Orwell event headshots

The annual Orwell Prize rewards journalists who most closely follow George Orwell’s aim of making “political writing into an art”.

And it’s that art we’ll be celebrating on Wednesday 12 May at an exclusive panel discussion with three writers shortlisted for this year’s prize. Here we look at the life and work of our special guest speakers:

Peter Hitchens has more than 25 years of experience in journalism, spent variously as a foreign correspondent in Moscow and Washington DC, a political reporter and defence specialist. He has also written five books, his most recent being an anti-religious polemic, The Rage Against God.

His conservative political conviction led him to resign from his previous post at the Daily Express and move to The Mail on Sunday as a columnist, reporter and blogger. Among Peter Hitchens‘ longlisted articles were a “what if?” feature asking what the world would be like if the Berlin Wall had not fallen in 1989 and an analysis of why Canada is withdrawing from the war in Afghanistan yet UK troops are staying put.

Here’s an interview with Hitchens about his most recent book:

Amelia Gentleman writes on social affairs for The Guardian and previously contributed to The Observer and International Herald Tribune. As a foreign correspondent in New Delhi she received first prize at the 2007 Human Rights Press Awards.

Her thought-provoking reportage – such as this fascinating look at life in an elderly care home and this piece on a child protection unit – provides a unique view on British life and society that goes far beyond the facts and figures of press releases and spin, using human stories to tell the tale.

Here’s a passage from Amelia Gentleman’s piece on social deprivation, written in 2009, ten years after Tony Blair promised to eradicate child poverty by 2020:

Shopping at Morrisons doesn’t take very long. Louise has a simple formula: don’t buy anything that costs more than £1. This week, the budget bananas are finished, and the regular packet costs £1.29, so she doesn’t buy bananas. The cheap potatoes are also sold out, so she doesn’t buy potatoes […]

‘It would be nice, on occasion, to buy them something on a whim – treats, cakes and biscuits. But if you do, you know you’re going to have to turn the heating off,’ she says. Her face is pallid, and she has grey patches of exhaustion beneath her eyes.

John Arlidge is a freelance journalist who regularly contributes to the Sunday Times, as well as Conde Nast titles in the US. He received his nomination for extensive report from inside Goldman Sachs, which provided a rare glimpse into what he calls “the best cash-making machine that global capitalism has ever produced”. An excerpt on the greed-driven culture Goldman fosters in its staff:

Goldman Sachs isn’t nicknamed “Goldmine Sachs” for nothing. There’s so much of the stuff sloshing around that in an average year a good investment banking partner will make $3.5m, a good trading partner $7-10m and a management committee member $15-25m. Some 953 employees got bonuses of at least $1m in 2008.

One former Goldman banker describes the culture as ‘completely money-obsessed. I was like a donkey driven forward by the biggest, juiciest carrot I could imagine. Money is the way you define your success. There’s always room — need — for more. If you are not getting a bigger house or a bigger boat, you’re falling behind. It’s an addiction.’

To watch the full event, click here.