A seven-year-old who wrote a poem about a homeless man is among the winners of the 2018 Wicked Young Writer Awards.
The annual creative writing awards, held in association with the National Literacy Trust and which includes judges former shadow chancellor Ed Balls and author Cressida Cowell, is for budding writers aged between five and 25.
This year’s shortlisted finalists were praised by the judges for writing stories, poems and non-fiction pieces filled with “dark themes and dramatic twists”.
They said the writers in the older categories highlighted gender discussions around female roles, and that there were plenty of entries influenced by gun control issues and LGBTQ+ activism.
Another theme the judges were impressed to see across all age groups was the topic of dementia, and the focus on an ageing population.
Among the winners was seven-year-old Fern Brindle from Derbyshire, who was praised by the judges for her “heartfelt and compassionate poem about homelessness” called The Man On The Street.
The judges added that the poem, entered in the category for those aged five to seven, is “thoughtful, emotive and reflective”.
Other winners include Emer O’Toole, 23, from Northern Ireland, whose non-fiction story Dear Baby Girl won in the For Good category.
The judges said the story had “an empowering message for a baby girl about sisterhood and the importance of self-belief and self-assurance as she grows up into womanhood”.
The For Good category, now in its third year, encourages writers aged 15 to 25 to write essays or articles that recognise the positive impact people can have on each other and their communities.
The winner in the 8-10 category was eight-year-old Robyn Blunden from Kendal, for The Snow Leopard.
The story was described as “a magical fantasy story about an ancient guardian spirit watching over and protecting a village.”
Freya Hannan Mills, 14, from Merseyside, won the 11-14 age category group for Mushy Peas And Battered Bits, a “poignant and very mature account of an old man’s past reflections at the moment of death”.
Sixteen-year-old Kashif Chowdhury, from Ilford, won the judges’ approval with the “sophisticated, rhythmic storytelling” of All Quiet On The Western Front, in the 15-17 age group category.
Last Chance, penned by 18-year-old Imogen Usherwood from Hampshire, was crowned the winner of the 18-25 category.
The judges loved the “unsettling and expressive story of familial dominance and of the young person’s yearning to be free to leave and study”.
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Every year, the Wicked Young Writer Awards inspire wonderfully creative and thoughtful writing – and this year was no exception.
“The Awards give us a unique insight into what matters most to children and young people today, and this year we were inundated with heartfelt entries on older generations, grandparents and memory loss.”
The winners were unveiled at a ceremony at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, the home of its sponsor Wicked the musical – which was hosted by BBC Radio 1’s Greg James on Thursday.
The free-to-enter awards was launched in 2010 by West End musical Wicked with the support of the Duchess of Cornwall and Michael Morpurgo, and is held in association with the National Literacy Trust.