The Tower Hamlets Creative Writing Competition is an annual event for schools in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for students aged six years to sixteen. Conceived in 2004 by Tower Hamlets Gifted and Talented strand of the Excellence in Cities programme, it has been run by Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service since 2011 with the aims of promoting wider reading and literacy, and to encourage young people to express themselves through the written word. Research carried out during the 2018 competition showed that pupils participating in the competition and in the author workshops benefited by gaining confidence in their writing ability and developing greater insight into the issues raised by the competition themes.
We are thrilled to announce that Arts Council England has again awarded Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service with a grant to enhance our annual Creative Writing Competition with author-led creative writing workshops for schools, Idea Stores and home-educated children.
In order to take advantage of these free author workshops, schools need to enter the competition by “buying” it via SLAonline (S0933 – Creative Writing Competition 2020) and letting us know who is to lead on organising the workshops.
The grant also enables us to produce a book of the winning entries.
Our Guest Judges
Every year the competition is judged by a childrens author or authors. This year Chitra Soundar will be reading the Year 1 to Year 4 entries and Bali Rai will be judging the stories and poems from year 5 and up. Both authors will be awarding prizes in June!
Chitra Soundar is a closet clown, consummate liar, writer, teacher and storyteller. As a kid, she has danced in a Bollywood movie, acted on stage with her neighbourhood friends and disliked Maths because it never added up.
She has over 30 books in print worldwide, including the Farmer Falgu picture book series and A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Wisdom. In the UK she’s published by Lantana Publishing, Otter-Barry Books, Walker Books and Red Robin Books.
Entering The Competition
In 2020 there will be 4 age groups in the competition:
- Group 1 : Years 1 & 2
- Group 2 : Years 3 & 4
- Group 3 : Years 5 & 6
- Group 4 : Secondary schools
Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd & 3rd places and for commended entries in each category.
- Write a short story up to 500 words (KS1/2) and 750 words (KS3)
- may also be an illustrated story or comic book
- Write a poem or verse story up to 25 lines (KS1/2) and 35 lines (KS3)
- Poems and stories must follow the competition theme
Pupils may enter both the short story and poetry categories. The competition deadline is Friday 3rd April 2020. Entrants should complete their work by 30th March in order for it to reach the Schools Library Service in time.
If you are entering via a participating school entries should be passed to a teacher or school librarian
If you are entering via an Idea Store entries should be handed into an Idea Store member of staff
Parents / carers of home-educated entrants may send work directly or via the Tower Hamlets education safeguarding team.
Entries can be submitted via:
- emailed as an attachment : firstname.lastname@example.org OR
- post: Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services, PDC, 229 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6AB
and must include the information below.
- Writer’s full name
- Year group (age if home schooled)
- School (parents’/ carers’ contact email if home schooled)
- Class teacher/ English teacher (parent’s/ carer’s name if home schooled)
- The category being entered (select from below)
- Group 1 : Years 1 & 2 Short Story Poetry
- Group 2 : Years 3 & 4 Short Story Poetry
- Group 3 : Years 5 & 6 Short Story Poetry
- Secondary Short Story Poetry
- Title of work (untitled winning entries will be given a title by the competition judges)
Author workshops will be offered to all age groups to support their writing. Workshops will be up to 45 minutes and are practical sessions covering structuring a story, approaching the competition theme and creating characters.
- The workshops for home-schooled groups will take place during February at a Tower Hamlets venue.
- Each Idea Store will be hosting a workshop during the February half term holiday (see Idea Store staff for details).
For Schools. Registering for your free author workshops
The author workshops are intended to provide practical creative writing skills to your pupils (and teachers!) including structuring a story and character creation. The workshops will relate to the theme of the competiton but the skills learnt can be applied to other projects and lessons.
How will a visit to your school work?
- An author will be able to work with up to 2 groups of pupils during their visit
- These 2 sessions will be up to 45 minutes each and run one after the other with a short break in between.
- The school should suggest a date or (preferably) a range of dates during which you can host your visit. We will match you with an author based on your requirements and their availability.
- Workshops should take place from January to early March (excluding world book day week)
- Each group of pupils can be up to the size of one class (maximum 30 pupils)
- Workshops can be for all ages from year 1 upwards
- Groups can be of mixed ages, although there shouldn’t be too wide a gap between these ages
Please note that the funding is to run practical writing workshops and not group talks/ assemblies.
If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com or phone 020 7364 6428
*** The author workshops are now fully booked ***
Theme : This Hidden Island
There is an island waiting to be found.
If it does not exist, then it is up to you to shape it.
Give it form, bring it into the world.
Where is it?
What is found on it?
Who, or what, lives on it?
What stories does it hold?
Tell us one of them.
You can interpret the theme This Hidden Island in any way you wish. We’ve collected possible ideas here.
What are the distinctive cultures and features of islands and groups of islands?
- The people and culture
- Contact with other cultures including colonial history
- Myths, legends and folklore
- Animals and nature
- Geographical features and climate
- What genre and style do you want to write in? Genres include; Adventure, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Horror
- Who are the main characters and what are they doing in the story?
- Because we don’t have long to get involved in your story – how do you make the reader interested in the characters or their situations?
- If it’s a poem, what sort of poem is it? Is it in rhyme, a narrative poem? Is it meant to be read aloud?
Things to consider
- Islands can be real or imaginary
- Or a mixture of both!
- There are millions of islands in the world and people still haven’t been to them all
- Islands can be isolated and alone, or part of something larger
- Many islands are unique, with life or features and culture that are found nowhere else
- Islands can be difficult to find and travel to
- They can also be difficult to leave!
Examples of real world Islands and archipelagos
- New Zealand
- The British Isles (soon to be minus Scotland and Ireland?)
- Easter Island
- Scottish Islands including Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands
- The Caribbean
- Galapagos Islands
- Ross Island (Antarctica)
- The Faroes
- Hong Kong
- Greek islands
- The Isle of Dogs
- Svalbard (Norway)
Popular themes associated with stories about or featuring islands
- Voyages and quests
- Identity and culture
- Isolationism / delusions of superiority
- Being trapped
- Finding oneself
- Welcoming strangers
- Rejecting strangers
- Strange places
- The unknown
- Returning home
Examples of books and stories featuring, or set on, islands (real and imagined).
We’ve listed some of the themes of these books that are related to the use of islands as settings. These themes can inspire pupils’ own work.
- The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (Australia and colonialism/ invasion)
- The Katie Morag Stories by Mairi Hedderwick (Scotland and island life – fictional but inspired by real islands)
- The Little Island by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (UK – a satirical look at Brexit and the perils of isolationism)
- Gregory Cool by Caroline Binch (Caribbean, identity and contrasting places)
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Imaginary places and monsters)
- The Island by Armin Greder (Imaginary and expressionist – exploring isolationism and prejudice against immigrants and refugees)
- King Kong by Anthony Browne (Imaginary islands and taking someone from their home)
- The Lighthouse Keeper series by Ronda and David Armitage (the problems of living in a remote lighthouse)
- Three Monsters by David McKee (welcoming strangers / sharing / acceptance)
- Jeremy Button : The boy that Darwin returned home by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali (removing someone from their home, and returning home)
- The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton (mysteries, fantasy and living islands)
- Archipelago : An Atlas of Imagined Islands by Huw Lewis-Jones (An imagined atlas created by a range of illustrators)
Myths and Legends
- Atlantis (Lost Islands -Various)
- The Odyssey and the stories of Odysseus (Epic journey home and discoveries – Greek)
- Brexit (a pyrrhic victory)
- Jason and the Argonauts (Epic journey on a quest -Greek)
- Stories of Maui and other Polynesian myths (Fantastical inhabitants of islands – Polynesia and also Hawaii and New Zealand)
- Sinbad (sea voyages to islands – Arabic)
- The Earthsea stories by Ursula Le Guin (Magic , fantasy and quests)
- Peter Pan by J M Barrie (Pirates and imaginary lands)
- Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo (Japan and isolation)
- The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kieran Millwood Hargrave (Fantasy and mythology)
- The Island at the end of everything by Kieran Millwood Hargrave (Banishment and journeys)
- Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolke (Isolation)
- An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls (Contemporary Treasure hunting)
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Pirates and treasure hunting)
- The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho Yen (An urban ‘island’ – being trapped in a tower block)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C S Lewis (Fantasy sea voyage and quest)
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (Fantastical journeys)
- Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Dinosaurs and science fiction)
- Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaugrean (Being stranded and survival on a remote island : based on real events)
- Oliver and the Seawigs by Phillip Reeve (Explorers and living, moving islands)
- Meteorite Spoon by Philip Ridley (Excaping to a fantasy island)
- Tintin and the Black Island by Herge (A mysterious island used by criminals)
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (A castle as a wandering island)
- The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman (Featuring a journey to Svalbard)
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (Lake District, sailing, camping, childhood holiday adventures)
What are the judges looking for?
- An original approach to the competition theme
- Good story structure (a beginning, middle and end)
- Engaging and interesting characters
- An original approach to the competition theme
- The power of the poem!
- Creative use of wordplay and style
- Use of poetic forms and structure
All entries must be received by the Schools Library Services by Friday 3rd April 2020
Prize Giving: Monday 15th June 2020
- Entries must be appropriate to the theme!
- Entries should not be adaptations of other writers’ or poets’ published work (such as stories or films), however alternative versions of fairy tales/ myths and legends will be accepted.
- All entries must be the entrant’s own work, including all illustrations. All work shortlisted for a prize will be thoroughly checked and plagiarised writing and artwork will be disqualified. Please remind your pupils that copying work isn’t allowed!
Boring but important
- Entries can be cooperative efforts. Any prizes will be split between the named entrants.
- Entries without entrant’s full name and competition category will not be eligible for judging.
- Each page should have the entrant’s full name written clearly on it
- Entries must be written or typed on one side of the page only
- Work should be in black or blue ink or text on white paper
- No decorative fonts unless they directly contribute to the writing/ storytelling
- If you are illustrating your work, all artwork must be in black and white for consideration for the printed book
- We will contact all winners via their school (or parents/ carers if home schooled) in May.
- Work will not be automatically returned to entrants but can be collected on request after the competition closes. The Schools Library Services can take no responsibility for lost or damaged work.
Commended and winning entries to be published in eBook and print formats. By entering the competition, entrants are giving permission for their work (including their name) to be published and distributed in these formats, and all supplied information including name and contact details to be held by the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services. Copyright on poems and stories will remain with the author(s). Supplied information, including names and contact details, of competition entrants who do not win prizes will not be stored beyond the duration of the event.