The Story of Waverton Good Read

An article by Susannah Hickling about Le Prix De La Cadière was the starting point for the Waverton Good Read Award in 2003. Francois Dufour, the doctor of La Cadière D'Azur, (a Provencal village - population about 4000) had speculated that reading a good book might be as useful to some of his patients as the medication he would normally prescribe. So he set up an annual prize for the French debut novel of the year, which attracted most votes from the readers in the village. The idea was a great success and Le Prix De La Cadière was born.

Wendy Smedley and Gwen Goodhew decided to try to replicate this idea in Waverton, a village of 2000 outside Chester. They set out to find fifty or more debut novels - first adult novels written by British citizens and published in the previous twelve months. The aim was not only to stimulate reading in the village but also to provide encouragement to British writers. It took some persistence to identify and then gather several copies of each book, although publishers became more and more helpful as they realised what was going on. Even more remarkably, more than 50 people from in and around the village were recruited to read and review the novels.

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The rest is history - it worked! In its first year (2003-2004) Waverton villagers read 63 books and in July chose their first winner - Mark Haddon for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. He was presented with his award at a dinner in the village. This award dinner is now a regular feature of the Chester Literature Festival every October and is always sold out.

At different times, small groups from Styal Prison, the hamlet of Bickerton and our sponsors have augmented Waverton readers. Their contributions have been very welcome.

Regular meetings are held throughout the year at which debut and other novelists are invited to talk about their work. These meetings are well-attended and provide opportunities for book lovers to share their interest with others as well as a platform for new writers.

In 2008 Borders (Cheshire Oaks) agreed to sponsor the Award, enabling us to give the winner a prize of £1000 (as well as recognition by ordinary readers). When Borders closed, new sponsors Urenco and NNL (until 2015) stepped in to enable us to continue to give a cash prize. In 2016 Illingworth Seddon of Tattenhall became the sponsors.

Since 2013 we have received occasional further support from Cheshire West and Cheshire.

International link:

As a result of a partnership arrangement with Festival du Premier Roman de Chambéry-Savoie, Waverton Good Read Award's long list of books for 2009-2010 have been read by a group in France. They have now chosen what they consider to be the best British debut novel of last year, and their choice is Rescue Man by Anthony Quinn which was one of our short-listed books. Click here to go to their web site.

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