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Monday 29 April 2024
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Wolfson Student Receives Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness

Wolfson is delighted to announce that Freya Marshall Payne (GS 2020—) has been awarded the inaugural Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness.

The Prize for Reporting Homelessness, administered by the Orwell Foundation in partnership with the Centre for Homelessness Impact, shines a light on new forms of homelessness including temporary and precarious housing, sofa surfing and beds in sheds, as well as rough sleeping and hostel-dwelling. Freya, who won joint first place alongside the journalist Daniel Lavelle, received the award in recognition of her reporting for The Guardian and an original essay submitted for the occasion. Alan Rusbridger, former Guardian editor and chair of the judging panel, praised the “powerful, hard-won use” to which Freya put her own experiences, “coming to recognise her own experience of insecure housing was a form of hidden homelessness.”

In her doctoral work, Freya uses a life-story approach to explore women’s experience of hidden homelessness and precarious housing in England today. She works between the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College and the University of Oxford Department of Education. She holds the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing Derrill Allatt ESRC Graduate Scholarship here at Wolfson College.

“I’m delighted to have won,” said Freya, “and feel honoured to share the Prize with Daniel Lavelle, whose work I really admire. It means so very much to have my research and writing recognised in this way. I am lucky that I get to focus on this vital topic for my doctorate and that I have been able to engage a wider audience and raise awareness about hidden homelessness.

“I’m currently interviewing women who have experienced precarious housing and homelessness for my DPhil. I’m grateful to them for entrusting me with their life-stories and reflections, and to the Centre for Life-Writing here at Wolfson College, the Derrill Allatt Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Foundation for supporting my research.”

The Orwell Prizes are the UK’s most prestigious prizes for political writing. Established on the ninetieth anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), the Prize for Reporting Homelessness recognises and rewards the empathic spirit of Orwell’s vivid reportage, encouraging evidence-led reporting and a re-examination of the debate around homelessness. Orwell depicted those he met as victims of circumstance, rather than culpable for their own misfortune, treating his subjects with respect and dignity. The judges looked for writing that avoided implications of blame and which challenged the stigma, stereotypes and false narratives that characterise the contemporary conversation on homelessness.

Freya received the award at a ceremony in Conway Hall in London.

Photo: Orwell Foundation.