Radio 2's Chris Evans launches children's writing competition


BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Breakfast Show today announced a unique short story writing competition, which aims to inspire children aged 13 or under to put pen to paper.

Called 500 Words and launched in association with Hay Fever, the children's programme of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, the competition aims to inspire children to get creative and write a story with a maximum of 500 words about any fictional topic they choose. Entries can be submitted at the BBC Radio 2 website from today until 9.30am on Thursday 3 March 2011 – World Book Day.

The competition is part of the BBC Year Of Books, a pan-BBC year-long celebration of literature which invites audiences to free their imagination through the exploration, enjoyment and discussion of books.

Chaired by Chris, a remarkable and inspiring panel of expert judges will select five finalists from a shortlist of 50, all of whom will be asked to attend the Hay Festival on Friday 3 June, where The Chris Evans' Breakfast Show will be broadcasting. The five finalists will have their story read out live on the programme by a celebrity, and the overall winner will be announced at the climax of the show.

Chris said: "I can't wait for all this to start. From the first words being dreamt up by our budding scribes, to the five finalists and our star studded panel of glittering talent declaring the winner. It's going to be a blast!"

Sophie Lording, Hay Fever Director, said: "Hay Fever is thrilled to be working with Chris Evans and BBC Radio 2. The competition is an exciting extension of what the Festival is all about, giving children the confidence to speak for themselves, put pen to paper and tell us their stories. We want to do the most we can to encourage the next generation of writers – every novel takes root in the playground!"

The expert judging panel will be helping to captivate imaginative young minds and inspire would-be authors. They will be speaking to Chris at 8.15am across this week and will also feature in short films on the Radio 2 website, giving their invaluable tips to young writers.

The judging panel are:

Anthony Horowitz – the UK's most popular male children's author, with three best-selling book sequences to his name – Alex Rider, The Power Of Five and The Diamond Brothers. He has also achieved great success as an award-winning screenwriter and is the writer/creator behind Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War and Collision. He has also just been granted permission by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate to pen the first new Sherlock Holmes novel in 96 years.

Anthony commented: "I'm always happy to help young people with their creative writing and with his huge audience, Chris Evans will be encouraging a great many of them to try their hand."

Oliver Jeffers – the author of seven global best-selling picture books, including How To Catch A Star, Lost And Found and most recently Up & Down. His work is recognised for its iconic illustrations combined with powerful, compelling text. As a picture book artist, he will be able to give great tips to novice story-tellers on how to be creative with just 500 words at their disposal. He is also the author of Chris' son Noah's favourite book – The Way Back Home.

Howard Jacobson – an award-winning writer and broadcaster. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) The Act Of Love and most recently, The Finkler Question (winner of the Man Booker Prize 2010).

Dame Jacqueline Wilson – author of the multi-award winning The Illustrated Mum and The Story Of Tracy Beaker, she has sold over 30 million books and is the most borrowed author in British libraries over the last decade. She was Children’s Laureate (2005-2007).

Dame Jacqueline said: "I'm very much looking forward to being a judge. I hope I'll be reading some really exciting, imaginative stories."

David Walliams – comedian, writer and actor, he has published three children’s books. His latest, Billionaire Boy, has been a gigantic hit with children. David will be in the Breakfast show studio live on Friday 4 February, which will be live streamed on the website.

David Walliams said: "I am very excited to be a judge. I find writing incredibly rewarding and I hope the children who enter this competition really enjoy the process of coming up with their story."

The competition is also extended to teachers from all over the UK who are invited to apply to participate as adjudicators in the preliminary judging round. Those chosen will be asked to select their favourite entries. The Top 50 will then be chosen from these recommendations with the support of the National Literacy Trust. Teachers can register to take part at the Radio 2 website.

In the final stage of judging, the expert panel will select the five finalists and, ultimately, the overall winner who will be announced on Friday 3 June on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Breakfast Show, which is broadcasting live from the festival that day.

Every budding young writer who enters will be rewarded for their story with a special message from Chris. And the five finalists will be handsomely rewarded with book tokens, while their school will receive a big bookish boost to their library.

Controller of Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, Bob Shennan, said: "Radio 2 is proud to produce such rich programming within the breakfast schedule, and I hope that Chris inspires thousands of children to tell their own unique stories."

This is the first competition for The Chris Evans Breakfast Show since it launched on Monday 11 January 2010. His on-air team includes esteemed newsreader Moira Stuart, traffic reporter Lynn Bowles and sports reporter Jonny Saunders. He has presented shows from his own back garden for a Children In Need fundraising weekend, as well as a show in a field in Cornwall alongside his co-hosts for the day, Richard and Judy, where they also created a campsite for hundreds of Radio 2 listeners. Last Christmas, the programme decamped to Bishopthorpe Palace in York, the home of his special guest, Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. The most recent RAJAR figures, published in November 2010 Q3 2010, reported that the weekly reach of The Chris Evans Breakfast Show was 8.14 million.

The network’s programming includes The Arts Show With Claudia Winkleman and the Radio 2 Book Club on Simon Mayo at Drivetime. And in the past year there's been specials including Poetry Week and Favourite Children’s Book on the Jeremy Vine show, which was won by Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo. Jazz Junctions – a landmark series exploring the development of jazz was broadcast to critical acclaim, and an eight-part series called The Musical explored the history and enduring appeal of musicals. The music and stars of the Fifties are currently the subject of a six-part series, Desmond Carrington's Iconic Fifties, and later this year Stephen Tompkinson presents World Class Brass taking the audience on journey through a world of brass that starts in the deserts of Rajasthan and ends in the heady carnival atmosphere of Trinidad.

For further information about the 500 Words competition, how to enter and full terms and conditions, please visit the Radio 2 website.



Notes to Editors

The competition is open from 8.15am on Monday 31 January to 9.30am on Thursday 3 March 2011.

Extended biographies of the judges are available on the Radio 2 website

The pan-BBC Year of Books is a year-long celebration of literature which invites audiences to free their imagination through the exploration, enjoyment and discussion of books. The BBC is the biggest producer of books related programming and throughout 2011 will highlight its continued commitment to literature and all quality arts programming. From regular literary stands to documentaries, series, dramas and readings, the year will offer a range of new and archive programmes.

The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that transforms lives through literacy. They campaign to improve public understanding of the vital importance of literacy, as well as delivering projects and working in partnership to reach those most in need of support. Since 1993 they have reached in excess of 18 million children and adults, working directly with 800,000 children and 7,000 adults. They have also given 343,000 children from disadvantaged communities the opportunity to choose over 934,620 free books to keep.

Hay Festival – For more than 20 years the Hay Festival has brought writers, thinkers, musicians, film-makers and scientists together around the world to cross cultural and genre barriers and foster the exchange of ideas. Hay sets literature within a wider cultural and social context and creates high-definition live festivals. Bill Clinton called it: "The Woodstock of the mind". Peter Florence, Hay Festival Director says: "Hay is a party of stories and ideas. It is a picnic you can hang out at and talk about all your favourite characters and books and films and music with the people who created them."

January 31, 2011 7:53am ET by Pressparty  

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