‘The Battle of Trafalgar Square’ by Naomi Thomas: Described by judges as ‘a punch in the face of a story, in the best possible way,’ an ordinary commute on a crowded tube train is transformed into a surreal and darkly, comic experience when a woman has an unexpected and shocking accident. Written as practice for Naomi’s English Language GCSE, the story exposes both the good and bad in human nature via a short story that highlights the power of the form to ‘give us a complete literary experience in and of itself’. An avid short story writer, Naomi was Highly Commended in the Young Northern Writers’ Awards 2020.
Open to 13 – 18-year-olds, the aim of this Award is to inspire and encourage the next generation of short story writers and is a cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Radio 1. The shortlist was announced on Radio 1’s Life Hacks on Sunday 20th September 2020. The winner will also be announced on 6th October on Front Row on Radio 4.
You can listen to The Battle of Trafalgar Square below (read by The End of the F***ing World actress Jessica Barden!) and all of the shortlisted here: www.bbc.co.uk/ywa
Congratulations also to the following stories and shortlisted:
‘Winds that Travel Across’ by Maleeha Faruki
‘Three Pomegranate Seeds’ by Mei Kawagoe
‘Bingo Tuesdays’ by Ben Marshall
‘The Changeling’ by Lottie Mills
Giving voice to the ‘othered’ and reclaiming narratives dominates a ‘deeply impressive’ shortlist for the 2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University, announced live on BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks today (Sunday 20 September).
From the tender relationship between a boy and his grandmother inspired by family experience of Alzheimer’s, to a feminist reclaiming of the Greek myth of Persephone; from the memory and stories of a first-generation Indian immigrant, to a celebration of ‘otherness’ and the transformative power of difference, via a darkly comic exploration of humanity in a crowded tube carriage: the five sophisticated stories, penned by writers aged 15 to 18 were praised by the judges for their ‘startling confidence’ and ‘deeply impressive’ range of subject matter and style.
Practising for GCSE English Language papers inspired two finalists to write, with one, Ben Marshall, never having written a short story before outside of the classroom. The shortlist also sees the return of 2018 finalist Lottie Mills – a second-year English Literature student at Cambridge University – for her ‘genuine triumph’ of a story inspired by her #OwnVoices experience of disability and her frustration at how difference is represented.
Katie Thistleton, Chair of the 2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award Judging Panel, says: “Congratulations to our five shortlisted writers and thank you to everyone who entered the 2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award. This year has been an unsettling one for young people and writing has proved a powerful way to explore complex feelings and emotions. Gaining insight into the minds of teenagers and what they care about through their writing has never seemed so vital. I hope this year’s entries will inspire others.”
The five shortlisted stories, each under 1000 words, will be read by actors including Hollyoaks and Derry Girls actor Dylan Llewelyn, The End of the F***ing World actress Jessica Barden, and comedian and actress, Nimisha Odedra and broadcast by BBC Radio 1 and available on BBC Sounds. They will also be available to read on the BBC Radio 1 website. The winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row on Tuesday 6 October.
The BBC Young Writers’ Award has a reputation for identifying the short story stars of the future. Shortlisting for this prize is a stepping-stone for writing success, with one of Lottie Mills’ fellow 2018 cohort, Reyah Martin, winning the 2020 Canada/Europe Commonwealth Short Story Prize aged just 20. In 2019, inaugural YWA winner Brennig Davies secured a place to study English Literature at Oxford University and won the coveted Crown literary prize at the Urdd Eisteddfod – a Welsh language cultural festival.
Antonia Byatt, CEO, First Story says: “Congratulations to the shortlisted young writers this year. What they have achieved is totally impressive – sophisticated dexterity, finely tuned sensitivity and a bold engagement with contemporary issues all stand out strongly in these stories. It’s warming, too, to see that creative writing in the GCSE curriculum has been a starting point for some of them, something it is important not to lose as schools concentrate on curriculum recovery this year. This years’ shortlistees are clearly all very committed writers and have great writing careers in front of them.”
Dr Sarah Dillon, Faculty of English, Cambridge University, says: “The BBC Young Writers’ Award is such a crucial way of identifying and amplifying the voices of some of the UK’s best young short story writers. This year’s shortlist reassures that the form is alive and well with the younger generation. The stories reveal how some of today’s most challenging contemporary issues are feeding these young people’s imaginations and how, through writing and reading, experiences of hate, horror, frustration and despair can be transformed into sites of hope, humour and aspiration for a future this generation want to create, not just inherit.”
ABOUT THE AWARD: This is the sixth year of the BBC Young Writers’ Award which invites all 14 – 18-year-olds living in the United Kingdom to submit short stories of up to 1,000 words. The award was launched as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations for the BBC National Short Story Award and aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of writers. Previous winners are Brennig Davies Georgie Woodhead (2019) Davina Bacon (2018) (2015) Elizabeth Ryder (2017) Lizzie Freestone (2016)
Partners: BBC, First Story & Cambridge University