Some of Britain’s most promising young authors and poets assembled this afternoon at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre for the prize-giving ceremony of the Wicked Young Writers Awards.
Launched in 2010, the annual Awards aims to encourage budding scribes between the ages of 5 and 25 to explore their talent by creating poems or stories that reflect the themes of Wicked, such as the nature of friendship and having the courage to be yourself.
The hundred shortlisted young finalists from five age groups assembled at the theatre at 2pm and sat in eager anticipation as they waited to hear which five of them would walk off with the grand prize of £50 worth of book / e-book tokens, £100 of books for their school library donated by Hachette Children’s Books, a family ticket for Wicked, and the inclusion of their entry in this year’s edition of the Wicked Young Writers’ Award Anthology.
This year’s ceremony was presided over as always by the popular children’s author Michael Morpurgo, whose book War Horse has itself been adapted into a massive West End hit.
For openers, the audience of children, teenagers and their families were treated to Wicked’s Natalie McQueen singing a knockout rendition of the show’s The Wizard And I.
Then Nessarose and Glinda the Good Witch, better known to their mums as Katie Rowley-Jones and Savannah Stevenson, introduced the Awards proper before heading into the audience with mics in hand to solicit some very sweet and insightful comments from the young writers about their ambitions and their writing.
From the stage, regular co-host, performance poet Dean Atta, encouraged the crowd to write poems on the spot and join in with a reading of his own poem 'Words, Words, Words'.
Then it was Morpurgo’s turn. In the mock-stern manner of the schoolteacher he once was, he gave the assembled young wordsmiths some useful advice. Gesturing to the cast of Wicked, who had joined him on stage dressed in Wicked logo t-shirts, he said: ‘They’ve all got t-shirts. Have I got a t-shirt? No, because I’m just a writer. So for all of you expecting great accolades as a writer later on - you want to be J.K. Rowling, you want to be Phillip Pullman – don‘t expect the t-shirt.’
The winners were announced and their poems and stories were read from the stage by Wicked’s Sue Kelvin, Sophie Linder-Lee and Paul Clarkson. The standard was extraordinarily high, with sophisticated entries from every age group that rang with comedy, pathos, verbal dexterity and remarkable perceptiveness. Particularly memorable were 5 – 7 years winner Liya Khan (pictured accepting her award from Morpurgo) for her teacher-trouncing tale A Dinosaur Who Ate My Homework, and 18 – 25 years winner Chris Pritchard for his clever, poignant story I’ll Be Your Tom If You’ll Be My Marilyn.
Following a lively Q & A with Morpurgo and a closing rendition of For Good by Stevenson and McQueen, the winners took the stage for a group photo before heading home happy and inspired to keep writing.