WICKED Young Writers Awards 2016 winners announced

image003In the wake of the Brexit vote, the world is in a dark place of uncertainty, with many people (myself included) shocked at the decision to leave the European Union. I was delighted to attend the Wicked Young Writers Awards at the Apollo Victoria Theatre today and be inspired by the young 5-25 year old writers who had made it into the finals of this years ceremony.

Now in its 6th year, the Awards encourage young people aged 5-25 years to use writing as a way of expressing themselves, producing unique and original pieces of prose and poetry. This year the standard of entries was higher than ever, revealing young people who are engaged in their communities and the world through their writing. The Awards celebrate originality and the unique voice of the young writer.

Each year, thousands of entries are received across five age categories, with the addition in 2016, of the WICKED: FOR GOOD Award, encouraging 15–25 year olds to write essays or articles that recognise the positive impact that people can have on each other, their communities and the world in general. The new award celebrates the WICKED: FOR GOOD programme, which supports the charitable causes at the heart of the stage musical.

The ceremony was hosted by Gaby Roslin, TV and radio presenter, with prizes presented by Head Judge Cressida Cowell, bestselling author of the How to Train Your Dragon series of books. Cressida also took some questions from the young writers in the audience, giving advice on how they can progress in their writing.

Wicked cast members including Savannah Stevenson, Oliver Savile, Daniel Hope, Liza Sadovy, Mark Curry, Sean Kearns, Carina Gillespie and Laura Emmitt performed readings of the winning entries, which were revealed as:

5-7 Category:
Joint winner: Aoife Stewart, 6, from Ealing London for ‘Problems in Potland’
Joint winner: George McGivern, 6 from Kent for ‘The King Who Hated Christmas’
Joint winner: Isla Whitford, 6 Kent for ‘William and the Dog Catcher’

8-10 Category:
Joint winner: Angelina Thakrar, 8 from Lewes for ‘The Day of the Dead’
Joint winner: Matilda Collins, 11 from Eastbourne for ‘Night Step’

11-14 Category:
Joint winner: Eilidh Laurie 12 from Stirling, Scotland for ‘As White as Snow’
Joint winner: Harry Watson, 14 from Enfield, London for ‘Prison Life: A Teenage Convict’s Perspective

15-17 Category:
Joint winner: Amber Marino, 15 from Sutton, Surrey for ‘The Journalist’
Joint winner: Charlotte Morgan, 16 from Bridport, Dorset for ‘Desire of the Soul’

18-25 Category:
Winner: Fabiana Conte Luque, 25 from London for ‘Unforgettable Sounds’

For Good Category:
Joint winner: Isabelle Emma Stokes, 21 from Brighton
Joint winner: Sophie Arthur, 19 from Cheltenham, Glos

The cast of Wicked performed ‘The Wizard and I’ and ‘For Good’ to book end the beginning and end of the ceremony.

Amongst this year’s finalists were stories, poems and non-fiction writing showing the beginnings of real social awareness and conscience. Highlighted concerns included environmental disasters, the rights of women, arranged marriages, the plight of refugees around the world and more immediately, the homeless. A powerful and realistic cautionary tale showed the dangers and difficulties of life in a young offender’s prison. Fantastical ghost stories, wildly funny pet stories and great flights of imagination made the younger entries a joy to read.

Championed by Patron Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and spearheaded by Michael Morpurgo, the judges this year included bestselling author of How to Train Your Dragon books, Cressida Cowell; Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust; Michael McCabe, Executive Producer of Wicked; award-winning poet and playwright, Sabrina Mahfouz; and Henry Smith Director of Lend Me Your Literacy.

Finalist entries for all the age-categories 5-7, 8-10, 11-14, 15-17,18-25 and the For Good category are published in the unique 2016 Wicked Young Writer Awards Anthology. The Wicked Young Writer Awards is unique amongst writing awards for young people in publishing its annual anthology of award-winning writing.

These youngsters are the future generation of this country, and whilst many things might be up in the air with uncertainty today, the future of good writing is thankfully flourishing.