I’m still to come down after a fantastic evening at Kendal Mountain Festival on Nov 18th to witness the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature ceremony. The sold out event at the Brewery Arts Centre was a fascinating and at times emotional roller coaster of a night, culminating in the announcement of not one but two winners for 2022.
This was my first ever visit to the awards ceremony and I was hugely privileged to do so in the company of John Innerdale, one of the founders of Mountain Heritage Trust (now a Patron) and also deeply involved in the Kendal festivals in years gone by. John is always great company but he also knows everybody so the introductions and the networking were easily facilitated. I was delighted to have conversations with Richard Leafe, Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park, and with Glyn Hughes who has had a long relationship with the Alpine Club and so much more in the world of climbing.
John and I were lucky enough to sit with the extended Tasker and Boardman families as guests of Terry Tasker, Trustee (and former Chair) of the MHT and sister of Joe. Terry also wasted no time in introducing me to many more people, including other family members, Sir Chris Bonington, and Stephen Venables, who was the illuminating and engaging interviewer of the authors for the evening.
The evening consisted of Stephen interviewing all of the nominees (in alphabetical order), along with the authors reading from their works. I had been impressed with all the nominations when I read about them, but this one on one engagement really succeeded in opening up the mystery and the magic of the books for me. By the end, I wanted to read each and every one of them, and I will.
The conversations and readings covered so many fascinating areas – including climbing’s positive effect on mental health; serious injury, bereavement, and loss; motherhood; geology and the craft of climbing; how to approach risk and ambition – and much more besides.
The nominees were:
Kieran Cunningham Climbing the Walls, Learning to cope when your world crumbles - Simon & Schuster
Anna Fleming Time on Rock, A climber’s route into the mountains - Canongate Publishing
Brian Hall High Risk, Climbing to extinction - Sandstone Press
Robert Charles Lee Through Dangerous Doors, A life at risk - WiDO Publishing
Helen Mort A Line Above the Sky, A story of mountains and motherhood - Ebury Press
Paul Pritchard The Mountain Path, A climber’s journey through life and death - Vertebrate Publishing
After the interviews the Chair of the Judges, Marni Jackson spoke from Canada about the difficult task she and fellow judges Natalie Berry and Matt Fry had in first of all selecting the six nominees and then ultimately choosing a winner from those six. This difficulty was perhaps reflected in the decision to announce Helen Mort and Brian Hall as joint winners this year.
The two-hour event drew to a close with a speech from Paul Tasker, Joe’s younger brother and current Chair of Trustees. His speech ended with an incredibly powerful and moving reading of the poem Climbers on Everest by their father Tom Tasker, written after Pete and Joe’s deaths. Sir Chris Bonington who had been enjoying the evening with his wife then paid an impromptu but clearly heartfelt tribute to the memory of his friends and colleagues in whose name this award was set up.
The evening closed with well-deserved book sales and signings. Finally – a big thumbs up to the Kendal Mountain Festival organisers for another fantastic event, and the Brewery Arts Centre team for hosting (and for the excellent Gluten Free pizza which John and I shared before the event - this often disappointed coeliac was very satisfied with the fare on offer). The whole evening was hugely enjoyable and a very great success. Congratulations to everybody involved. I cannot wait until next year.
[Photos of the winners Helen Mort and Brian Hall by nominee, Paul Pritchard, and used with kind permission. Many thanks Paul.]