500 Words: BBC Radio 2's short story competition launches

image captionChief Yeoman Warder of The Tower of London Alan Kingshott helped launch the competition on Chris Evans's breakfast show

BBC Radio 2's annual short story competition for children aged five to 13 has launched.

The Duchess of Cornwall will return as an honorary judge in this year's 500 Words, which was launched by Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans.

This is the seventh year of the initiative, which received more than 123,000 entries in 2016.

The closing date for entries is 19:00 GMT on 23 February and the live final will take place on 16 June.

The competition encourages children around the country to get creative and send in their stories of no more than 500 words.

Lewis Carnie, acting controller of BBC Radio 2, said: "From 30,000 entries when it first launched in 2011 to over 123,000 in 2016, I'm so proud that Radio 2 is able to inspire so many children to get involved, writing their fabulous stories."

image copyrightChris Jackson
image captionThe Duchess of Cornwall will return to her role as honorary judge

The judging panel will consist of Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon.

They will choose gold, silver and bronze winners in each of the two age categories - five to nine and 10 to 13.

The final will take place at the Tower of London and be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2.

The winning entries will be announced and read out by celebrity guests, known as "superstar narrators".

Previous readers of the winning stories include Julie Walters, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Sir Kenneth Branagh.

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