On June 24, 2020, The Booker Prize Foundation released a statement announcing the removal of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne as Honorary Vice President and the discontinuation of honorary titles associated with the foundation.
Baroness Nicholson is a British politician and widow of the late Sir Michael Caine after whom the Ako Caine Prize is partially named. He also helped establish the Man Booker Prize.
According to The Guardian, Baroness Nicholson recently came under fire for series of statements made on social media regarding same-sex marriage and the trans community. Her statements were criticized as transphobic and homophobic by leading members of the British literary community, including Damian Barr and Marlon James who won the Booker Prize in 2015.
Here is the statement in which the Booker Prize Foundation states its decision to relieve the Baroness of her role.
We, the Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation, met today and wish to reiterate that the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender people are her own personal opinions.
The issues are complex, but our principles are clear. We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia – and do not discriminate on any grounds.
Literature is open, plural and questioning. We believe every author’s work should be approached by readers in the same spirit. Integrity is central to both Booker Prizes, whose judging process is conducted at all times in keeping with these values.
Upon her retirement from the Board in 2009, Baroness Nicholson was made an honorary vice president, a role that gave her no say in the governance or operations of the Foundation or prizes. In recent days there has been some confusion about the nature of honorary titles used by the Foundation. Too many believe that these titles in some way symbolise the prizes. That is not the case.
We have today decided that these titles and roles should, with immediate effect, cease to exist. Those holding them have been informed and thanked for their longstanding interest.
On the same day as the Booker Prize statement, The Ako Caine Prize released a statement on equality, covered in this post on Brittle Paper last week.
The Ako Caine Prize Statement reads: “We at the AKO Caine Prize stand firmly on the side of equality. The AKO Caine Prize is here to support writers of African descent, to amplify their voices and to bring new readers to their works. In doing so, we are committed to the active support of all African writers regardless of their sexuality, gender or gender identity and expression.”
The statements by both organizations appear to address public concerns regarding the integrity of the judging process, communicating to the literary community that discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality had no place in their organizational creed and culture.
Baroness Nicholson has since denied media interpretations of her personal and political views and apologized for past statements on Twitter.
A further clarification FYI pic.twitter.com/uv5VNlEbjp
— Baroness Nicholson (@Baroness_Nichol) June 27, 2020