Wicked Writers: Be the Change 2024 Competition Winners Revealed To Mark Earth Day

This year’s theme was the environment, and 1600 children across the UK have made their voices heard about the issues they are passionate about.

By: Apr. 22, 2024
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Wicked Writers: Be the Change 2024 Competition Winners Revealed To Mark Earth Day
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The winners of the 2024 Wicked Writers: Be The Change writing competition, a collaboration between the National Literacy Trust and the stage musical Wicked, as part of its Wicked Active Learning cultural and social education programme, have been announced.

This year’s theme was the environment, and 1600 children across the UK have made their voices heard about the issues they are passionate about, including climate change, earth and sea pollution, and animal extinction, with the winners announced today, Earth Day 2024 (22 April).

Earth Day is an annual event on 22 April to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on 22 April, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by www.Earthday.org including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries. The official theme for 2024 is "Planet vs. Plastics."

The winner in the 9-11 age group is Sebastian Kesley, 10, from Hiltingbury Junior School in Hampshire who wrote a thoughtful first-person story about the impact of plastic in the ocean on marine life from the perspective of the ocean itself.

Arthur Stock, 10, from Stanford Junior School in Brighton is the runner-up in this category and wrote a moving and informative piece about a lonely turtle caught in a plastic bag, with tips at the end for how people can help to reduce plastic pollution.

The winner in the 11-14 age group is Luo Chen He, 13, from Co-op Academy in Stoke-on-Trent who impressed the judges with a creative tale about the importance of activism and the struggle to change the world.

Samsritha Vakani, 14, from West Bromwich Collegiate, 14, is the runner-up in the older age category with a poem about planet Earth’s two potential futures – one positive and bright, and one destroyed without intervention.

Research from the National Literacy Trust shows that children and young people’s enjoyment of writing is at one of its lowest levels since 2010 [1], holding many back from the potential academic [2] and well-being benefits writing can bring. 

According to the charity’s research, giving young people the opportunity to write to support the causes they care most about can be a powerful motivator [3] - demonstrated by the overwhelming response to this year’s Wicked Writers: Be the Change competition and the high quality of the entries.

The judges were M. G. Leonard, award-winning children’s author of Beetle Boy and the Adventures on Trains series; English teacher, writer, and presenter of Holly’s Classroom, Holly King-Mand; Michael McCabe, Executive Producer of Wicked in the UK, and Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust.

Tim Judge, Head of School Programmes at the National Literacy Trust, said: “We have been blown away by the amount of impassioned, persuasive essays and stories submitted by pupils this year on the environment. Writing can be great for young people’s wellbeing and this competition shows pupils how they can use their literacy skills to have their voices heard on issues they care about.”

Michael McCabe, judge and Executive Producer of Wicked said: “We are particularly proud to announce the winners and runners up of the Wicked Writers: Be The Change competition on Earth Day 2024. These outstanding pieces of persuasive writing demonstrate how environmentally conscious young people are, and how strongly they advocate for urgent climate action.”

M. G. Leonard, judge, and award-winning children’s author, added: “It was a profound privilege to get to read such a wonderful mix of wildly creative and persuasive pieces of writing from so many young people. The standard of the writing and the passion with which they wrote about the environment made it almost an impossible task to judge this prize. I have found it a humbling and hopeful experience because the concern and care for the natural world is crystal clear in their artfully chosen words.”

Holly King-Mand, judge, and presenter of Holly’s Classroom, said: Once I relaxed into enjoying the thoughtful, passionate, and original work from the students, it became easy to pick out some of the most astonishing writing I’ve seen from young people (and I’ve seen a lot!). It certainly gives me hope that our planet's future is in good hands, and that the passion to put pen to paper is alive and well amongst our children.

The judges described Sebastian Kesley’s winning entry in the 9-11 age group as: “Written from the viewpoint of an ocean, this is an extraordinary piece of persuasive writing – impassioned, eloquent and original. Its ambitious, creative use of imagery creates an emotional and expansive challenge, and its very language mimics the waves lapping on the shore. It is passionate and beautifully powerful.”

After hearing about his win, Sebastian said: “I am excited and flabbergasted that I was chosen as the winner, I didn't expect it. I enjoyed the thrill and suspense of the competition. I am enthusiastic about this topic and I thoroughly enjoyed writing as the sea to share this message.”

Explaining why 13-year-old Luo Chen He was chosen as the winner of her age group, the judges said: “Using a Kafkaesque vision of the world to articulate the importance and ability of the individual to effect seismic change for their future, this emotive piece of writing inspired us all. It is refreshingly thought-provoking: the shifting narrator is incredibly original and therefore powerfully persuasive. It is a wonderfully creative concept that captures the difficulty of making a change and yet is also hopeful.”

Luo said: “From all the fabulous applicants, I am amazed and grateful that I have won this competition. I tried to make my approach to the theme unique by focusing on human thoughts about the environment. I totally recommend anyone to enter this competition next year, and to be original with their piece. When you write, you make might - isn't that true?”

All four students have won whole-class or writing group trips to see Wicked in London, and Luo and Sebastian have also won their classes a workshop with M. G. Leonard, where they will learn how to craft a great persuasive essay or story, and tips on making their voice and passion heard.


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