During the school summer holidays, Tracey and I had the great pleasure of judging a writing competition for primary schools in East Devon organised by local author Jo Earlam. The competition was run, for the second year, by the Sidmouth Science Festival and the Sidmouth Arboretum Project, with the prizegiving held on the last day of the Sidmouth Folk Festival. The topic the children were asked to write about was “If I were a tree…” and the schools taking part sent in their top three entries.
This resulted in us reading around 60 entries, mostly from children studying at Key Stage 2. Without exception the entries were fascinating, diverse and well written for such young people. The writers had picked up on The Queen’s Green Canopy project, a tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Everyone across the UK is being invited to plant trees from October 2021, when the tree planting season begins, through to the end of the Jubilee year in 2022.
Many of the stories highlighted human damage to trees, with some being cut down, but many growing old and giving way to new saplings. The children undoubtedly care about trees, are obviously aware of climate problems and were very inventive in their potential solutions. It was heartening to read that they clearly saw trees as living beings with personalities, not just green things in a field.
Tracey commented: “We were thrilled to see far more entries this year. It is fabulous to think that youngsters in our East Devon schools are taking the critical importance of trees so seriously.
I must say I was also impressed with the use of creative, extended vocabulary. Add to that the fact that many of the entrants included some jeopardy in their stories. We felt there were certainly a good handful of budding authors in the mix and we look forward to reading the work they’re evidently going to produce in the years ahead.“
The overall winner was 10 year old Adam Egan (see the header image) with a story exploring the difference between human and tree timescales. It was a well deserved win and worthy of a much older writer.
My advice to every entrant in the competition, regardless of who won, is to keep on exercising their creative talent! Writing stories is a wonderful way to record what’s happening in the world and to help readers in the future make sense of it.
Simon West and The Team