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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Release

Chris Evans announces 500 Words writing competition winners on Radio 2

Two children from East Dunbartonshire and Staffordshire have written their way to success. Today they were crowned the winners of 500 Words, the short story writing competition on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2.

Today, in a special live outside broadcast of The Breakfast Show at the Hay Literary Festival in Hay on Wye, Chris revealed that Angus Barrett, aged nine from East Dunbartonshire, and Olivia Norton, aged 12 from Staffordshire, had won the competition through their exceptional writing and edgy style. They beat almost 30,000 other entrants from around the UK. See the two winning stories along with the Top 50 entries at bbc.co.uk/radio2.

Chris Evans said: "It has been a sincere honour and joy to be involved in this competition, and to sit on the judging panel with such brilliant and esteemed authors. The sheer quality of writing we have received has been gobsmacking and we have found it almost impossible to choose between such a wide range of radically different styles, subjects and approaches. The stories - and the minds that created them – are truly inspiring and, if this is anything to go by, it looks like the future of British writing is in safe hands."

Called 500 Words and launched in association with Hay Fever, the children's programme of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, the competition aimed to inspire children to get creative and to write a story with a maximum of 500 words about any fictional topic they chose.

Lewis Carnie, Head of Programmes for Radio 2 and 6 Music, said: "The 500 Words children's writing competition has been a huge success thanks to the efforts of everyone involved in The Chris Evans Breakfast Show, which continues the network's commitment to culture and the arts."

With Chris as the chair, the judging panel consisted of Anthony Horowitz, the UK's most popular male children's author; Oliver Jeffers, the author of seven global best-selling picture books; Howard Jacobson, an award-winning writer and broadcaster; Dame Jacqueline Wilson, author of the multi-award winning The Story Of Tracy Beaker and David Walliams, comedian, writer and actor.

Angus won the competition in the under 9 age group category with his story, The Death Channel, about a girl alone in a house. His spooky tale captured the judge's attention from the outset.

Angus said: "I feel amazing. I was nervous but I was excited at the same time and im really glad that I won."

Olivia was crowned the winner in the 10 to 13 years category with her moving story, Stable, portraying her account of a child whose mother is in a coma following an accident. Olivia impressed the judging panel with her emotive writing.

Olivia said: "It took me 10 minutes to write. I wasn't paying attention in geography, I was daydreaming and I typed it up on the laptop. I often write a lot of stories but I leave them and come back to them. My mum Kirsty found an old one on my laptop and she told me it was really good so I kept it. Writing is one of my hobbies – I want to be an actress."

All the Top 50 entrants receive a certificate and the two winners additionally receive £50 of books for their school and £50 of book tokens for themselves as well as having their story published in a national newspaper on Saturday.

Talking about the entries, Dame Jacqueline Wilson said: "I think children naturally like horror stories, scary stories, stories that can make you cry too. I thought these were very interesting stories. I love some of the more light-hearted, funny ones but I think our two winners very much deserved to win."

Anthony Horowitz commented: "The range was enormous, we had funny stories, we had clever stories, we had bizarre stories. Some of them were very scary. What's come through is the quality of the writing. I was astonished and delighted, but I wasn't shocked as I have great faith in young people. What a great read. It's not easy to come up with a story that's got a beginning, a middle, an end, that has development, that's got an original idea that hooks you in in just 500 words. It really does fill you with faith for the future."

David Walliams said: "Ultimately what we were looking for was great writing. Reading many of the stories I thought 'here are some of the great British writers of tomorrow'. The standard was exceptionally high. Both of the winning stories are brilliantly written and both had a profound effect on us. One really scared us and one really moved us and that's why they were the winners."

Chris invited teachers from around the UK, with the support of the National Literacy Trust, to take part to help select the Top 50 stories from the many thousands of entries. From these the judging panel selected the Top 10 finalists and then the ultimate winner from each age group. The Top 50 children and their families were all invited to attend today's live outside broadcast of the show at the Hay Literary Festival. Go to teh Radio 2 website to read all their stories.

The competition is part of the BBC Year of Books, a pan-BBC year-long celebration of literature which invites audiences to free their imagination through the exploration, enjoyment and discussion of books. Radio 2 is committed to arts programming and this includes The Arts Show With Claudia Winkleman every Friday night and the Radio 2 Book Club on Simon Mayo at Drivetime.

In addition to the 500 Words competition, during the past year there have been specials including Poetry Week and Favourite Children's Book on the Jeremy Vine Show, which was won by Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo. The network has recently broadcast two seasons of programmes marking the 30th anniversary since Bob Marley's death and the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan.

KA

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