Cumbrian Sixth Former wins £1,000 Essay Prize

20th January 2014

The winner of the inaugural Hunter Davies Award for Young Writers for Cumbrian sixth formers is seventeen year old Hannah Sowerby, of Appleby Grammar School.

The £1,000 prize, administered by Cumbria Community Foundation is for a piece of personal reportage – nonfiction as opposed to fiction, a true story about something which has happened to them, big or small. The title of the first essay was “What I did in my Hols”

“Yes, a deliberately corny, childlike title,” says Hunter Davies, “but the idea was they could do with it what they liked, write about staying in bed all summer, digging their granddad’s allotment or going abroad. We were looking for good reporters, feature writers of the future, but also people with a literary turn, a sense of humour, able to handle conversation, narrative and most of all able to shape their own 1,500 words of personal experience so that you want to read on to the end.

Hannah will receive £500 personally to spend wildly as she wills, with the other £500 going to her school library.

The three judges were Hunter Davies, Richard Eccles and Stephen Matthews.

Richard Eccles, who is the editor of Cumbria Life, is publishing Hannah’s winning essay in the February edition of Cumbria Life.

Stephen Matthews is an author, publisher and owner of Bookcase in Carlisle. He was formerly head of English at Wigton Nelson Tomlinson School.

“Hannah engages the reader from the off,” says Stephen. “Her essay is peppered with humour, but never forced, just lively, natural and apparently off-the cuff, but actually quite polished.”

On hearing the news that she had won, Hannah’s first reaction was surprise. “If I’m honest, I’d forgotten all about the competition. When my teacher told me that I had won I couldn’t believe it. Of course I was overjoyed and it brightened up my day of endless coursework.

“I’m still unsure what to spend the money on, but I may spend a bit on some driving lessons. Then save the rest until I’m sure what to do with it.”

The prize is now going to be an annual event, open to any comprehensive sixth former in the county. The title for this year’s Essay will be announced at Easter – and all details will appear on the Foundation’s website.

“We got a good response for a first attempt,” says Hunter, “with some excellent entries from a range of schools all over the county, such as Ulverston High, Cockermouth School, Newman School, Carlisle, Nelson Tomlinson, Wigton, and Appleby Grammar. But we hope for even more next year.”