The Primadonna Prize

Previous winners

We set up the Primadonna Prize because we wanted to open up access to the publishing industry. We wanted more people to be able to tell their stories. And we wanted everyone to feel welcome to participate. We know the Prize has changed lives…

Meet our previous winners

Elissa Soave

Elissa Soave is a Scottish writer. She won the inaugural Primadonna Prize in 2019, her prize being representation by Primadonna-agent Cathryn Summerhayes. Summerhayes negotiated a publishing contract with HQ, Harper Collins and Elissa’s first novel Ginger and Me was published by them in July 2022.  Elissa is on the judging panel of this year's Primadonna Prize.

Honoria Beirne

Honoria Beirne was the winner of the Prize in 2020, also winning representation by Cath Summerhayes. Honoria was a finalist in the ‘Richard and Judy / WHSmith Search for a Bestseller’ prize, and her short fiction has been recognised in a number of competitions, including the Bridport, Royal Academy Pindrop, Fish, Bristol and Brighton prizes. She was longlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2020.

Gayathiri Kamalakanthan

Our 2021 winner was Gayathiri Kamalakanthan, a Tamil poet, playwright and sex education facilitator. Their work thinks about the shapeability of the future, what it takes to decolonise a body and the push and pull of mothers. Gayathiri has developed work with 45North, Kali Theatre and Oxford Playhouse, and will be showcasing their first play Period Parrrty in 2023. Gayathiri won representation with Cath Summerhayes as winner of the Primadonna Prize for Fiction 2021 and is currently working on their debut novel and a collection of poems under the mentorship of Griot’s Well.

And that’s not all. 

Louise Mumford came to Primadonna in 2019, sought out Lisa Milton for a conversation about her writing, and before long her debut book, Sleepless, a “frighteningly inventive” speculative thriller inspired by her own experience of insomnia, was published by HQ Digital (in December 2020) and became an Amazon bestseller. It was also optioned for television. Her follow-up novel, The Safe House, was published in May 2022.

Anita Lehmann took part in our Make Sioned Laugh event at the 2019 festival, performing in front of (then) Radio 4 commissioner for comedy Sioned Wiliam. She too was snapped up by Lisa Milton, and her reworking of classic fairytales and nursery rhymes, The Princess and the Prick, was published in October 2020 under the pseudonym Walburga Appleseed.

A participant in one of our virtual festival events (the 2020 Primadonna festival was held online) has joined the writers’ room for Radio 4 Xtra’s NewsJack under the mentorship of Sioned William, R4’s commissioner for comedy.

None of these women had ever been published before. These are the kind of impacts, small scale but life-changing, that Primadonna is all about. Come along to this year’s festival and see for yourself. You never know: it could be you next.