The winners of the Orwell Youth Prize, a political writing prize for young people aged 12-18 from across the UK, have been announced.
The prize received a record number (over 1200!) of entries this year, with young writers from across the UK creatively responding to the theme ‘The Future We Want’. The seven winning pieces, echoing George Orwell’s own genre-hopping, include short stories, journalistic essays and poetry, were judged by writer Kerry Hudson and poet Kayo Chingonyi. Alongside the winning pieces, analysis of the collective prize entries revealed mental health, the climate crisis, social media and tackling racism to be clear concerns for young people seeking to create a better future.
This year’s winners are as follows:
Knifepoint, Jessica Tunks (Journalism)
Streets in the Sky, Rosaleen Tite Ahern (Essay)
How many people does it take to change? (The World), Maya Stokes (Poetry)
What we lost, Lauren Debruin (Short Story)
Not so welcome break, Tom Finlayson (Short Story)
You are what you eat, Hugh Ludford (Short Story)
To the boy who’s considered my equal, Helen Chick (Poetry)
It was a tremendous honour to read this work and gain an insight into some of the things young people are thinking about. We found a particularly moving political engagement in writers who are at the beginning of their writing lives but write as if they’ve been writing for decades, lifetimes. I want to commend all entrants for having that courage to set something down on the screen or on paper and share it with the world. Kayo Chingonyi, Orwell Youth Prize 2020 Judge
Jessica Tunks, a Senior Winner (Journalism), took part in the Sussex Writing Wrongs Programme, a series of writing workshops led by investigative reporter and University of Sussex Stuart Hall Fellow Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi. As part of the workshop, which was for sixth-formers from backgrounds under-represented in journalism, Jessica received mentoring from Rebecca in developing her winning article, Knifepoint.
In 1984 Orwell wrote ‘They can’t get inside you if you can feel that staying human is worthwhile, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them’. This essay embodies that spirit; it holds a mirror to our community and speaks fearlessly and clearly about how pathways for young people like Ali become cut off, as society fails to value their future and our shared responsibility in that process. To write with such passion about knife crime and its impact is to be a voice that makes a difference; someone who isn’t beaten by injustice but is using their platform to call for us all to address it. In doing so, this essay embodies the relationship Orwell described so powerfully between independence of mind and changing the world. Stella Creasy MP on ‘Knifepoint’