Our Fiona, shortlisted for a Yorkshire Women Volunteer Award

The Leeds Big Bookend is delighted to announce that our driving force, Fiona Gell, has been shortlisted for the Project Volunteer Award of the Year, organised by Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards. She continues to be instrumental in putting Leeds on the map for literature in all its forms, inspiring writers and audiences right across Yorkshire.

Fiona, together with the support and passion from other wonderful volunteers, was one of the founder members of the Leeds Big Bookend in 2011. The Big Bookend has always aimed to champion and celebrate literature and particularly Leeds literature and since that time has staged several major festivals for both adult readers and writers and children which have included author readings, workshops, spoken word performance, open mics, publications, competitions and writer development initiatives. In 2016 she and writer SJ Bradley created the highly successful Northern Short Story Festival which is now in its fourth year.

All this creative activity is open to everyone, often free of charge or at very low cost, and means that the Big Bookend has made a real impact throughout the whole city and continues to encourage people from all communities, ages and backgrounds to get involved in literature in whatever way they are able to.

Fiona’s dedication has also brought in some big names from outside of Yorkshire: successful novelists, playwrights, poets, spoken word performers, as well as those just starting out, enticing them North to be a part of the Leeds literature scene which Fiona and her team have really strived to support.

Fiona Gell said…

Fiona Gell“It is an enormous honour just to be nominated for this prestigious award but to be shortlisted as well is just fantastic. It came as a huge and delightful surprise! It gives me an opportunity to shine a light on all the other volunteers who make our events and festivals happen each year. It’s important to remember that, yes, whilst this is my passion, it’s the hard work from everyone involved that makes the Leeds Big Bookend the success it is today.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to support the written word in all its forms, providing a platform for expression, a place to come together, to learn, perform, listen, participate and have fun. We are fortunate that Leeds has so much creative talent and I’m delighted to see it flourish by facilitating and supporting the many writers who live and work within our city, and beyond.”

Fiona’s passion for volunteering has not stopped with the Big Bookend. She helps to organise the Northern Short Story Festival, she is one of the principal partners in the Leeds Lit Fest which has recently been nominated for Best Lit Fest in the Saboteur Awards 2019 in its first year, she volunteers for Red Ladder Theatre Company, Leeds Art Gallery and the David Oluwale Memorial Association.

Since the announcement of the Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards, there has been a real outpouring of support for Fiona, highlighting the importance, value and love for the Leeds Big Bookend and the gratitude people feel for Fiona’s own personal contribution, which she continues to make.

  • Red Ladder Theatre: “Award-winning is a perfect prefix to Fiona Gell.

  • Script Yorkshire: “Fiona Gell has supported many of our members too … June Taylor, Irene Lofthouse, Frances Brody, Daniel Ingram-Brown, William Thirsk-Gaskill, SJ Bradley, Becky Cherriman … the list goes on!

  • SJ Bradley (writer and Director of the Northern Short Story Festival): “She won’t like me saying this, but a lot of authors, including me, owe a lot to Fiona Gell. Big Bookend supported the anthology that led to Brick Mother being published and without Fiona, there would be no Northern Short Story Festival and no Leeds Lit Fest. Well deserved!

  • Rachel Connor (writer): “This is wonderful news! Thank you, Fiona, for all you do for the cultural life of Leeds. It would be a less vibrant place without you! Huge congrats on this nomination.

  • Becky Cherriman (writer and poet): “Fiona is a literary force of nature bursting with generosity. She deserves this award.

  • Nick Ahad (writer, broadcaster): “Legend. Top work, well deserved!

  • Frances Brody (writer): “Fiona waved her wand over the Leeds literary scene and made it shine.

  • June Taylor (writer): “Fiona Gell has helped so many of us in so many ways. It’s an opportunity for us to say a big thank you. She works tirelessly on our behalf with no agenda of her own and as a volunteer! We wonder why she does it but we love it that she does. Fiona has given writers like me a voice and a platform in my hometown of Leeds, for which I will always be grateful.

In a special Award Ceremony on 10th May 2019, we’ll find out if Fiona wins her category in the prestigious Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards in recognition of all of her hard work. We hope you will join us in keeping everything crossed that she will be rewarded for the absolute winner that she truly is!

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