The winners of the 2023 Wicked Writers: Be The Change writing competition, have been announced.
The national competition, hosted by the Wicked musical and the National Literacy Trust, invited children to write about the issues that matter to them, and there was everything from climate change and food banks to football and clean water.
There were two winners, in different age groups, and both receive school trips to see the West End musical Wicked. They also had workshops with one of the judges and award-winning author Sharna Jackson, in which they learnt more about writing compelling stories and arguments.
“The wide range of subjects featured in the competition entries demonstrates the variety of challenges facing schoolchildren from different backgrounds across the UK and gives a valuable insight into how we can better shape the future for this next generation.”
Sharna Jackson, award-winning author and competition judge
About the winners and their entries
The winner in the 9-11 age group was 10-year-old Amélie Arumugum from Powell Corderoy School in Dorking, who wrote an inspiring essay on deforestation and how humans can change their behaviour to protect the planet.
Her entry was described as an “an exceptional piece of writing… A very well crafted, well-researched piece which utilises emotional and intellectual appeal and includes a strong call to action.”
“I will not lie down and watch trees fall to the ground, I will stand up and fight until things are put right.”
From Amélie Arumugum’s essay about deforestation
After hearing about her win, Amélie said: “I was overjoyed. Out of all the participants across the UK, many of whom were older than me, I had won! I am so excited to see Wicked with all my classmates and since the title of the competition was ‘Be the Change’ I think everyone should not just write about positive changes but make them too.”
Natalia Hrickova, 10, from Thomas Deacon Academy Junior School in Peterborough, was the runner up, and her experience as a deaf student fuelled an inspiring and persuasive argument for British Sign Language to become a mandatory lesson in school.
The winner in the 11-14 age group was 14-year-old Hannah Firth from Trinity Academy in Halifax, whose essay on protecting and supporting refugees moved and inspired the judging panel.
Explaining why Hannah was chosen as the winner of her age group, the judges said her piece “commanded our attention from its first words, engaging us on both a societal and personal level.”
Hannah was delighted to have won, saying: “I spent a long time editing and re-drafting my piece of writing due to my dyslexia as if I wanted people to care about my chosen topic, I realised I needed to show how much effort I was willing to put in too. I even conducted research online to ensure my writing was accurate.”
“How much longer can we stand back and watch the inhumane and unjust treatment of those who are truly powerless in society?”
From Hannah Firth’s essay about refugees
Ella Barker-Garrod, 13, from Ringwood School in Hampshire, was the close runner-up, and she used her entry to highlight inequality in women’s sports, calling for an end to sexism.
Alongside Sharna Jackson (High-Rise Mystery), the other judges were Mark Curry, Wicked cast member and former Blue Peter presenter, Michael McCabe, executive producer of Wicked in the UK, and Jonathan Douglas, CEO of the National Literacy Trust.
Tim Judge, head of school programmes at the National Literacy Trust, said: “The huge variety of issues facing children has been a real eye-opener. Many children who entered had experienced some form of social injustice in their own life, from accessibility issues, through to gender inequality.”
Michael McCabe, executive producer of Wicked added: “We are proud to have provided this platform for young people to find their voices through writing about the issues that matter to them. With concerns for the planet, a plea for us all to learn sign language, ongoing sexism and inequality in sport, and the inhumane treatment of refugees, these four incredible pieces of writing inspired us all.”
Find out more about Wicked’s cultural learning programme, which includes education resources at www.WickedActiveLearning.co.uk