Dapo Adeola and Nigel Lungenmuss-Ward win Ruth Rendell Award 2023

The award celebrates individuals who have gone above and beyond to promote literacy. The joint winners were announced at a ceremony at the Goldsmiths’ Centre on 22 February.

For the first time in its history, the Ruth Rendell Award was jointly awarded, to author and illustrator Dapo Adeola and author and teacher Nigel Lungenmuss-Ward.

Launched in 2015 by ALCS and the National Literacy Trust (NLT) in honour of the crime novelist who championed literacy throughout her life, the award celebrates individuals who have gone above and beyond to promote literacy development in adults or children in the UK.

The ceremony was hosted by 2020 winner, author and musician Karl Nova. Karl shared what it meant to him to receive the Ruth Rendell Award and spoke about his passion for literacy: “I’ve been active in the creative education sector for the past 13 years and I’ll be doing it until the day I die… I love bringing joy through reading and literacy!”

The award was judged by Di Redmond, Laura Ferguson, Marion Gillooly and Sarah Mears. The shortlist also included Giovanni ‘Spoz’ Esposito, Glenn Martin James, SF Said, Sita Brahmachari and Yomi Sode, who are all significant forces for improving literary for young people.

Jonathan Douglas, CEO at the NLT, took to the stage to present Dapo and Nigel with their awards. He praised those shortlisted for their incredible dedication; for being “changemakers for society” and for “making literacy irresistible”.

Dapo was recognised for his work helping children from underrepresented ethnic minority backgrounds and for his role as an ambassador to the NLT, where he worked on numerous projects to promote literacy, including a library gifting programme that brought book access to over 22,500 pupils. He also worked with Living Painting to create accessible books for visually impaired children, hosted writers’ clinics for aspiring authors, and championed emerging talent in his collaborative work. He has championed diversity in the industry, advocating for representation in children’s books and illustrations, so that all children see themselves in the stories they read.

On winning the award, Dapo said: “To be up here receiving this particular award is an absolute honour. To have the efforts I’ve gone to in this industry recognised in this fashion is more than I could have asked for. Thank you so much for that. But it would be a lie if I took all the credit for the results of my efforts. None of what I’ve done was done solo. When it didn’t take a team to bring home a project, it took people showing up and showing support. Without this and so many other authors, illustrators and readers who continue to show up, I don’t think any of my efforts on and off the page would have gone as well as they have.”

Nigel was recognised by the judges for his work as a Literacy Champion for NLT’s Get Suffolk Reading hub, working with some of the most vulnerable families in the community to find innovative ways to inspire a love of reading. Nigel also used his experience as a teacher to support reading charities in their work with schools and families, suggesting more effective strategies for supporting children’s literacy. He also contributed to academic texts relating to literacy and teaching.

Accepting his award, Nigel said: “Being shortlisted for and ultimately winning this award for services to literacy in the UK is a true honour. Just to be acknowledged alongside such talented nominees is completely humbling. Reading and writing have had such a transformative impact on my own life, and to be able to promote the benefits of literacy to others is a true joy. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this initiative and will continue to work towards increasing literacy levels in the UK.”

ALCS CEO Barbara Hayes offered her congratulations to the joint winners: “it’s inspiring to see that there are so many writers committed to literacy in the UK that we now have joint winners for the first time in the history of the Ruth Rendell award. Both Dapo and Nigel do fantastic work in such unique ways: Dapo is a passionate advocate for representation and making sure children see themselves reflected in the books and stories they read, while Nigel has worked tirelessly to get children reading for pleasure. Both are worthy winners for this award. Congratulations Dapo and Nigel!”

You can read more about the Ruth Rendell Award, including the winners from previous years, here.