Heidi Ashton, aged 11, from Wells, has been crowned the winner of the Explore Learning Writers’ Awards (ELWAs), which saw thousands of entries submitted from across the country.

Heidi’s 500-word entry, entitled ‘No Longer Hidden’, told from the point of view of an old musical instrument found in the garden shed, was selected by celebrity guest judge radio DJ Greg James as the overall winner of the 2020 ELWAs.

Heidi was surprised by James at her school, Wells Cathedral School’s assembly on Friday, when he appeared as special guest on a video call to crown her winner of the awards.

The theme for this year’s long-running competition, open for children aged 4-14, was ‘Hidden Talents’, and James was seen to be a fitting choice for judge, himself having authored the ‘Kid Normal’ book series about finding out your secret passion.

Winners were chosen based on creativity, rather than spelling, grammar or technical factors, giving children the chance to let their imaginations run wild.  Every child who submitted a story received a certificate celebrating their efforts, signed by Greg James.

James selected a winner each from Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. Heidi was crowned winner of Key Stage 2 and the overall winner of the competition. As overall winner Heidi has won a 13” MacBook Pro, an iPad, Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, £1000 in experience vouchers to spend on her passion, and £500 worth of books for her school. 

Greg James said:  

"A huge thank you to all the brilliant young writers who took part in the Explore Learning Writers’ Awards for 2020. Congratulations to all of you for setting aside some time to explore your imaginations. More than anything, I hope you enjoyed creating something anew from your brain. In this terrible excuse for a year I got a lot of joy from reading the stories submitted. The decision to pick one overall winner was tough but I’m delighted to announce Heidi Ashton as the champion of this year’s awards. "Heidi’s piece is written from the perspective of an old musical instrument that had been abandoned in a dusty shed. I loved how imaginative it was and clearly Heidi has a flair for telling interesting and hopeful stories. I absolutely loved reading it. It was unique and I was hooked throughout, desperate to learn the fate of the discarded guitar."

Bill Mills, CEO of Explore Learning, said:

“Heidi has done a fantastic job in winning the award for their Key Stage and making it into the top three finalists. Fighting off competition from thousands of other entries across the country is a huge achievement – if writing was a hidden talent for Heidi, it’s certainly not anymore! 

We started the competition to inspire the next generation of young writers, and we have been blown away by the imagination shown in the entries this year. To have your work read and selected by Greg James as one of the finalist entries, is surely the icing on the cake for a budding young author.”

No Longer Hidden

The dust, the dust! I can not take it anymore. Why do I, as innocent as I am, have to be dumped in the back of the shed?  I can't believe it. I am supposed to be used by someone, that’s what I do but yet no one has picked me up for at least a couple of years. I just sit, in my spot, collecting dust and all the debris around me. I should be used. I have a talent. 

My fellow brothers and sisters are the same. Yet I am the only one who cares. The darkness creeps me out. As for the cobwebs, oh the cobwebs! My long neck is aching badly, slumped as I am against cold wooden planks. It’s not good for my body and as for my beautiful varnish - it  is chipping away! I still reminisce about all my success in the past; the sea of hands waving, joyful faces swaying and joining in for the chorus, children on shoulders and music filling the air.  I can’t take it, I just can’t. But I have to. For the sake of my family, I must keep going. All I need is a human to walk in and use me. I know it won’t be long.

Then, to my great joy, daylight approaches! A human is there. I see it! It’s my chance; my time to shine. So I scuttle over a bit, trying to make myself visible. There he is, he is approaching, he is coming! Come on, closer………. YES! I am being picked up! YES! This is my time to show the human’s what I have got, my unbelievable talent! One pluck, just one.

I am being taken up a flight of winding steps which is making my stomach churn. I am already nervous and now this! I need to show the humans what I can do; what I sound like when they strum me. This could reignite my promising career! I need to make a good impression on the humans. Ok, deep breath and……. STRUM!

The sound of myself in the right pair of hands triumphantly echoes through the room we are in and I feel better again, I feel alive again! I am no longer hidden, no longer voiceless. He strums me again and again. He is brilliant!  We sound unbeatable, what a team we will make. A drawn out pause, a heaving chest and loud sigh and then I hear him say, ‘this is it! This is my talent!’ 

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