The Binsted Prize

      South Downs Poetry Festival Competition 2021

      The Binsted Prize

      The Winners

      We are pleased to announce the competition results, as judged by David Swann. His report can be found below, as can the poems by the three Binsted Prize winners.

       The winning poems and poems of the Highly Commended and Commended poets will be published in the competition anthology, which will be available for purchase. We are hopeful that the poetry evening to celebrate the winning poems and hear the poets and the judge read may be held later in the year.

      First    :   Christopher Horton     Wild Boars

      Second   :   Philip Brennan      Best Anniversary at Sal’s Cod and Chips   

      Third   :   Cat Balaq     Stealing Sunday Dinner


      Highly Commended:

      Miriam Patrick            Bolted Doors

      Charlotte Cornell         First Aid Practical

      Wendy Klein               About the Fawn

      Christopher Horton     Crundale Buckle

      Myra Schneider          The Word

      Pat Murgatroyd           Tina’s Wool and Baby Shop

      Janet Montefiore         If

      Cherrie Taylor             Reported Missing

      Robin Ford                  Do not be fooled by Islands

      Trevor Breedon           Beyond the Call

      Pratibha Castle            Memories of Kells

      Jane Thorp                  Tide Mills: Company Village, Ghost Village



      Jane Joseph                        Dust to Dust

      Sarah Kiddle                      Human Remains

      Adrian Buckner                 In my Element

      Philip Dunn                       Returning is no comforter

      Chris Warren-Adamson    Teddy                        

      Margaret Jennings           Understanding Life

      Sue Spiers                        The Neighbour

      Chris Hardy                     Unhitched

      Sonia Overall                   Bay of Skail, Skara Brae

      Susan Utting                    The Thin-Skinned

      Mark Wilmot                   To Cray Ness

      Denise Bennett                 Dear Sappho

      Michele Jackson               A Sussex Guide to Childcare

      Jane Thorp                        600 Pinch Pots

      Sue Davies                        Listening to Trees


      The Binsted Prize, 2021. Judge’s Report

      The first cut is always the deepest. As judge, you need to slash the pile in half, so you’re secretly hoping for poems with stale words and a lack of imagery – or poems that fail to suggest a hinterland of reading.

                  There were 270 entries, and I eliminated about a quarter of them in the first round. After that, the job became difficult. In the search for a top 30, I put aside plenty of poems with merit, but which perhaps didn’t quite sustain their promise, or which failed to leave enough space on the page for the reader.

                  I was hoping to be moved, perhaps to tears or laughter, perhaps to a new way of seeing or thinking. I wanted goosebumps.

                  Sift, and sift again. The smaller the pile became, the less objective I could claim to be. That isn’t to say I was looking for poems I agreed with, or found easy to approach. I’ll admit to liking narrative, but my winner was a lyric. In the end, it’s always about a union of sound, shape and sense – and about the poem adding up to more than the sum of its parts. It’s about the poem’s unique soul.

                  The last cuts were the hardest. If your poem is included in the anthology, it could have won. Towards the end I was putting aside lovely pieces, including ‘Cabbages’, ‘Travel’ and ‘Slow Movie on the South Downs’. Reluctantly I was forced to part with one poem because the writer had left their name on the script.

                  A different judge would have chosen a different top 30. However, I followed a method I’ve learned to trust: to wait for the most memorable poems to rise from the pile – and then for the final handful to rise beyond being simply memorable – and to become haunting. These were the poems that the hairs on my skin remembered -- the ones I thought about when I was out walking, or digging on our allotment, or trying to concentrate on my teaching duties.

                  ‘Best Anniversary at Sal’s Cod and Chips’ and ‘Stealing Sunday Dinner’ shared strong novelistic qualities: memorable characters, dramatized in vivid scenes. But they were shaped by poets thinking hard about imagery, sound, shape, and economy. I loved them both.

                  My winner was ‘Wild Boars’, which reminded me of Edward Thomas’s work, not only in its regard for landscape and nature, but also for the unexpected angle with which it approached a major issue. I read some good pandemic poems in this year’s entries, but none that haunted me as much as this one. There’s an elusive, glancing quality in the reported experience, and a nameless yearning. It’s a quiet, modest poem, not obviously a prize-winner, but I thought it evoked the uncertain times we’re all enduring.

                  I would like to thank all the writers for sharing their work, and the organisers, Camilla and Barry, for being a pleasure to work with. There were 170 good poems in the envelope, so please don’t despair if you failed to make the final pile. Those in the habit of reaching longlists are doing something right. Concentrate on the bigger picture, not the occasional setback. It’s about the sky, not the dark clouds that pass through it.  


      Wild Boars    by Christopher Horton     (First Prize)


      What we come to believe is what we want to believe

      when the streets are paused to a standstill,

      the surrounding hills our only retreat. For me,

      the snapping of beech, the stirring of foliage,

      was more real than the light that shone,

      late afternoon, across from Marriage Wood.


      When the two of them ran, we thought they were dogs –

      at first – from the sound of their movement alone.

      How quickly they made their way, one behind the other,

      a maverick convoy of muscle and flesh

      passing steadfastly to a destination only they knew.


      Through the cover of branches, nothing was certain.

      I could swear there was the lowering of bird song

      and the sudden glint of an eye as they gathered pace,

      surging uphill where no way seemed possible.


      Still at that point of half believing they were dogs,

      we waited patiently for their owner walking behind,

      for a call at least. In the moments afterwards, the birds

      regained their confidence but no voice was heard.



      Best Anniversary at Sal’s Cod and Chips   Philip Brennan    (Second Prize)


      Sal dozes on the till as a hot bulb

      dries out the battered fish

      and a heap of meatless jumbo sausages.

      Heavy on salt, light on patrons,

      he spoke only once to curse the card reader:

      ‘Fucking piece of shit fucking thing.’


      You push at a grey chip

      while I contemplate the table,

      salt sprinkled on a yellowing grime.

      You sigh, like this was a mistake,

      but it’s your own fault

      for never having any ideas.


      I thought a place like this would be endearing,

      that I might resurrect laughter

      by saying: ‘You deep-fry my heart.’

      Instead, as Sal’s snores crescendo

      you cut me short: ‘What kind

      of two-year anniversary is this?’


      The entrance was all blue, all blue

      bleached by a twenty-year fade,

      which has crept into Sal, although

      spider legs of bright blood vessels

      light up the folds in his face.

      He is incomparable to the young man


      beaming a laminated smile

      in the top right corner of the menu.

      You wake him, exploding out the door,

      and his till flies open, stark and empty.

      It will not bash shut. He will not forgive you.

      And I offer double, for a half-eaten meal.


      Stealing Sunday Dinner by Cat Balaq     ( Third Prize )


      We tell each other stories in a shallow bath,

      pour them out hot from the tap,

      let them lap around our knees,

      smoke a roll up each. Flick ash in a scallop shell.


      Lean into cold cast iron.

      Tiles chipped, mold in the corners.

      Candle nubs propped on the wire tray between us,

      bubbles slopped on the white skin under your breasts.


      The light of the day half dying.

      Last nights dishes still suddless in the sink,

      and the chicken you stole from the shop

      over the road this morning, uncooked.


      You wore my black overcoat

      overwhelming your tiny frame.

      Pockets long enough to hold truncheons

      or jars of cranberry sauce.


      And I’m overcome with the imperfect moment.

      Too afraid to tell you how real it feels.

      Your back arching over, the grope for the soap.

      We tell each other stories in the bath.


      Later we cook. Slip pilfered potatoes

      into hot oil with salt, allow our lips to meet.

      You sit on the counter to reach me,

      fingers pushing the gaps between grout


      while I take the words from your mouth.

      We tell each other stories, pull out the plug,

      let old water go.

      And tell each other not to tell.




      Judge: David Swann


      David Swann's collection The Privilege of Rain (Waterloo Press, 2010), about his experiences as a writer-in-residence in a prison, was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award. His poems and stories have been widely published and won many awards, including first place in 2020's Binsted Prize.

      He is a Senior Lecturer in English & Creative Writing at The University of Chichester.



      Original unpublished poems on any theme are invited for the  


      Binsted Prize: £300, £150, £50 



      Entry fees

      £5.00 for the first poem, £4.00 for subsequent poems, but poets aged 16-25 can enter for £3.00 per poem 

      Post poems, with entry forms and fees, to:

      Competition Secretary

      Shirley Park, Yapton Lane,

      Walberton, Arundel, BN18 0AN 

      to arrive by the closing date of Tuesday 6 April, 2021


      We hope there will be a poetry event for the prize-winners and those with commended poems to read their work, as well as the judge, Dave Swann, in Binsted Church (BN18 0LL). We are in the process of sorting  out what is possible . At the moment the most likely months are August or September. 

      We also intend to produce an anthology of the winning and commended poems as a record and celebration of the 2021 poetry competition. The winning poem will be published in the South Downs Poetry Festival magazine, Poetry & All That Jazz.


      For full details of the South Downs Poetry Festival visit www.sdpf.org.uk

      Click here to download the

      South Downs Poetry Festival Competition Entry Form 2021

      for printing, or copy and paste from below


      South Downs Poetry Festival Competition Entry Form 2021




      Address, with Postcode.............................................................................






      D.o.b (16-25 yr old entrants only)       ………….


      Phone no................................................


      Title(s) of poem(s) submitted   








      Poems must be the original work of the named author and must not have been previously published or won a prize in any competition.

      Poems must not exceed 50 lines, must be typed, single spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point. No author names on poems - personal details to go on entry form only 

      Poems being submitted to other competitions can be accepted subject to withdrawal if another prize is awarded before winners in this competition are notified.

      The judge will read all entries and his decision is final. Copyright remains with the author.


      Send 2 copies of poems, each on a separate sheet, with entry form, by April 6 2021, to:

      Competition Secretary, Shirley Park, Yapton Lane, Walberton, Arundel, BN18 0AN.





      Entry fee: £5 for the first poem, £4.00 for subsequent poems. £3.00 for each poem if 16-25 yrs old.

      Send cheque/postal order with poem(s) OR pay on-line at:

      www.thenovium.org/sdpoetry and then write your reference number below


      I enclose a cheque or postal order payable to Binsted Arts   for £....................

      OR I have paid online and my reference no.is ………………


      For further copies of this form go to   http://www.binsted.org/poetry-comp-21