Poets Quit British Award Over Hedge Fund’s Sponsorship

Dec 13 2011 | 2:15am ET

Two of the 10 British poets shortlisted for a prestigious award have dropped out of the running to protest the prize’s sponsorship by a hedge fund firm.

Alice Oswald and John Kinsella said that they will not accept the $23,000 T.S. Eliot Prize due to the recent three-year deal to sponsor it signed by Aurum Funds. The agreement followed the British Arts Council’s decision in April to stop funding the prize.

“I’m uncomfortable about the fact that Aurum Funds, an investment company which exclusively manages funds of hedge funds, is sponsoring the administration of the Eliot Prize,” Alice Oswald, who won the award in 2002, said. “I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions and for that reason I’m withdrawing from the Eliot shortlist.”

An Eliot Prize board member defended the Aurum sponsorship, noting that the firm is “respected” and counts “public sector pension funds and Oxford University” among its clients. And T.S. Eliot himself worked at Lloyd’s Bank before winning fame as a poet.

Nor is Aurum the only alternative investment firm to sponsor such a prize. The Booker Prize, arguably the most prestigious literary award in the U.K. and its former colonies, has been sponsored by the Man Group since 2002.

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