Year 10 pupil in line for prestigious young writers' accolade

UCS Year 10 pupil Zirui has been shortlisted for the prestigious Orwell Youth Prize 2023 and will take part in the competition’s celebration day at University College London next month.

Zirui’s piece of writing titled ‘To The Northerner’ made the short list of 43 works from a total of 570 entries. His position in the top 7% of Orwell Youth Prize contestants earned the Remove pupil an invitation to the competition’s finals day, which, appropriately, will take place at UCS’s original base at UCL’s main campus on Gower Street.

Zirui said: “Entering the competition was mostly about challenging myself and seeing how my skills compared with those of other people. I wasn’t expecting much and the result came very much as a surprise to me. My first reaction was ‘the other entries can’t have been very good!’.”

The event on 8th July will involve creative workshops with professional writers and a chance for the young writers to share their work with an audience. “I’m most looking forward to being able to chat and compare notes with people who have been through the same process of brainstorming, writing and editing… then realising their initial draft would be twice the word limit! It will be good to see what other people came up with,” he added.

Zirui is part of the UCS Creative Writers’ Café, a group of pupils from Years 9 to 13 who meet weekly and enjoy a creative writing space that teaches freedom of expression, tangible skills and techniques. The club is run by Teacher of English, Courtney Sklar, who said: “I am delighted Zirui has been shortlisted for this year’s Orwell Youth Prize. It’s a huge achievement and a wonderful opportunity for Zirui to work with published writers such as the excellent poet Anthony Anaxagorou and Guardian journalist Helen Lewis.”

Assistant Head (Co-curricular), Jessica Lewis, added: “What fantastic news for Zirui and thank you to Ms Sklar for all her work supporting the creative writers this year.”

Zirui’s writing will now be judged by a panel comprising a novelist, senior newspaper journalist, BBC correspondent, and poet and essayist who will pick and announce the overall winners and runners-up. All entries took ‘Who’s in control?’ as their theme, inspired by Orwell’s books Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Zirui entered the junior category with a word limit of 1,000 but with freedom to experiment with form, content and style.

The Orwell Youth Prize invites young people to think and write about issues of social justice – tackling big ideas creatively. By focusing on a theme, the prize offers a direction to writing, often making the author examine a topic in a different light.

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