Winners announced for the 2021 Young Norfolk Writing Competition
Norfolk’s largest annual creative writing competition for young people aged 11-18

The winners of the 2021 Young Norfolk Writing Competition – Norfolk’s largest annual creative writing competition for young people aged 11-18 – have been announced alongside the identities of the fifth Young Norfolk Laureates.

The annual competition, which celebrates creative writing in all its forms, is a partnership between the National Centre for Writing and Young Norfolk Arts. It received 348 entries in 2021 with nearly 200 students from 51 institutions in the region submitting their freshest, boldest work.

Hannah Garrard, Learning and Participation Programme Manager, NCW said:

‘Yet again the young people of Norfolk have shown the world how imaginative, thoughtful and creative they are by submitting an impressive array of ideas and forms to the YNWC. It has not been an easy year for any young person, with the disruptions to life they have encountered, so it’s even more satisfying to be able to reward the talent and commitment out there through the competition and laureate programme.’

Lucy Farrant, Director of YNA, said:

‘The Young Norfolk Writing Competition is one of the jewels in the crown of the Young Norfolk Arts Partnership. It not only celebrates the breadth and depth of writing talent in the County but is also a wonderful example of how we work with our key partners National Centre for Writing to support and develop that talent and to give it space to flourish. Thank you so much to everyone involved in this year’s competition and to all the brilliant young writers out there.’

The winners of the Young Norfolk Writing Competition 2021 (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Callie Arlow, 16
  • Florence Bullion , 15
  • Oliver Campbell, 17
  • Amy Griffiths, 16
  • Christabelle Kirkham, 11
  • Mimi Ronson, 16

A further 12 young writers received commendation from the judges.

The competition is supported by Norfolk County Council and Arts Council England and focuses on engaging young people to become more involved with the arts while celebrating the writing talent in the region. Entries can take the form of stories, lyrics, narrative for games, graphic stories, poems, spoken word, scripts, podcasts, plays, articles, journalism, or essays.

Robert Rickard, former 14 – 19 Advisor for NCC, said:

‘Nearly a decade after its creation, the Young Norfolk Writing Competition has grown into a county-wide annual celebration. That it is thriving, seems proof that such forms of cooperative activity really can work – even in politically fragmented times.

‘Emotional expression is what we most need as humans — and recent world events have reminded us of this. The young writers of the future deserve our every support.’

The 2021 Young Norfolk Laureateship has been awarded to two young people: Callie Arlow and Mimi Ronson. Over the next 12 months they will work as a collective, receiving creative and professional development opportunities from NCW and working towards an original collaboration to be performed next year.

Mimi Ronson said:

‘I’m beyond thrilled to be stepping into the role of Young Norfolk Laureate. In a world of great change and activism, words have never felt more important, and I hope I can learn to use them to create some truly special work!’

Callie Arlow

Callie Arlow said:

‘Getting chosen to be the next Young Norfolk Laureate is an incredible honour, and I can’t wait to discover how this opportunity enhances my ability and knowledge of writing.’

Last year’s three young laureates – Mathilda Armiger, Kasey Challenger and Ryan Taaffe-Fowle  – showed a huge commitment to the programme. Mathilda was commissioned by NCW to write a poem,  ‘Incantation for a Garden’, celebrating active citizenship, renewable energy and the positive spirit of young people across Norfolk and Suffolk, as part of a partnership with FCC environment.


Watch the 2021 Showcase online

In celebration of the 2021 Young Norfolk Writing Competition and the breadth of young creative talent developing across the county, a special showcase event took place on Sunday night (11 July), hosted by Young Norfolk Arts Festival.  It featured readings from the winning and highly commended writers, as well as a gallery of illustrations created by students at Norwich University of the Arts to complement the winning pieces.

The showcase will be posted on the Young Norfolk Arts YouTube channel for everyone to enjoy. Further details will be announced soon.

Read the winning entries

The Old Man – Callie Arlow

The old man sat in his overly large red chair. His mind was filled with stories gone untold and his lips were cracked with the words that had escaped. Every night, the children of the village crowded into his tiny cottage to listen to his tales. As he spoke the old man’s eyes shone with the light of a thousand suns and his face became youthful once again. None of the children knew if he told them truths or fictions but none would ask; too afraid that the facade would shatter and his stories would be snatched away from them.

The old man left his door unlocked, his heart full of trust for the people of the village. His doormat was worn down from the stampede of hundreds of tiny feet, each of them so eager to hear him speak. He always entertained them long into the night, his words blanketing them, radiating a warmth that reeked of home and family.

The old man knew that his life was fleeting. As a child, life seemed like a permanent force but now he could feel the shadow of death looming just around the corner, its frosty grip seeping into his frail bones. His life had been given away in the magic that weaved through each word he said to the children and Death was finally coming to claim her prize. The soul he contained was a beacon, blindingly beautiful, soon it would fade to nothing as all things do. The inevitability weighed the old man down, heard in every stilted word, in every thought that he could never quite reach the end of, in every late night that fatigued him more and more as his book was drawn to a close. The final chapter of his life was being written even as he was turning back the pages to relive his favourite moments. There was never enough time. There were too many stories.

The old man knew that this was to be his last night. He could not hold off Death for long. There was one final story desperately clawing its way into the faulty spotlight. This one needed to be told before the old man could rest. The children sat beside the roaring fire. Their excitement was tangible and a smile bloomed on the old man’s face as he lost himself to the past. One last time.

Rain and sunshine battled for dominance in the sky as the old man’s coffin was lowered into the ground. A sea of mournful people watched the procession with salty tears crashing to the mud below them despite strong smiles fixed on their faces. They had all been his captivated audience, once upon a time, and they all felt their lives darken at the loss. The old man’s gravestone was left blank. In all of his stories, through every chapter, the old man had never once told the children his name. His book was rich with excitement, elation and emotion but was not adorned with an embellishment for the author. His pen had run out of ink too soon. Now, only his legacy lived on, through each seed that he had planted in the garden he would never see. And on that day, as the sun appeared to be victorious over the rain, every person vowed to make the old man proud. They vowed to go out, live fruitful lives and entertain the children when they grew too old to travel any longer. The old man had given them the pen, it was their turn to fill in the pages.


Poetry, I Think – Oliver Campbell

Dear English Examiners,

Do not take my lyricism as criticism,

Instead take it as a rant of frustration for the culmination of the repetition of hours spent scouring

Over pages and pages of poems taught,

Spaces between lines filled with multi-coloured notes,

Copies of the teacher’s ideas compressed to fill the margins.


Take my frustration as the culmination against the

Continuation of the assimilation and regurgitation

Of those multi-coloured notes into black, not blue, ink in the examination hall, stating that,

The random rhyming and repetition convey the frustration and confusion

Of the frustrated and confused poet.


The expectations and obligations to recollect translations

Of Shakespearian dictations to solidify in my mind,

Whilst reading them hundreds of times to revise.

Its repetition, the source of my frustration and confusion. But it Does work.


Teachers teach what must be taught,

And some students can choose to ignore,

But the ones who listen to the frustratingly confusing poetry,

Like me, write those multi-coloured notes, patiently, and see, poetry,

Because apparently, I’m a poet and I didn’t even realise

I was rhyming those words into lines and stanzas and, well, poetry.


And as I sat at my heavily graffitied desk, procrastinating,

Staring at artwork etched into it’s surface by artist who,

It seems, did not care for the words of Wordsworth

And Blake. Quotes and ideas swirl around my mind,

Battering down any hopes of free time,

As the exams loom over me, in its shadow I sit,

Memorizing the random rhymes and repetition that convey

The frustration and confusion of the frustrated and confused poet,


Only to vomit out essays consisting of

Long words, quotes and bullshit onto lined paper,

No multi-coloured notes allowed in the dead silence

Of the examination hall, and to emerge to a sigh of relief, to discuss its difficulty

With friends, students and mates.


And, hence, therefore, in conclusion,

Imagine if this poem was to be taught

To other frustrated and confused, frustratedly confused students,

Memorizing that, obviously, the random rhyming and repetition do convey the

Frustration and confusion of the frustrated and confused poet.

Imagine that irony. Ay Teach.


Lunatic – Florence Bullion
















The Man At Stall E13 – Christabelle Kirkham

The words glare down at me. From the dusty greenish black of the chalkboard they stared, impatient and unforgiving. ‘Who is your inspiration?’ That was the question, those were the words. It is my turn soon. My turn to trud slowly up to the blackboard and write a few words with the powdery chalk. I need to have an answer. I need to know what I’m going to write. I can’t go up there without an answer, not again. So I let my mind wander. Wander past all the common responses my classmates will write. Wander into my thoughts.

Suddenly I’m back at the market. Aromas of cinnamon, bread, spices waft through the air. Colourful flags and stalls are crammed close together but it doesn’t feel cramped. The weaving and carving pathways are crowded with people. They are all laughing with permanent smiles on their faces. The sounds of a city have faded into the distance replaced by laughter and conversation. I weave through the aisles knowing the path by heart. Every day I come here for one thing. This.

The cheer of the crowd hits me before the music does. It isn’t pop music, it isn’t break up songs. These are fast dance songs filled with whooping and hollering. There he is the man inside stall E13. He plays for his fun, for our joy. He isn’t selling or buying, he’s giving. Giving hope, happiness, cheer. Spreading a warm golden glow throughout the market. It’s a glow that you can’t see but you know it’s there. No, that’s not entirely true. In some ways you can see it. See it on the smiling faces, the blissful way the people dance.

He’s wearing grey jeans today, ripped naturally at the knee. He has on a blue and purple striped jumper along with the bobble hat he always wears, a faded green one with a bright yellow bobble on top. That bobble always makes me smile. His brown beard makes his dark eyes sparkle and he sings and strums his guitar. He’s not sitting though. No, he’s dancing.

Dancing along with his music, always moving, never stopping. A radiant sort of peace comes from within him, he’s at peace. At peace with himself his life, he’s giving us some of that peace now, if only for a moment. As he goes to let out another whoop he winks pulling me back to the present. So now, instead of legs of lead, I skip to the front of the classroom. When my teacher hands me the chalk I don’t hesitate. I pick it up and write 5 words. The man at stall E13.


Will Our Love Turn To Dust (song lyrics) – Amy Griffiths

The tears roll down

Soak my shirt

Bury me into the ground, it’s what I deserve

The whole world shakes

The lights go down

I can feel myself outgrowing this sad little town


The days go by and my heart breaks

You know that I’m afraid of change

If I grow up will our love turn to dust?

I try to hide to and hide and wait

I wouldn’t want to have to make you stay

If I grow up will our love turn to dust?


My heart feels numb

My body aches

I didn’t know that I could hurt in this many ways

The night feels long

My mind’s alive

But nothing ever changes because I’m too scared to try


The days go by and my heart breaks

You know that I’m afraid of change

If I grow up will our love turn to dust?

I try to hide to and hide and wait

I wouldn’t want to have to make you stay

If I grow up will our love turn to dust?




Break like my heart that night

Leave like I fear you might

Go like I’m not worth staying for

Hurt like a thousand knives

Don’t let them see you cry

Go I am not worth staying for


I’m so afraid of growing up

I know our love will turn to dust

I’d go through hell for you I really would

I will give this all I have

But I just can’t change who I am

I hated it, I kinda wish I could


No, no


Kaur – Mimi Ronson


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