Jay Bernard (writer)

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Jay Bernard
Born1988 (age 35–36)
London, U.K.
Alma materOxford University
Occupation(s)Writer, artist, film programmer, and activist
Notable workSurge (2019)

Jay Bernard (born 1988), FRSL, is a British writer, artist, film programmer, and activist from London, UK. Bernard has been a programmer at BFI Flare since 2014,[1] co-editor of Oxford Poetry,[2] and their fiction, non-fiction, and art has been published in many national and international magazines and newspapers.


Bernard was named a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2005.[3] Bernard was selected for The Complete Works programme in 2014.

Bernard's pamphlet The Red and Yellow Nothing was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2016. The collection tells of the story of Sir Morien, a black knight at Camelot.[4] The reviewer for The London Magazine wrote: "Jay Bernard has created a rare and beautiful thing. Part contemporary verse drama, part mythic retelling....Employing metrical ballads and concrete poems with equal vigour, Bernard takes us on a visual and allusive journey to test the imagination, thus putting the poet’s resources of sight and sound to full use. ...reading The Red and Yellow Nothing brings continuous surprise."[5]

Bernard won the 2017 Ted Hughes Award for their multimedia performance work Surge: Side A,[6] that includes the film Something Said, inspired by the 1981 New Cross house fire[7][8][9] and archives held at the George Padmore Institute, where they were the first poet-in-residence.[10] The 2014 novel A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, and Twilight City, a film produced by Reece Auguiste for the Black Audio Film Collective in 1989, also provided inspiration for the work.[11]

Bernard was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.[12][13]

Bernard's poetry collection, Surge, published by Chatto & Windus, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2019,[14] for the 2019 Costa Book Award (for Poetry),[15] for the 2020 Dylan Thomas Prize,[16] and the 2020 RSL Ondaatje Prize.[17] It won the 2020 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.[18]


Pamphlets and single-author collections[edit]

  • Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (Tall Lighthouse, 2008, ISBN 978-1904551416)
  • English Breakfast (Math Paper Press, 2013)[19]
  • The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink, Sweat and Tears Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0992725310), pamphlet[20]
  • Other Ubiquities (2017)[21]
  • Surge (Chatto, 2019, ISBN 978-1784742614).


  • Surge: Side A (2017), a multimedia performance piece that won the Ted Hughes Award for new poetry. The work was performed at the Roundhouse, London, during The Last Word Festival 2017, and was produced by Speaking Volumes.[6]
  • A Toast to the People (2021) Jay Bernard also performed at the Edinburgh International Festival, a spoken word event with Debris Stephenson.[22]


Inclusion in anthologies and collections[edit]

Graphic art and poetry by Bernard appears in the following collections:

  • City State (2009)
  • "Black Britain: Beyond Definition", Wasafiri, Issue 64, Winter 2010.[24]
  • The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt 2011)
  • Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe 2014)


Further work and collaborations[edit]

  • 2022: After Work, made in collaboration with Céline Condorelli and Ben Rivers focuses on the building of a children’s playground, which Condorelli was commissioned to create in South London.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Bernard grew up in London,[11] and read English at Oxford University.[29] Bernard identifies as "black, queer", and uses the pronouns "they/ them".[11] Their Jamaican-born grandmother, Gee Bernard (1934–2016), was the first black councillor in Croydon and the first black member of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).[30][31][32]


  1. ^ "Meet out new BFI Flare programmer". BFI. 17 December 2014.
  2. ^ "New Editor". Oxford Poetry.
  3. ^ "Profile: Jay Bernard". The Poetry Society.
  4. ^ Moore, Fiona (19 September 2016). "Review: The Red and Yellow Nothing by Jay Bernard". Sabotage Reviews.
  5. ^ Kwek, Theophilus (1 September 2016), "The Red and Yellow Nothing by Jay Bernard" (review), The London Magazine.
  6. ^ a b "Jay Bernard wins the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry". The Poetry Society. 28 March 2018.
  7. ^ Lea, Richard (28 March 2018). "Jay Bernard wins Ted Hughes Award". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Jay Bernard wins Ted Hughes new poetry award". BBC News. 28 March 2018.
  9. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha (29 March 2018), "Jay Bernard wins Ted Hughes Award", The Bookseller.
  10. ^ "GPI's First Poet-in-Residence Jay Bernard Live at the Roundhouse" Archived 19 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine, George Padmore Institute, 28 June 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Armitstead, Claire (5 April 2018). "Interview: Speaking out: Ted Hughes winner Jay Bernard on exploring the New Cross fire in a one-off performance". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Fellow: Jay Bernard". The Royal Society of Literature.
  13. ^ Flood, Alison (28 June 2018), "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases", The Guardian.
  14. ^ Flood, Alison (17 October 2019). "TS Eliot prize unveils shortlist of 'fearless poets'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  15. ^ "Past shortlisted entries", Costa Book Awards.
  16. ^ "Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. 8 April 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Royal Society of Literature » RSL Ondaatje Prize". rsliterature.org. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Jay Bernard wins £5,000 Young Writer of the Year Award for Surge". Irish Times. 11 December 2020.
  19. ^ English Breakfast at Books Actually.
  20. ^ Bernard, Jay (2017). "How I Did It". Poetry School.
  21. ^ Other Ubiquities, Jay Bernard website.
  22. ^ "A Toast to the People: Jay Bernard & Debris Stevenson". Edinburgh International Festival. 23 August 2021. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  23. ^ "About Something Said". Something Said Film. Archived from the original on 25 August 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Wasafiri Issue 64". Wasafiri.
  25. ^ "Previous Artists in Residence". StAnza International Poetry Festival.
  26. ^ a b "Jay Bernard". Art on the Underground.
  27. ^ "Art on the Underground Project: 100". Art on the Underground.
  28. ^ "Versatile artist's work reveals world of wonders". The University of Edinburgh. 28 June 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  29. ^ Lau, Carolyn (December 2014), "Songs of Experience: Jay Bernard's English Breakfast and Ami's The Desire to Sing After Sunset" (reviews), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Issue 26).
  30. ^ "Hon Alderwoman Gee Bernard", Your Croydon, 9 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Croydon pioneer Gee Bernard will be sorely missed", Inside Croydon, 10 December 2016.
  32. ^ Sinclair, Leah (14 December 2016), "Croydon's First Black Councillor Passes Away", The Voice.

External links[edit]