A life force

Fay Weldon became honorary patron of The Bridport Prize in 2006, in the footsteps of John Fowles. It was a hard act to follow ‘but Fay very readily said yes,’ recalls Frances Everitt, Programme Manager till 2015.  ‘Fay was living in Dorset and felt a real connection.’

With her copywriting background, Fay didn’t hesitate in penning a quote for the prize, borne of the winding road she had navigated to establish herself as a writer:

Mention the Bridport Prize and the eyes of writers everywhere light up. It’s not just the money – though that’s not to be sneezed at – it’s a prize really worth fighting for in terms of prestige and genuine literary accomplishment.

Confidence and encouragement

Fay was soon a regular at our awards lunches, eager to mingle and offer advice. ‘She was very keen and happy to talk to the winners and encourage them,’ says Frances. ‘She was always very charming and engaged. For our entrants to think they might have the opportunity to encounter someone who can give you that confidence – fantastic!’

Franklin Birkinshaw?

Having written 31 novels over 55 years, Fay Weldon came into the world as Franklin Birkinshaw because her mother thought she was having a boy. She grew up in New Zealand returning to England when her parents’ marriage ended. Fay eventually worked at the Foreign Office writing pamphlets for the Cold War and then in advertising, famously on the the Go to work on an egg campaign at the prestigious Ogilvy Benson & Mather agency.


She began writing for TV and radio in 1963, working on Upstairs Downstairs and Pride & Prejudice, describing herself as a ‘writeaholic’.

At 52 her novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil became one of the most talked about TV series when it burst onto the screen in 1983.

‘I’ve just set out my bookshelves after moving house and there are piles of Fay Weldon’s,’ says Frances. ‘I loved them, I really did like her writing.’

‘Couldn’t have been better’

Frances Everitt

Meeting someone you admire is a risk. It can be good, bad or plain vanilla. For Frances it was hugely uplifting. ‘Fay was fearless. She was formidable. I always looked up to her as a feminist writer who I was privileged to meet. She was charming and so encouraging for what we were trying to do. She couldn’t have been better for us. And for me personally, how lovely to meet a writer I read in my 20s and really rated and there she was: fantastic, generous and giving.’

Fay Weldon died on 4 January 2023 aged 91.

From everyone at The Bridport Prize: Thank you, Fay.

Photo credit of Fay Weldon: Alex Baker

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