entries must include a cover letter which states the author’s name, address, email, contact number, and story title. Any entries sent without this information will not be considered. Please send your story entry and cover letter electronically to commaprizes@gmail.com in the form of a Word document.

Read the terms and conditions here

Here’s what a previous winner had to say about the prize:

“Comma Press are renowned for seeking out emerging, fresh voices and the Dinesh Allirajah prize is the culmination of their promise to not just publish those voices but to further their careers. Since winning the inaugural prize in 2018, Comma Press has gifted me my first story published in the UK, my first story published in print, my first story published in hardback, my first commission and my first invitation to a literary event in the UK. The Dinesh Allirajah prize is no ordinary competition, it is a unique opportunity to gain visibility as a writer with the one of the most ambitious, eclectic and respected short story publishers in the UK.”Lucas Stewart, 2018 winner 

Shortlisted writers said: 

“Having my story shortlisted for the Dinesh Prize is an honour and I thank all concerned for the opportunity. Aldous Huxley said that after decades of study and research, he was embarrassed that the best philosophy he could come up with was to promote kindness. It was with this in mind that I wrote this story, so I hope it warms a few hearts along the way.” – Shortlistee AJ Reid, 2020 
“I’m a big fan of Comma Press, both the books it publishes and the brilliant work it does developing, promoting and showcasing the short story, and so am proper delighted to be included on this year’s shortlist for the Dinesh Prize. This shortlisting feels like real positive reinforcement that my therapeutic writing is resulting in good stories as well as good mental health.” – Shortlistee Jan Kaneen, 2020 

“I’m so thrilled to have been shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize, not least because it was on a brilliant and inspiring Comma Press course in Liverpool in 2016 that I started writing short stories. The fact that the prize is free to enter, and has no restrictions in terms of prior publication, means it opens up opportunity for all emerging writers, regardless of background or circumstances.” – Shortlistee Johanna Robinson, 2019

Comma logoI’m overjoyed to have been shortlisted; it’s a real honour to have my story commended in such a way. The fact that entry to the prize was free makes it a level playing field too, it allows those of us who can’t afford to pay entrance fees to other competitions a chance to get some feedback on our work and help develop our careers… Having it open to anybody means that the prize will attract stories from much more diverse backgrounds and they’ll be more interesting for it.” – Shortlistee Luke Hilton, 2019 

Previous judges say:

“Having closely followed the progress of the prize during its first two years and witnessed the calibre of writing that has emerged, I’m extremely excited to be part of this year’s judging panel. It’s an absolute pleasure to be associated with the prize – particularly owing to Dinesh Allirajah’s legacy as both a writer and a champion of short fiction – and I look forward to seeing the writer’s interpretations of ‘artificial intelligence’ and how they each respond to the subject matter.” – Emma Yates-Badley, Judge, 2020

“It’s always exciting when a competition reaches the sharp end and I’m really looking forward to reading the six shortlisted stories. I’m expecting the standard to be high, and picking a winner is sure to be a tough task for me and my fellow judges.” – Martyn Bedford, Judge, 2020 

Read previous winning stories published on Northern Soul:

The 2018 prize-winning story was Bakhur by Lucas Stewart. More info here about the 2018 prize. You can buy the 2018 prize anthology featuring all ten shortlisted stories from Amazon Kindle for only 99p.

The 2019 prize-winning story was Truffle by Matt Thomas. Read it here. You can buy the 2019 prize anthology featuring all seven shortlisted stories from Amazon Kindle for only 99p.

The 2020 prize-winning story was Protect and Serve by JE Rowney. Read it here. You can buy the 2020 prize anthology featuring all six shortlisted stories from Amazon Kindle for only 99p.