This has been such an incredible day. I’ve listened in previous years and it’s moved me to tears so today it’s been an honour to meet the fabulously talented writers of the 500 Words winning stories and seeing the huge pride on their parents’ faces. I’m so proud of all of them.Zoe Ball
Date: 14.06.2019 Last updated: 14.06.2019 at 09.57
The six winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show’s 500 Words children’s writing competition were announced today during a live broadcast from Windsor Castle. The final was attended by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall who is an Honorary Judge and delivered a speech to the audience and met all the winners.
The Bronze, Silver and Gold winning stories across the two age categories (5-9 years and 10-13 years) were read out by Hugh Bonneville, Konnie Huq, Helen McCrory OBE, Michael Sheen OBE, Sandi Toksvig OBE and David Walliams OBE. The event was attended Chris Evans, who created and launched 500 Words in 2011 and is Chair of the judging panel. There were performances by Busted, Tom Walker and The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical.
Now in its ninth year, 500 Words 2019 was launched in January by Zoe Ball on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show, the UK’s most listened-to radio programme with 9.05m listeners each week (Q1 2019, RAJAR). Since its launch in 2011 over 900 000 children have taken part. With 112,986 entries this year, the competition continues to inspire and encourage thousands of children around the UK to think creatively and write their own brilliant stories.
Zoe Ball says: “This has been such an incredible day. I’ve listened in previous years and it’s moved me to tears so today it’s been an honour to meet the fabulously talented writers of the 500 Words winning stories and seeing the huge pride on their parents’ faces. I’m so proud of all of them.”
Lewis Carnie, Head of BBC Radio 2, says: “BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show’s 500 Words competition is such a highlight of our year and I’d like to thank all the 112,986 children who sent in their wonderful stories. Huge thanks are also due to all of the judges and volunteer readers as the competition couldn’t be the success it is without them, as well as all of the entrants’ families and schools who have encouraged them to enter.”
The Gold winners receive Chris Evans’ height in books, are invited to a set visit/tour of a CBBC production, and each of their schools will be sent 500 books for their library. The Silver winners receive HRH The Duchess of Cornwall’s height in books, and the Bronze winners receive their own height in books. The winners also received an exciting new prize this year – their stories were illustrated by one of six well-known illustrators - Helen Oxenbury (We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Tony Ross (Little Princess, Horrid Henry), Susan Varley (Badger’s Parting Gifts), JARVIS (Mrs Mole, I’m Home!, Alan’s Big, Scary Teet), David Roberts (Dirty Bertie, Mouse Noses On Toast) and Briony May Smith (Imelda and the Goblin King, The Giant’s Necklace).
For a fourth year, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall joined the competition’s judging panel alongside award-winning authors - Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon - with Chris Evans remaining as Chair of the Panel. Between them, they had the difficult task of choosing the six winners from the Top 50 stories and six wild card stories. These stories had been shortlisted by The Reading Agency following the initial round when 3,500 volunteer judges had read every single entry and selected the top 5,000.
Following the final, the audience attended a reception in the castle’s historic state rooms which have played host to state occasions, wedding receptions and other official events for centuries. Additionally, a limited number of other entrants and volunteer judges were selected at random to attend the final.
The winners are:
Age 5-9 category
Snow Blood Window Frame by Eve Molloy Read by Helen McCrory with illustration of their story by Helen Oxenbury
Malorie Blackman says: “A clever, humorous retelling of a classic fairy tale. Great, original storytelling.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce says: “A surprising number of writers looked to fairy stories for inspiration this year. Lots of them were really good. But this one had real swagger and confidence. A tale told by someone who really knows how to tell a story.”
Francesca Simon says: “A smart, sassy re-telling of Snow White. I loved the mash-up of fairy tale and modern, the witty, knowing author voice, and the outstanding writing. And, like all the best stories, a terrific unexpected ending.”
Charlie Higson says: “This is such a sophisticated story, very funny, clever and really quite edgy. It sets up a strong idea and carries it all the way through without putting a foot wrong. What I love is that it's very contemporary, written from the point of view of a very modern kid and could only have been written today.”
PANTS! by Mya Dainty Read by Hugh Bonneville with illustration of their story by JARVIS
Malorie Blackman says: “Laugh out loud funny.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce says: “Pants - can I say this - had us wetting ourselves with laughter. The idea of a family running away from their own knickers will stay with me for a long time.”
Francesca Simon says: “I just loved this story. So many funny characters, such a goofy setting, and I laugh every time I read the last line about the pants living ‘in luxury and delight’.”
Charlie Higson says: “A lot of funny stories made it to the final this year, and this was one of the funniest. We really liked the idea that this is very much a kid’s story written to make other kids laugh. It’s constantly inventive and original - I don't think I've ever read a story before that was written from the point of view of a pair of pants.”
Fragile Freya by Rosa Moody Read by Konnie Huq with illustration of their story by Susan Varley
Malorie Blackman says: “A beautifully told, poignant story about the fragility in all of us and how best to put ourselves back together again with the help of friends and family. A story to remind us that none of us are alone in how we feel.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce says: “A story with a bold, original idea that was both strange and moving. It was great to see someone not only have a good idea but really work hard to get the most out of it.”
Francesca Simon says: “A touching, original story about a young girl falling apart (literally) and the kindness of friends who help put her back together. A different take on bravery, shyness, and feeling you are alone.”
Charlie Higson says: “There were a lot of very moving stories this year about anxiety and depression. What I particularly liked about this one was that there was a positive feeling of hope and friendship alongside the marvellous and magical image of poor Freya literally falling to pieces.”
Age 10-13 category
Why Did The Chicken by Esme Harrison-Jones Read by David Walliams with illustration of their story by Tony Ross
Malorie Blackman says: “This story is a winner, containing very dark humour, engagingly told.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce says: “The first time we read this story we all agreed that it was very funny. The magical thing was, the more we read it, the funnier it seemed to get. That’s because it was a proper story with a really satisfying ending.”
Francesca Simon says: “One of the hardest things about writing a great story is the ending. The heroic, hilarious struggles of these daft chickens to cross the road only to wind up in ‘chicken heaven’ is laugh-out loud funny, and a wonderful end to a swashbuckling tale of chicken mayhem.”
Charlie Higson says: “At last the age old question is answered, in a riotously funny way. This was like watching an old Looney Toons cartoon - knockabout, hilarious and totally unsentimental. It keeps building and building to a very satisfying ending indeed.”
Tyrannos-oral Hygiene by Millie Robinson Read by Michael Sheen with illustration of their story by David Roberts
Malorie Blackman says: “This tale of a T-Rex with toothache who needs a trip to the dentist is quirky and whimsical.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce says: “This story started with a brilliant notion and then built on it. And built on it. Very funny but also charming and even a little bit moving. A truly accomplished piece of writing.”
Francesca Simon says: “There is so much to enjoy about this story. The sheepish, dentist-fearing T Rex, who has let 65 million years pass since his last check-up, and the village which gathers to clean his teeth. Great twists, and beautiful pacing.”
Charlie Higson says: “Another really funny and inventive story. We all thought we could see this as a picture book. Everything is nicely thought through - the names, the details, the gags - plus, it’s got my favourite title this year.”
A Walk in the Park by Beth Helliwell Read by Sandi Toksvig with illustration of their story by Briony May Smith
Malorie Blackman says: “An atmospheric, creepy story with a stinger of a twist in the tale.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce says: “We judges think we know everything but none of us saw the twist coming. A truly unsettling story with a sting in the tale.”
Francesca Simon says: “A truly terrifying story with a surprise ending that is both inevitable and shocking. I loved how atmospheric A Walk in the Park is, as well as the confident writing and how the tension ratchets up.”
Charlie Higson says: “500 words is all about telling stories, and this is a very well made story. It just works from start to finish. We are drawn into the narrator’s world very quickly and effectively and are taken on a terrifying night time adventure, with a real sting in the tail.”
About 500 Words
BBC Radio 2 has 15.36 million listeners every week (Q1 2019, RAJAR).
Radio 2 Breakfast Show’s 500 Words was created by Chris Evans in 2011. Since then, over 900 000 children have taken part by getting creative and submitting their stories. The competition asks children in the UK aged between 5 and 13 years of age to compose an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. Entries are in two categories: 5-9 years and 10-13 years. More details and terms and conditions are at bbc.co.uk/500words. Also on the website children will find an array of tools to inspire and help them. Each and every one of this year’s entries was read by a fantastic team of 3,500 volunteer teachers and librarians from around the UK, before being whittled down to the Top 50 finalists by The Reading Agency. The 500 Words’ panel of judges then had the gruelling task of selecting three winners in each of the two age categories (5-9 and 10-13 years) from these groups of talented young writers.
Past guest narrators who have read out winning stories at the final have included Julie Walters, Tom Hiddleston, Jim Broadbent, Jenny Agutter, David Suchet, Benedict Cumberbatch, Amanda Abbington, Jason Isaacs and Paloma Faith. Previous finals have been held at Hay Festival, St James’s Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace.
Following the Oxford University Press (OUP) analysis of the entries for the 500 Words 2019 competition, there was a wealth of fascinating insights into UK children’s use of language. OUP selected Brexit as the Children’s Word of the Year because of its significant increase in usage (a total rise of over 192% on 2018), the awareness and passion children demonstrated for topical issues, and the creative solutions children invented in their stories.
The report also revealed that in 2019 the top 25 ‘famous people’ (including fictional and mythological characters) are:
1) Santa 2) Gummy Bear 3) Zeus 4) Cristiano Ronaldo 5) Donald Trump 6) Harry Potter 7) Tooth Fairy 8) Adolf Hitler 9) Pegasus 10) Dracula 11) Cinderella 12) Merlin 13) Harry Kane 14) Poseidon 15) Snow White 16) Batman 17) Minotaur 18) Apollo 19) Gingerbread Man 20) The Ninja 21) Godzilla 22) David Walliams 23) Hiccup 24) Hercules 25) Easter Bunny
The top 10 ‘real people’ are:
1) Cristiano Ronaldo 2) Donald Trump 3) Adolf Hitler 4) Harry Kane 5) David Walliams 6) Theresa May 7) Queen Elizabeth 8) Queen Victoria 9) Henry VIII 10) Usain Bolt