The London Hellenic Prize is widely acknowledged as one of the most important international literary prizes celebrating the cultural cross-fertilisation of the Greek and English-speaking worlds.

Since its establishment in 1996, the Prize has annually awarded £10,000 to original works written in (or translated into) English on subjects relating to or inspired by Greece or Hellenic culture which were published during the preceding calendar year.

The deadline for submissions is usually 31 January, and the winner is announced in July, both here and in the Times Literary Supplement.

Subjects are unrestricted and the Prize’s Adjudicating Committee invariably read books submitted from the full spectrum of writing: archaeology, architecture, art, classics, history, literary criticism, religion, social studies, as well as fiction. Winners invariably appeal to a broad readership.

There are no boundaries to its international reach either. Each annual adjudication usually receives more than a hundred submissions from many dozens of publishers and individual authors dotted across the globe, from Los Angeles to Sydney.

This was all the brainchild of two Greek shipowners based in London. John A. Hadjipateras OBE was the long-standing Chairman of the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee for eighteen years. John D. Criticos has spent many years building up his shipping firm in Argentina before settling in London in the 1950s. Criticos devoted himself to long-lasting charitable works in both Britain and his native Greece, continued and enhanced, after his death, by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Criticos-Fotinelli. It was after John D. Criticos that the Prize was initially named.

Criticos chose to entrust the administration of this Prize to the London Hellenic Society, a prestigious cultural society established in London in the 1960s by prominent members of the London Greek community, in which he himself played a leading part.

The LHS developed from the long and distinguished activity of the Greek diaspora in England since the late 18th century. London has always been at the epicentre of commercial, political and cultural exchange. Dimitris Vikelas, the novelist and Bloomsbury-based shipping executive, played a major role in organising the First Olympic Games of 1896. Domini Crosfield (nee Iliadi) provided a matchless halfway house in Highgate for David Lloyd George and Eleftherios Venizelos to sketch out the Treaty of Sevres which would end the First World War with the Ottoman Empire. Only a few years later, Venizelos would marry the notable philanthropist Helena Schilizzi before taking up residence in Mayfair. In recent years, George Rodopoulos (President of the LHS), Michael Moschos (Vice-President) and Dino Caroussis (Treeasurer) have steered the Prize in the wake of this distinguished activity.

At a time when both Greece and Britain are questioning their place in Europe, the London Hellenic Prize must continue, unwaveringly, to showcase the brilliant results of the cross-fertilisation or fusion of different but inextricably interconnected European cultures. And as the Prize enters its twentieth year, we hope that John D. Criticos’ cultural project strengthens the essential nature of education and communication among Europeans and increases understanding of our shared Hellenic heritage.