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News story

Wicked Writers: Be the Change 2024 winners announced

22 Apr 2024

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The winners of the 2024 Wicked Writers: Be The Change writing competition, a collaboration between the National Literacy Trust and the stage musical Wicked, as part of its Wicked Active Learning cultural and social education programme, have been announced today on Earth Day.

Writing persuasively about the environment, 1,600 pupils across the UK entered with passionate stories, essays and poems about protecting the planet – and blew the judges away with their talent.

Thank you to the amazing pupils up and down the country for taking part – we will be back again next year with another chance to show off your writing skills!

Learn more and get involved for 2025

The judges were M. G. Leonard, award-winning children’s author of Beetle Boy and the Adventures on Trains series; English teacher, writer, and presenter of Holly’s Classroom, Holly King-Mand; Michael McCabe, Executive Producer of Wicked in the UK, and Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust.

9-11 age group: winner and runner-up

"All is pretty and full of beauty, when - oh no, it's trespassing - PLASTIC! I need to get ready for battle."

The winner in the 9-11 age group is Sebastian Kesley, 10, from Hiltingbury Junior School in Hampshire, who wrote an inspiring tale about plastic pollution told from the perspective of the ocean. Explaining why Sebastian was chosen as the winner in the 9-11 age group, the judges said: “Written from the viewpoint of an ocean, this is an extraordinary piece of persuasive writing – impassioned, eloquent and original. Its ambitious, creative use of imagery creates an emotional and expansive challenge, and its very language mimics the waves lapping on the shore. It is passionate and beautifully powerful.”

Sebastian Kesley image 2

After hearing about his win, Sebastian said: “I am excited and flabbergasted that I was chosen as the winner, I didn't expect it. I enjoyed the thrill and suspense of the competition. I am enthusiastic about this topic and I thoroughly enjoyed writing as the sea to share this message.”

Sebastian’s teacher, Holly Bristow, added: ‘I was delighted and very proud that Seb was chosen as a winner, he worked incredibly hard with his writing to show passion and the reality of this subject matter. His final piece was so powerful and well crafted, he did such an amazing job! Everyone at school and home is so proud of him!’

"The water shimmered as a lonesome turtle swam slowly through the ocean."

Arthur Stock, 10, from from Stanford Junior School in Brighton, is the runner up in the 9-11 age group, and his interest in marine life led to an inspiring and persuasive argument for how to reduce plastic waste in the oceans,

Explaining why Arthur was chosen as the runner-up in the 9-11 age group, the judges said: “This fantastic piece of writing articulately addresses concerns for our oceans while offering practical solutions for its protection. It combines beautiful storytelling with speech, demonstrating an artful use of language and brilliant conviction. Its positive suggestions for change-making result in a very persuasive piece.”

Arthur was thrilled to learn about coming runner-up, saying: “I couldn't believe it at first when I was told I'd come runner up, and I am very happy. I chose a font called 'lobster' to write my story in!”

11-14 age group: winner and runner-up

"But I clearly remember those words told by that powerful voice. Change your future by changing your lives."

The winner in the 11-14 age group is Luo Chen He, 13, from Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent in Stoke-on-Trent, whose story about activism and changing the world moved and inspired the judging panel.

Explaining why Luo Chen was chosen as the winner of the 11-14 age group, the judges said: “Using a Kafkaesque vision of the world to articulate the importance and ability of the individual to effect seismic change for their future, this emotive piece of writing inspired us all. It is refreshingly thought-provoking: the shifting narrator is incredibly original and therefore powerfully persuasive. It is a wonderfully creative concept that captures the difficulty of making a change and yet is also hopeful.”


Luo Chen was thrilled to have won, saying: “Out of all the fabulous applicants, I am amazed and grateful that I have won this competition. I tried to make my approach to the theme unique by focusing on human thoughts about the environment. I totally recommend anyone to enter this competition next year, and to be original with their piece. When you write, you make might - isn't that true?”

Ms. Corbally, Library Manager at Luo Chen's school added: “We are exceptionally proud of Luo Chen’s achievement in winning the ‘Wicked Writers’ 2024 competition. We congratulate him on both his courage in taking up the opportunity and on his powerful and creative short story. At a time when many young people do not see themselves as writers, this competition encouraging students to consider and create a range of entertaining and thought-provoking stories is invaluable.”

"And Nature's voice? a plea (still!) unspoken."

Samsritha Vakani, 14, from West Bromwich Collegiate, was the close runner-up, and she wrote a poem about Earth's two potential futures, calling for action to save the planet.

The judges' feedback on her entry explained: “The eloquence of the language used in this poem, and its impassioned call for the protection of our planet, made it a standout amongst the entries. It is cosmic in ambition and scope, powerfully argued, and a thoroughly original approach to the topic. Its imagery is fantastic, reminding us that earth is a ‘a precious jewel the envy of worlds.”

Samsritha was thrilled to learn about coming runner-up, saying: “I was so delighted to hear that I was runner up in my category. I am overjoyed that people will read my poetry and see what it means to me. I hope my writing conveys the message that we should not neglect the earth and gives people hope for a bright future.”

Writing for change

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive at the National Literacy Trust, said, “As judges, it was a privilege for us to experience the passion and creativity of this year’s Wicked Writers. Their commitment to using their skills to combat climate change and advocate for environmental justice is itself a sign of hope. And we hope their words will be read by many, who will share our experience of being inspired and changed for good by the work of these young writers."

Michael McCabe, judge and Executive Producer of Wicked said, “We are particularly proud to announce the winners and runners up of the Wicked Writers: Be The Change competition on Earth Day 2024. These outstanding pieces of persuasive writing demonstrate how environmentally conscious young people are, and how strongly they advocate for urgent climate action.”

M. G. Leonard, judge, and award-winning children’s author, added, “It was a profound privilege to get to read such a wonderful mix of wildly creative and persuasive pieces of writing from so many young people. The standard of the writing and the passion with which they wrote about the environment made it almost an impossible task to judge this prize. I have found it a humbling and hopeful experience because the concern and care for the natural world is crystal clear in their artfully chosen words.”

Luo Chen and Sebastian's schools have both received class trips to see Wicked and workshops with author MG Leonard, in which they will learn more about writing compelling stories and arguments, and how to use their voice to champion the issues they are passionate about, whilst the runners-up have also received class trips to see Wicked, and will be delivered a bundle of brand-new environment-themed books for their class.

All shortlisted pupils, including winners and runners-up have been published in The Wicked Writers Anthology, which is available on Amazon.

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