Aston Villa star backs local writing competition

23 Nov 2020
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Competition key details

Age range: 9-14 (years 5-9)
Story length: 500-750 words
Prizes: iPad, signed books and visits from exciting local ambassadors
Submission deadline: Friday 4 December
Further details: birminghamstories.org.uk

Aston Villa defender Natalie Haigh is backing a story writing competition by the National Literacy Trust and the University of Birmingham for students aged 9-14 that invites them to write about their heroes – whether fictional, real or an everyday hero they know personally.

Natalie Haigh, Aston Villa defender, said: “This competition provides an excellent opportunity for entrants to bring to life their own interpretations of what the word ‘hero’ means. Self-expression is a fundamental life skill and the platform Birmingham Stories have provided here to enable and encourage this is unique. I am very much looking forward to helping to showcase the creative brilliance of young people from in and around the local area, and to finding out who or what has inspired their work.”

Birmingham Stories is a partnership between the National Literacy Trust and the University of Birmingham to spread awareness of the importance of storytelling and literacy at every stage of life. Research is at the heart of every activity and entries to this competition will form the Birmingham Stories Corpus, to be used by university researchers to study the language young people use in stories.

Professor Michaela Mahlberg, Director of the Centre for Corpus Research at Birmingham University, said:

“In addition to directly addressing the curriculum, story writing is an opportunity to develop skills in empathy. When writing a story, students explore how to put themselves into other people’s shoes. They need to consider how to describe the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and speech of the characters they create.

“The stories we receive will contribute to our research into textual patterns in children’s writing.”

Natalie will be joined on the judging panel by children’s and young adult author Sufiya Ahmed, alongside the Birmingham Stories team.

Sufiya Ahmed, Young Adult author, said: “During lockdown I know many young people have used creative writing to make sense of the extraordinary times we’re living in, and it’s safe to say everyone’s definition of hero has changed over the last few months. I’m delighted to be working with Birmingham Stories to encourage local young people to tell their stories and get their voices heard.”

The competition is open for submissions until Friday 4 December, with the winner to be announced on Friday 18 December. All participants will be invited to a special workshop by Sufiya to celebrate their writing, and the winning entries will be showcased online in a digital anthology. The overall winner will receive an iPad, while runner-up and group prizes for schools include signed books, Aston Villa merchandise and a very special virtual visit from the Aston Villa squad.

Entrants or their parents are also encouraged to share sneak previews of their work on the Instagram account @bhamstories.

Harinder Matharu, Birmingham Stories Hub Manager, said: “We’ve seen young people turn to creative writing to express themselves, and National Literacy Trust research shows the benefits to their mental health of having this outlet. The term ‘hero’ has played a prevalent part in the COVID-19 pandemic and we’re really looking forward to seeing what it means to young people in Birmingham.”

Writers can enter through their school or as individuals (one entry per person). Schools will be sent classroom resources including story prompts and inspiring activities.

More details here.