On Wednesday 3 March, in front of a large audience at Adelaide Writers’ Week, Mandy Sayer was announced as winner of the 2021 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship.
Mandy Sayer was awarded $15,000 for her proposed biography of Australian silent filmmakers the McDonagh sisters, Paulette, Isabelle, and Phyllis. Between 1926 and 1933 the three sisters wrote, produced and directed the films, while one of them acted in the main roles.
“Announcing our 10th Fellow is a significant milestone,” said Della Rowley. “This year also marks 10 years since my sister died and we established the Fellowship to honour her life and work. Since we started the Fellowship, we have given away over $150,000 to support Australian writers of biography.”
“We are delighted to award the 2021 Fellowship to Mandy Sayer for her proposal on the McDonagh sisters,” said Fellowship judge Jeff Sparrow. “Her biography promises to restore three fascinating and talented women from the dawn of Australian film to the prominence they deserve.”
Mandy Sayer’s proposal “recalls three of the forgotten heroes of the early Australian film industry, the remarkable McDonagh sisters – filmmakers, writers, actors, producers – and left us marveling at their talent, their significance, and that so little is known of either. Mandy Sayer’s biography of Paulette, Isabelle and Phyllis McDonagh will bring these three trailblazing women in cinema back into our historical narrative, where they should be,” commented Fellowship judge Professor Jenny Hocking.
The winner was selected from a shortlist of seven writers: Jo Oliver, Amanda Lourie, Michelle Scott Tucker, Sheila Ngoc Pham, Jillian Graham, Kate Rice and Mandy Sayer. The Fellowship is administered in partnership with Writers Victoria.
Over the 10 years of the Fellowship, it has supported a diverse range of projects and subjects and the Fellows have used the money to help them progress biographies on a variety of subjects.
“During this time we have seen six publications supported by the Fellowship – Mary Hoban, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Jacqueline Kent, Stephany Evans Steggall, Gabrielle Carey and Eleanor Hogan. We are expecting another two Fellows to be published this year, Matthew Lamb and Ann-Marie Priest. I am sure Hazel would have been very pleased to have her name associated with these works,” said Della.
The 2021 announcement was preceded by the Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture, which was given by Jacqueline Kent. Jacqueline was the 2018 recipient of the Hazel Rowley Fellowship and her biography, Vida: A Woman for Our Time was published in 2020.
The Fellowship was judged by Jenny Hocking, Jeff Sparrow, Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan.
For more information about the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship, visit the website: www.hazelrowley.com.