Wicked Young Writers Winners 2016

The 2016 Wicked Young Writer Awards announced its winners during a ceremony involving over 100 shortlisted finalists and their families and teachers at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, home of the multi award-winning musical Wicked.

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.

Wicked cast members also performed songs from the hit musical, as well as 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’

Matilda said: “I wrote 'Night-Step' during one of my English lessons at school. We had been reading some fabulous description of settings from 'Skellig' by David Almond and I wanted to see if I could invent my own description of the night. I particularly like the night-time because it is very peaceful and, in the dark, when you can't see so much, all of your other senses come alive. I was able to write more about what I could hear, feel, and experience with my 'sixth sense'.

I love writing stories and descriptions because I feel that I can set free my imagination. I get a lot of my inspiration from my English lessons, with my teacher; from other great books that I have read, and from places that I have been to.”

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’

Amber said: “The Journalist was inspired by two contrasting types of conflict, the brutality of war and barbaric nature of discrimination, which are implemented to highlight the true horror and mercilessness of the other. In History lessons, we’ve learned about the soldiers of WWI and WWII but the death toll and casualty numbers are so large they’re incomprehensible. However, during a trip to France and Belgium to visit the battlefields and memorials, these large figures dwindled to more personal and individual stories. This experience, coupled with influences from literature, compelled me to write about a soldier so the unsung heroes are made real and vivid in a fashion that statistics could never replicate. For example, War Poetry such as ‘Bayonet Charge’ and ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ illustrate the suffering and dispensable nature of young soldiers. Additionally, the novel ‘Private Peaceful’ plays a large role in my fascination of soldiers. Having a seventeen-year-old brother, I felt a connection to Tommo and the devastating impact war had on family and relationships.

Equally, homophobia and discrimination tore apart families and relationships in the same barbaric way that WWI and WWII did. During debates and discussions at school, I always felt passionate and strongly believed in equality so it is a theme I decided to include in my writing. Lots of progress has been made in modern day society since in 2013 same sex couples were allowed to marry. However, more subtle, even unconscious, forms of prejudice still exist in this country. In the media, somebody’s sexual orientation usually appears relevant and as a dominant trait if it is not heterosexual. When really, that is a part of somebody’s personal and private life and should be no more relevant than their shoe size. Gay characters in films and TV programmes can often fit a stereotype but I didn’t want my leading character to fall into that category, inspiring me to tell the story of somebody detailed and realistic who suffered two types of conflict equally as devastating as the other."

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

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.

Cressida Cowell said of the winners, “This year, my fellow judges and I read poems and stories that are poignant, amusing and captivating. They addressed really big issues, war, homelessness, prejudice, and abuse. There was an incredible range of styles and an array of brilliantly original voices, but they all had this in common: they made us judges feel something. ”

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.

You can read more about the winners at www.wickedyoungwriterawards.com.

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