The Barbellion Prize is dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing.

The prize is awarded annually to an author whose work has best spoken of the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.

The awarded work can be of any genre in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world - whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published.

The prize is named in homage to English diarist W.N.P Barbellion, who wrote eloquently on his life with multiple sclerosis (MS) before his death in 1919.

It is to be awarded on February 12th 2021, with prize money amounting to £600.

Submissions are open now and end October 31st 2020.


Illness is ubiquitous, but often it goes neglected in our thoughts or is thoroughly misunderstood. There is a long history of artists and writers living with illness, from Franz Kafka, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Katherine Mansfield, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, and many others. 

All of these writers produced great work partly because of their illness and the perspective it gave them, and today still exists their spiritual company. The experiences of the ill are still often unnoticed, unheard, or they remain unsaid. And if there’s something truly worth writing... it is from those who would more likely stay vulnerable and hidden, not expressing their struggle: their inner phenomenology of illness. 

While also rewarding people for writing while ill, we also hope to encourage others who live with illness and disability to demonstrate their lives in print - fictionally or otherwise.


Eligibility for the prize consists in the author’s presentation of life with a long-term chronic illness or disability, whether that be in the form of blindness, MS, cystic fibrosis, dwarfism, or another comparable condition that may substantially define one’s life.

Authors - such as those in a carer's capacity - who themselves are not ill may be considered for the prize if their work is truly exceptional as an articulation of life with illness, but authors who themselves deal with illness or disability will take priority in the expression of their experiences and in selection for the prize.

What is important is not any particular moral or message in a given work but rather visibility for, and a genuine illustration of, life with illness, disease, or disability

MS Trust logo for web.jpg

With support from The Multiple Sclerosis Trust

Credit for The Barbellion Prize logo goes to Norah Al Shammari

  • Facebook
  • Twitter