Children's writing competition 500 Words returns to Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2

We were overwhelmed last year to be inundated with thousands of truly creative and fantastic entries from nearly 30,000 kids, and in 2012 we need your help to make the competition even bigger than before."Chris Evans
Date: 30.01.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.51
Category: Radio 2
Chris Evans announced on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show that children’s writing competition 500 Words is to return for the second year running. Last year’s inaugural competition was a great success with almost 30,000 entries from kids across the UK.

The Chris Evans Breakfast Show is once again appealing to listeners aged 13 and under to compose an original work of fiction in no more than 500 words. There are two categories - for children aged nine and under and those aged between ten and thirteen, with three winners in each category.

The Gold Medal winner in each category will win Chris Evans’ height in books (6ft 2”) plus 500 books for their school library; with the runner up Silver Medal winner receiving Chris’s One Show co-host, Alex Jones’ height in books (5ft 6”). The Bronze Medal winner will pick up their own height in books.

The writers of the Top 50 stories (25 from each age category) will be invited to attend a live broadcast of The Chris Evans Breakfast Show from Hay Festival on Friday 1st June. The six lucky winners will be announced live on air and read out by celebrities during the show.

Five leading children’s authors will be judging the entrants - Dame Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams, Lauren Child, Andy Stanton and Charlie Higson. The celebrity judges will pick their six favourites from a short list of the Top 50 from each age group, who will have been chosen initially in the competition by a team of volunteer teachers and librarians. Last year 900 teachers volunteered to help with the initial selection. The National Literacy Trust will adjudicate the second stage of the process.

Chris Evans said: “We were overwhelmed last year to be inundated with thousands of truly creative and fantastic entries from nearly 30,000 kids, and in 2012 we need your help to make the competition even bigger than before. To read is good, but to write is even better and dare I say it, can even be more fun.”

Helen Thomas, Executive Producer, BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show, said: “We’re delighted to be welcoming back 500 Words, after such a successful inaugural year. Last year's entries were of an extremely high standard, incredibly imaginative and fascinating reading. We’re looking forward to being gripped again this year by even more entries from Breakfast Show listeners.”

David Walliams, Head Judge for 500 Words, said: “I loved being a 500 Words judge last year. I cannot wait to return this year, as Head Judge no less. I'm not sure what that means yet - probably that I have to make the tea? It was a joy to submerge myself in last year's stories. Each one brought me to a different world, each as wonderfully created as the next. This year we're looking for more original stories from the UK's children aged 13 and under. So get those imaginations going.”

Judge Dame Jacqueline Wilson said: “I'm delighted to be a judge for the 500 Words competition once again. I found it great fun last year. It's exciting that so many children are keen writers and it's great that this competition encourages them. I'd have entered like a shot when I was a child - though I'm not sure I'd have been short-listed, as the standard is so high. I'm glad there's a sensible limit to the number of words, so that reading the long-listed entries is a treat instead of a task.”

Judge Charlie Higson said: “Anything that gets the public interested in and excited by stories and books and writing is a good thing. As a judge I will be in great company, some of Britain’s greatest children’s writers have been involved in this project and I'm honoured to be a part of it. Plus I get to read all these fantastic stories.”

Judge Lauren Child said: “Writing a story in 500 words is not an easy thing to do but having heard some of last year’s entries I have high hopes for this year and am very excited to be involved. I am looking for originality, personality and writing from the heart.”

Judge Andy Stanton said: “Am I excited to be a 500 Words judge? RADIATOR! I mean, ‘YES!’ See, I’m so excited I can’t even speak properly. I hope the competition will inspire thousands of young authors to get involved, even if they’ve never written a story before. And I can’t wait to read all the entries. LOFT CONVERSION! I mean, GOOD LUCK!”

Sophie Lording, Hay Fever Director said: "Hay Fever & Radio 2 have created a completely unique platform for writing by children to be celebrated, read and most importantly, heard. The reaction to last year's live broadcast was overwhelming and we're incredibly proud to be doing it all over again."

Last year’s winners were nine-year-old Angus Barrett who triumphed in the Under 9 category for his story 'The Death Channel', and Olivia Norton, aged 12, who came first in the 10 to 13 years age group for her emotive story 'Stable'.

Hopefuls can apply via the Radio 2 website, which also has full details on how to enter, volunteer as teacher judges and all terms and conditions. Closing date for entries is World Book Day, Thursday 1st March. To find out more about Hay Festival with all the events for families and children and its galaxy of star writers please visit

This year the millions of words used in the stories will be analysed by Oxford University Press to shine a light on children’s use of language. By using their advanced language database, the Oxford Children’s Corpus, its children’s dictionaries team will reveal the imaginative and exciting ways that children use English today.

Susie Dent, Language Commentator and TV presenter, said: “What a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the ways in which children understand and use their language. I can’t wait to see to what the Oxford Children’s Corpus uncovers – there may well be some surprises coming our way!”

Notes to Editors

David Walliams

David Walliams judged last year’s competition. Alongside his outstanding comedy career and charitable work, David has now also developed a brilliant reputation for children’s fiction. His second book Mr Stink was given the 'Children's Award' in the 2010 People's Book Prize and his most recent work Gangsta Granny, published in October 2011, has been hugely popular amongst children.

Dame Jacqueline Wilson

Dame Jacqueline Wilson, a returning judge from last year, is a multi-award-winning children's author. Her numerous awards include the Smarties Prize and the Children's Fiction Award. In 2002 she was given an OBE for her literary services and she acted as the Children's Laureate from 2005 to 2007. In 2008 she became Dame Jacqueline Wilson. Jacqueline’s most celebrated work is The Story of Tracy Beaker, the tale of 10-year-old Tracy who lives in a children's residential care home, which was adapted into a successful television series by the CBBC. In a recent Mori poll, Wilson has been voted as the favourite author of English children.

Lauren Child

Lauren Child is an award-winning children's author and illustrator. Her most well known works are the Charlie and Lola books and the series includes the Kate Greenaway Medal award-winning I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato. Child was the Executive Producer of the CBeebies TV series, based on the Charlie and Lola books, which won two BAFTAs.

Charlie Higson

Charlie Higson is a British actor, comedian, author and writer for both radio and television, best known as one of the creators of The Fast Show. He is the author behind the highly popular 'Young Bond' books, which tell the story of James Bond as a teenage boy attending Eton College in the 1930s. The series has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and has been translated into 24 languages.

Andy Stanton

Andy Stanton is a children's author and creator of the acclaimed Mr Gum series. A well loved series of nine children's books featuring the heroine Polly who puts a stop to the villainous plotting of the mean, old Mr. Gum. Stanton has won numerous awards for the 'Mr Gum'; books, including two Blue Peter Book Awards for The Best Book with Pictures and the Roald Dahl Funny Prize Award.

Notes to Editors

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. Its children’s dictionary team will collect and analyse all the words in the stories entered into the competition, allowing them to explore the way children use language today; pick out their favourite words, discover new words, and even look at how they use punctuation for dramatic effect! The Oxford Children’s Corpus is a large electronic database of real, authentic children’s language. The Oxford Children’s Corpus provides evidence for language theorists and practitioners of how children’s language behaves and identifies patterns in language, looking specifically at grammatical structures, child-related vocabulary and is an ideal resource for statistical frequency analysis of words.

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