Michael Palin, the writer, actor and Monty Python star who became Britain’s favourite traveller following phenomenally successful BBC series and books such as Around the World in Eighty Days and Pole to Pole, was tonight presented with the Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing. Also at the ceremony, part of the Stanfords Travel Writing Festival celebrating writers and writing across ten categories, Interstate: Hitchhiking Through the State of a Nation, the story of a road trip from New York to San Francisco towards the end of the Obama administration, won the prestigious Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award.
Author Levison Wood, himself a winner in the Adventure Travel category, presented Palin with his Award, saying: “Michael Palin was one of my childhood heroes, a real inspiration that led me to want to explore the world with the same enthusiasm and curiosity. His adventures around the world, across deserts, mountains and jungles have no doubt encouraged millions to do the same.”
Accepting his Award, Palin said: “To be given an Outstanding Contribution Award for Travel Writing is a great honour. To be presented with it by an outstanding writer/adventurer like Levison Wood is icing on the cake. The cake itself is that the award comes from Stanfords, the first port of call on all my travels, and one of the few truly indispensable shops in the world.”
Julian Sayarer, who once held the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle, overcame competition including travel writing legend Paul Theroux to win the Travel Book of the Year Award for Interstate. Chair of Judges, travel writer and biographer Sara Wheeler, said: “The decision was unanimous. Sayarer is a brilliantly thoughtful writer with no shortage of passion and anger. As befits the story of a road trip, the prose is the opposite of pedestrian: it is challenging and enigmatic – its power derives in part from what is left out. One can’t help thinking that the future of travel writing lies in this adventurous, post-modern genre.”
In the hotly contested Specsavers Fiction (with a sense of place) Award, Madeleine Thien won for her novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, beating writers including Julian Barnes and Yann Martel in the process. Chair of Judges Lyn Hughes, co-founder of Wanderlust magazine, said the Man Booker shortlisted book was “an epic and powerful novel.”
Levison Wood, who shares a birthday with his hero Michael Palin, won the Wanderlust Adventure Travel Book of the Year Award for Walking the Himalayas, an account of his 1,700-mile trek across the roof of the world. The judges said Wood exceeded the achievements of the accompanying television series, giving the book “a real sense of travel and place.”
Illustrated books won several Awards: The National Book Tokens Children’s Travel Book of the Year was Atlas of Animal Adventures by Lucy Letherland, Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins; The Destinations Show Illustrated Travel Book of the Year went to The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths, Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes by Malachy Tallack and Katie Scott; The London Book Fair Innovation in Travel Publishing Award was given to James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti for Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics; and Tessa Kiros won the Food and Travel Magazine Food and Travel Book of the Year Award for “a true culinary travel book” Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway.
Two emerging talents were also highlighted at the ceremony: Dom Tulett was named winner of Bradt Travel Guides New Travel Writer of the Year competition for “a masterful piece of writing”, and will shortly be featured in the travel publisher’s Roam Alone: Inspiring Tales by Reluctant Solo Travellers; Lauren Williams’ The Enjoyable Rut was named Lonely Planet Travel Blog of the Year, for the freelance writer’s “perfect balance of travelogue and travel guide… Like reading postcards from a travel-mad best friend.”
Tony Maher, Managing Director of Edward Stanford Limited, said: “These Awards celebrate and reward the very best writers in every genre of travel writing, from the newest of talents to household names. They show us the world beyond our own horizons, taking us with them on their journeys. Their words let us see, smell, touch and hear from our own armchair as they explore every inch of this incredible planet. They are an inspiration.”
All winners received an antique globe trophy. The Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards are held to coincide with the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival at Destinations: The Holiday and Travel Show at Olympia. The awards are supported by a trade-wide travel books promotion in bookshops and libraries until 24th February.