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The Edinburgh Award 2008

Edinburgh Award JK Rowling To Be Honoured With Edinburgh Award - 19 September 2008

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has been chosen as the 2008 recipient of the prestigious Edinburgh Award. The phenomenally successful children's writer, who is based in the Capital, is to receive the coveted accolade at a glittering award ceremony at Prestonfield.

From a large number of public nominations, representing a cross section of people from the fields of arts, business, science and hospitality, the Edinburgh Award judging panel unanimously voted JK Rowling as this year's winner.

The Edinburgh Award was set up in 2007 to recognise an individual's outstanding achievements and contribution to the city of Edinburgh. The winner is selected by a judging panel comprising the Lord Provost and representatives from the Council, Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council and the business community.

Ms Rowling is the second ever winner of the Edinburgh Award, following in the footsteps of her fellow city wordsmith Ian Rankin. The internationally-renowned crime writer picked up the first Edinburgh Award in 2007 and, earlier this year, his handprints were immortalised in stone at the City Chambers.

The first instalment in Ms Rowling's seven-book series about the boy wizard, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was published in 1997. The following decade saw Harry Potter take the world by storm, with the books now having sold over 400 million copies worldwide and translated into 67 languages, as well as being given the Hollywood treatment with blockbuster films featuring a galaxy of British screen stars.

Commenting on the award, Ms Rowling said: "It is an absolute honour to receive this award, as Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafes. So much has happened to me both professionally and personally since I moved here nearly fifteen years ago, that to receive this recognition is particularly meaningful and special."

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Lord Provost George Grubb said: "JK Rowling is undoubtedly one of the world's best-loved writers and her books continue to thrill audiences young and old across the globe. Everyone knows the famous story of how she penned the first Harry Potter novel in various Edinburgh cafes and her literary achievements have really put the city on the map. She is a tremendous asset to the city, not least for her writing prowess but also for her philanthropy and the vast amount of support she gives to numerous charities.

"We are very proud that Ms Rowling has adopted Edinburgh as her home town, and I am delighted to honour her today by presenting her with The Edinburgh Award, 2008, in recognition of her inspiring achievements and her outstanding contribution to the cultural, social and economic prosperity of Edinburgh."

As well as her writing, much of Ms Rowling's time is taken up supporting various charities that are close to her heart within the city and beyond. She is President of One Parent Families/Gingerbread and patron of both the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland and Maggie's Centres for cancer sufferers. Two years ago she set up a charity, the Children's High Level Group, to promote children's rights, particularly those of children in care in Eastern Europe.

Perhaps her most high-profile support goes to the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland, of which she is also patron, and hosts biennial charity balls, one of which was held at the Royal Museum in Chambers St. Scotland has the highest prevalence of MS in the world, and claimed the life of her mother, a Scot, in 1990. Ms Rowling's support for MSSS has recently helped fund a new laboratory for MS research at the University.

Mark Hazlewood, Director of MS Society Scotland, said: "Jo's support for people affected by multiple sclerosis has had a huge impact. She has enabled the MS Society Scotland to establish a world-leading research centre in Edinburgh which should lead to better treatments. She has added her voice to those of others raising awareness of MS and calling for Scotland to provide better support and services. People living with this devastating condition know that in Jo they have a strong ally; an ally who speaks with personal experience about how MS can impact on lives. She is every charity's dream supporter!"

Ms Rowling also wrote the foreword for the One City Trust publication, a book co-written with fellow city authors Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh. This book was written to raise money to help build awareness of social exclusion within the city.

The judging of the Edinburgh Award was based on strict criteria, including whether the nominees' work had made a positive impact on the city, gained international renown and contributed to an increase in tourism, education or overall awareness of Edinburgh.

As part of her award, Ms Rowling will be offered various opportunities throughout the year: for example, invitations to attend civic receptions, to accompany the Council at the annual Kirking at St Giles Cathedral and to take the salute with the Lord Provost at the Tattoo.

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JK Rowling Background

J K (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling was born in the summer of 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent where she went to Wyedean Comprehensive.

Ms Rowling left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, and where her course included one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London to work at Amnesty International, doing research into human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a Manchester to London King's Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book. 

She then moved to northern Portugal, where she taught English as a foreign language. She married in October 1992 and gave birth to her daughter Jessica in 1993. When her marriage ended, she returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, where she trained to be a teacher, and Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone was eventually penned in various cafes in central Edinburgh and in 1996 she received an offer of publication.

Ms Rowling married Dr Neil Murray in 2001, and a brother for Jessica, David, was born in 2003. A second sister, Mackenzie, followed in January 2005. The family live in Edinburgh and the children are schooled locally.

Her books of course need no introduction. The first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in July 1997. This was followed a year later by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets then in quick succession, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hit the bookstores in July 1999. Jo's pen wasn't down for long however and in July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire broke records with a first print run of 1 million copies for the UK. It continued to make headlines for the largest number of books sold on the first weekend of publication.

The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was published 21st June 2003 and broke the records as the fastest selling book in history. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, published in July 2005, continued to achieved record sales and was launched right here in Edinburgh when our famous landmark castle was transformed into a magical backdrop and venue for the event, providing Edinburgh with a world stage and international recognition.

The eagerly-awaited seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published on the 21st July 2007. The book is the fastest selling book in the UK and USA and sales have contributed to breaking the 400 million copies mark worldwide.

The Harry Potter books are distributed in over 200 territories and are translated into 67 languages.

Each of these ground breaking novels have been taken and turned into blockbuster films, with the films of the sixth and seventh books yet to be released. Enjoyed the world over, the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, broke all box office records when it opened in the UK in November 2001 and has since become the number two film of all time.

Additionally, J K Rowling has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry's school books within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published by Bloomsbury Children's Books and Scholastic in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. A special one-off edition of another small volume, TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD, was auctioned for the Children's High Level Group charity in 2007 and will be published this December.

In 2004, Ms Rowling received an Honorary Degree from Edinburgh University.

She has appeared several times at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and, for the launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, at a central Edinburgh bookshop for a surprise signing at midnight!

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