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Poppy’s story wins lockdown writing competition

Poppy Larkin

A Chorley teenager’s short story about life after lockdown has been picked to win a prestigious writing prize. (@SouthlandsHS)

Poppy Larkin, 14, who goes to Southlands High School, won first prize in the Future U ‘The Lockdown Diaries’ competition aimed to get more young people into creative writing.

Poppy’s winning story, which explores leaving the house for the first time after lockdown and rediscovering nature, impressed the judges due to its optimism, friendship and exploration of positive mental health.

The story was chosen over entries from six different schools around Lancashire, including Highfield Leadership Academy in Blackpool, Chadwick High School in Lancaster, Kirkham Grammar School and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School and Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School in Blackburn.

The Lockdown Diaries competition was set up by Future U, which works to increase career and Higher Education aspirations for young people in the county. The challenge was designed to make young people think about future careers in creative writing, from becoming an author all the way through to game script writers, copywriters and even English teachers.

Wanda Cooper, teacher at Southlands High School, said:

“This competition was a great way for students to be creative about their experiences in lockdown. I liked how students could choose between a real experience that had inspired or impacted them in some way or they could create something that was more imaginative.

“This gave students the opportunity to write about something that interested them in a style that suited them. It was a brilliant competition to be involved in and the students were extremely enthusiastic about the whole process, making it all the more enjoyable.”

All entries were judged by international author Philippa Holloway with the winning and shortlisted entries published in an anthology.

Dr Emma Deeks, Senior Coordinator at Future U, said:

“We know that for many young people, having to stay home and miss out on normal things like school and seeing friends has been difficult, but it has also provided an opportunity to experience different things and have more time to spend thinking and creating.

“We wanted to design a project that allowed young people to express this creativity and potentially inspire them to pursue a career within the creative industries.”

Judge Philippa Holloway added:

“It has been so difficult to select a winner and nine finalists for the anthology – each piece submitted showed creativity, insight and intelligence in their response to the lockdown.

“I am incredibly impressed with all the writers who chose to take part, and strongly encourage all of those who took part to keep writing, to keep exploring their world through creative expression, and to share their work wherever possible.”

Since launching in 2017, Future U has held more than 800 events and activities to support over 16,000 young people to think about applying for university. The programme works alongside the county’s four universities and 10 colleges throughout Lancashire and has continued to deliver activities online during the lockdown.

In addition to promoting the benefits of university to prospective students, the programme also supports young people to understand student finance, living away from home and raising career ambitions to develop the next set of skilled workers for the county.

Future U is part of the national Uni Connect Programme, funded by the Office for Students, and continues to support school pupils across Lancashire to encourage more young people to think about higher education and future careers. The project involves institutions and organisations across the county including the University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, Edge Hill University and the University of Cumbria.

Lancashire’s Future U works with a network of schools, in addition to colleges, higher education providers and local agencies to create tailored activities to meet the needs of students for now and the future.

Its list of partners includes: Blackburn College, Blackpool Sixth Form College, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Burnley College, Edge Hill University, Inspira, Kendal College, Lancaster University, Myerscough College, Nelson and Colne College, Preston’s College, STEMFirst, Runshaw College, The Lancashire Colleges, University of Central Lancashire, University of Cumbria, West Lancashire College.

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