The Costa Book Awards, the only major prize open solely to authors living in the UK and Ireland, are to end after 50 years, organisers say.
The Costa book awards, after running for half a century, have been abruptly scrapped. The coffee shop chain has said the 2021 awards, which were announced in February this year, were the last.
In a statement from the company, which is owned by Coca-Cola, Costa’s CEO Jill McDonald said: “After 50 years of celebrating some of the most enjoyable books written by hugely talented authors from across the UK and Ireland, Costa Coffee has taken the difficult decision to end the book awards.”
McDonald added that the company was “incredibly proud” to have supported the awards, and thanked “all those who have been involved and supported them over the years”.
Recent winners include Sally Rooney, Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd. The prize has previously given £30,000 to its main winner, while its category winners – for first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children’s book – would each win £5,000.
The ceremony held earlier this year in February was its last – it was celebrating the winners of the 2021 prize, which had been delayed by Covid.
The prize was established in 1971, and was called the Whitbread Book Awards up until 2006, when Costa took over. This year, the total prize fund for the awards was £60,000.
The book of the year for 2021 was The Kids by Hannah Lowe, a former London teacher, whose book of sonnets drew on her experiences in an inner-city sixth form.
The children’s book of year prize was the only literary award won by Roald Dahl, for The Witches in 1983. Overall book of the year winners have included Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, which narrowly beat JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999. Iris Murdoch and Paul Theroux were winners in the 1970s, and Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass became the first children’s book to win book of the year in 2001.
Costa – which according to reports of parent company Coca-Cola earlier this year has been enjoying strong sales – said that there are no plans for the awards to be taken over by anyone else. The company has not yet given a reason for closing them.