Wicked! Young writers make final cut
The awards were created and are sponsored by the musical Wicked, in association with the National Literary Trust, with the 115 finalists in the running for the annual creative writing prizes.
Now in their seventh year, the awards encourage 5-25 year-olds to use writing as a way of expressing themselves, with original pieces of prose or poetry.
Nearly 30,000 young people have entered the awards since they began in 2009, with this year seeing the fastest growing level of entries to date.
More than 600 primary and secondary schools and colleges have entered from all over the UK, with a particularly impressive rise in entries for the 8-10 and 18-25 categories.
Many of this year’s offerings were consciously crafted and precise, but often bleak, with dark and sometimes disturbing themes.
Mental illness, forced marriage and the value of education were topics on the young writers’ minds.
The brave and honest writing showed an understanding for the importance of empathy and the need to give a voice to mental illness.
Subjects included showing kindness to strangers, looking for hope in adversity, the sadness of dementia and the value of education to help us feel compassion.
Playful and imaginative stories from the younger entries included an enchanted briefcase, life as human body cell, jousting, adventures with love, an underwater world where fish work together – and a troublesome spot.
Hayley Leyshon-Brady, a primary school teacher from Oxfordshire and one of the sifting judges, said: “The entries were of an exceptionally high standard and the pieces that were shortlisted showed such incredible skill in involving the reader emotionally.
The subject matter ranged from hidden rooms in grandparent’s houses to being a Syrian refugee but all of these pieces engaged me from the opening line.
“The powerful language and phenomenal empathy demonstrated what a perceptive and creative group of authors these children are.”
The115 finalists will see their work published in the Wicked Young Writer Awards Anthology, which will be published in association with Young Writers (www.youngwriters.co.uk).
They are also invited to an exclusive ceremony at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, home to the musical Wicked since 2006, where judges and members of the Wicked cast will announce the winner in each category.
Joining former Labour MP and Strictly contestant Ed Balls as judges were ITV News arts editor Nina Nannar and the acclaimed performance poet and writer Laura Dockrill.
Author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon books, Cressida Cowell, returns as head judge for the third consecutive year, together with long-standing judges Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, and Michael McCabe, executive producer of Wicked.
Anna Bassi, editor of The Week Junior, is also a guest judge for the FOR GOOD award for non-fiction, the category in which
The judges reviewed and confirmed the finalists that sifting judges (teachers from both primary and secondary sectors) had selected.
They then made their decisions on the winners who were due to be announced at an awards ceremony at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, the home of Wicked.
Mr Douglas said: “Well done to everyone who took part and congratulations to the worthy finalists.”