Lancaster Writing Award 2017

Lancaster writing award

The Department of English Literature and Creative Writings fifth annual writing competition.

With categories in Criticism, Fiction, Poetry, and our newly introduced category of Script and Screen Writing, these prestigious awards are open to Year 12 or 13 students in the UK. This award seeks to recognise and reward emerging critical and creative talent. 

We are excited to announce our shortlist for this year's Lancaster Writing Awards! 

The winners and comments from the judges are included below.


1st – Annie Fan, “Dreamscape IX” (Rugby High School)

Paul Farley: As we know, sometimes there’s nothing more boring than other people’s dreams. While dreams mystify and enthrall their recipients, they risk playing like dull out-takes or extra features in the light of day. But this dream, or dreamscape, feels tangible and evocative through a careful accretion of details. We get enough of a vivid world picture to imaginatively inhabit. Saying that, the poem has some of the odd dislocation of dream, and does move quickly. Relentless enjambment propels its domestic drama of nourishment and warmth and work from a ‘tonight’ through to ‘the morning’, and through a domestic landscape stocked with food hyponyms that I had to look up – koala biscuits, pandan roll, danjuan, laoganma spice, changfeng – but which add to the poem’s texture and complicated, bittersweet sense of place.

2nd – Oliwia Geisler, “metamorphosis” (Greenshaw High School)

Paul Farley: This one had me at ‘the night is at full throttle’, in its second line. It reminded me of something Clive James wrote in his Poetry Notebook, about the importance of ‘ignition points’ in a poem (one of his examples was Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘Spring’, where the first couple of lines are serviceable, but the third unforgettable: ‘Thrushes’ eggs look little low heavens’). Another sonnet-like poem, but while this is certainly from the familiar genus, it’s a different sub-species to ‘Trademark’, not only morphing into an extra line but containing and giving shape to a fragmentary, bittier phrasing, a stop-start, push-pull that seems to suit what’s being described. There’s a second throttling up in the penultimate line (as if to confirm the first was no fluke) with that unexpected ‘under-pelt’, and the whole thing manages a visceral, urgent quality.

3rd – Ben Vince, “Trademark TM ” (Edgbarrow Sixth Form)

Paul Farley: The word ‘about’, as in ‘what’s this poem about?’ often simplifies a poem or reduces it to a single dimension, although forgetting to attend to meaning can quickly lead to total confusion and obscurity. The busy reader gives up and moves on. What you’re after is a richness of interpretation; the idea of the reader ‘completing’ the poem’s meaning is a well-worn one now, but we should also consider how that sense of being on the brink of understanding or even revelation is potent, and keeps us coming back for more. ‘Trademark’ for me is that kind of poem. It speaks a retail lingo we recognize, allows us in, but things are a few degrees interestingly out of whack. It’s a sonnet made of closed sentences, declarative lines that sound to me like money talking. Somebody called Claire has a walk-on, walk-off part, but that’s OK. I think I half ‘get’ it every time I read it, and am curious enough to keep returning to try it on again.


1st – Alice Freeman-Cuerden, “The Last Letter” (Finham Park School)

Jenn Ashworth: Some ambitious, startlingly fresh writing here: a prose style that is both muscular and lyrical. This is a piece that explores mental illness and caring without stereotype or sentiment.  The narrative point of view is handled with skill, confidence and real flair. Impressive work.

2nd – Michael Morgan, “Citizen of Nowhere” (Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Coventry)

Jenn Ashworth: A reflective, discursive meditation on home, nationality and citizenship: I can’t think of a subject matter more worthy of the kind of urgent and personal attention given to it in this carefully constructed piece. The movement between the essayistic and the personal is handled confidently, the bitter sweet final paragraph pitched perfectly. This is an important piece of writing.

3rd – Catriona Sutherland, “Reflection” (Farnborough Sixth Form)

Jenn Ashworth: A vivid and visually detailed descriptive piece of writing, with strong, naturalistic dialogue that works to build both theme, mood, character and narrative progression: no mean feat. The contrast between the second and first parts – the domestic and the heroic, then and now – show a writer in full control of their material, and invite the reader to consider place across time. An exciting and engaging piece of work.


1st – Franklin Nelson, “‘Threatened or threatening: either way, femininity is never secure in the Gothic.’ Discuss by comparing at least two texts prescribed for this topic” (The Perse Upper School)

Terry Eagleton: An impressively perceptive and well-argued piece, highly intelligent in its critical approach and capable of some fresh insight into a well-worn topic.

 2nd – Thomas Bull, “‘hypermagical ultraomnipotence’ – Misconception and Reality of God According to E. E. Cummings” (Calder High School Sixth Form)

Terry Eagleton: A notably original, highly intelligent piece of work on a subject not much investigated, with some admirably close attention paid to syntax, punctuation, typography and other formal aspects of the poetry.

3rd – Olivia Darwin Welsby, “‘It’s a man’s world’: An exploration of the patriarchal influences in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear” (Cronton Sixth Form College)

Terry Eagleton: An original use of modern linguistics to illuminate the question of gender in Shakespeare, along with some sensitive alertness to the historical context of the drama.


1st – Louise Gorse, “Conversion” (Cardinal Newman Sixth Form College, Preston)

Tajinder Hayer: A thoughtful attempt at grappling with a complex topic. The script ratchets up the tension well and uses the language of film successfully (this was particularly in evidence during the assassination scene). With more time to play with, I could see this piece expanding so that it really explores the sibling dynamics between Bobby and Dennis; there is a lot of guilt and loyalty to mine there (all good dramatic material). The dialogue also conveys an authentic sense of dialogue without becoming mannered.

2nd – Olivia Fyfe, “Victory” (Segbergh School)

Tajinder Hayer: This articulates a historical moment well. We get a good sense of the community dynamics of this place (the loyalties, the social pressures, the buried resentments etc). I can imagine a director having a lot of fun at staging the crowd scenes; you signal moments of physical action that could be quite easily turned in to fully choreographed transitions. With the benefit of hindsight, a contemporary audience will know that this beginning is ominous; nonetheless, I think they’d still want to see how things turn out for the characters.

The winning entry from each category will be published in our student-run literary magazine CAKE, and the runners-up will have their work published on this page shortly, so watch this space!

Prizes (Per Category) 

First prize: £100 book vouchers and publication in Cake Magazine 

Second prize: £50 book vouchers 

Third prize: £25 book vouchers 

(second and third prize winners will also be published on the website)


‌Professor Terry Eagleton, internationally celebrated scholar and literary theorist, will judge the entries in the criticism category. 

Professor Paul Farley, prize-winning poet, writer, broadcaster and Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature, will judge the entries in the poetry category.

Jenn Ashworth, prize-winning novelist and short story writer, will judge the entries in the prose fiction category.

Tajinder Singh Hayer, celebrated screen-writer will judge the script and screen writer category.