On Saturday 8th July, I was invited by the Orwell Foundation to attend the awards ceremony for the Orwell Youth Prize, an international writing competition based on the political writings of George Orwell. This year’s theme was Who’s in Control? The brief: write a 1000 word short story, poem or essay. My piece was a short story inspired by the change of laws in America surrounding Roe vs Wade.
When I found out I was shortlisted for my piece “Misconception” I was initially very shocked but then incredibly excited about the opportunity to meet fellow writers who are also interested in social justice.
At the event at University College London, I met several other shortlisted candidates and we were all slightly apprehensive about the day but we all soon bonded over our shared passion of writing for social change. I particularly enjoyed speaking to Isabella: a year 12 student who studies law and Beth, another year 10, who had entered as part of her English lessons rather than through the school’s creative writing department.
We all participated in a poetry workshop led by award winning poet, Anthony Anaxgorou, which was incredibly informative and interesting. We were encouraged to describe what home meant to us, limit adjectives, use oppositional language.
Then it was time for the reading of all the shortlisted work and in my opinion, everyone’s pieces were incredibly powerful. There was a diverse range of themes explored: North Korean oppression, the Titanic as a microcosm of society, the daily life of the 1%. The content and quality of the writing was impeccable.
Once this was finished, they began to announce the winners.
Because being shortlisted was an amazing achievement in of itself, everyone received a certificate and bag of prizes. However, I wasn’t called up with the others when the names of the shortlisted candidates were displayed: surely there had just been a mistake. Beth, who was sat next to me also hadn’t been invited up either so we both glanced at each other with curious apprehension.
Then they moved onto the runners up and their awards: my name still wasn’t on the list. I was slightly confused – had they missed me off the list? I was still confused when they were announced the highly commended pieces and I still hadn’t been called up.
Finally, the winner’s names appeared on screen and when I saw my name there, shock, disbelief and excitement battled over my brain simultaneously.
We received a huge round of applause and standing ovation from the crowd of candidates and proud relatives (including a family that had flown in from Hong Kong that morning for the ceremony). Then photos and prizes. Afterwards there was time for more congratulations and more photos.
Overall, my experience of the day was wonderful and I’ll always be very grateful for it. I’m especially thankful for Ms Edgar who took the time to come down to London and support me.
As I am now a winner of the prize, I’ve been invited to join the Orwell Youth Fellows: a group made up of past winners who run political creative writing projects and campaign for social change through their writing.
For me, writing gives me a voice and the opportunity to put my thoughts on paper in a way which people can understand. I think the best kind of writing is pieces that make you feel understood or ones in which you can relate to them and in this modern world, there’s a necessity for more of that. I think that more young people should definitely be involved in writing, especially since our school hosts a two-time international award-winning creative writing club (we won a regional prize recently, too!).
Other members have had success at the Portico Sadie Massey prize which is based in Manchester and it’s really inspiring to be building such a rewarding and successful team.