This year’s Orwell Youth Prize winners start small – and point in a new direction

Wednesday 21 July 2021

The Orwell Foundation can today reveal the winners of The Orwell Youth Prize 2021, after young writers from across the UK responded to the theme ‘A New Direction: Starting Small’.

From the conservation of Norfolk’s wetlands to the poetry of political campaigning, this year’s winning writers were deeply engaged with the local environment. Our winners and runners-up used personal experience, observation, and imagination to address social issues like racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and inequality – and suggest new directions for change.

For this year’s entrants, in a world that can often feel too impersonal, ‘starting small’ also meant treasuring and translating individual experiences and memories, from a magpie on a neighbour’s roof, to keeping a ‘time capsule’ of family heirlooms.

This year, the Youth Prize also asked every entrant to suggest the ‘one positive change’ they would most like to see in their lives. Answers were ‘inventive, bold and optimistic’, seeking to solve issues from racial and gender inequality to climate change.

Far more than just a prize, The Orwell Youth Prize is a project which aims to give something back to everyone who takes part. Through individual feedback from our network of volunteers, we support every young person who enters to develop their creative and critical writing.

And by seeking out new audiences for young writing, and by reflecting back our entrants’ collective concerns, we aim to make young people’s priorities part of the national conversation.

In 2021 The Orwell Youth Prize received poems, short stories, prose, essays, journalism, screenplays, game designs, speeches – and everything in between. Visit the Orwell Youth Prize website and social media or click on the links below to read each entry and hear responses from writers, journalists and campaigners.

Winners receive a cash prize and a copy of Orwell’s entire works and winners and runners-up will all be invited to take part in the Orwell Youth Fellows programme.

Senior Winners

‘Work Experience as a Young Campaigner’ – Jude Leese (Poetry)

‘The Quiet Revolution’ – Max Baker (Fiction)

‘Two for Joy’ – Isabella Rew (Poetry)

‘New Hair, Who Dis (Dear Mrs Johnson)’ – Faith Falayi (Poetry)

Senior Runners-up

‘Mending the Safety Net’ – Ruby Alexander (Essay)

‘A New Direction: Starting Small’ – Marnie Rauf (Fiction)

‘Notes on Being Black.’ – Laurell Jarrett Anderson (Journalism)

Junior Winners

‘It’s Not Your Fault’ – Katie Sherley (Essay)

‘A New Direction: Starting Small by Creating Norfolk Wetlands‘ – William Walker (Essay)

‘On Keeping a Time Capsule’ – Jennifer Yang (Essay)

‘A Small Thing’ – Anya Edgerton (Screenplay)

Junior Runners-up

‘Equality in Education’ – Marnie McPartland (Journalism)

‘Why?’ – Varscha Arul (Essay)

‘The Voting Booth’ – Charlie Owen (Fiction)

Our judges

Each entry was read by at least two assessors, and the final winners were chosen by the 2021 judges Adam Cantwell-Corn, Naush Sabah, Jessica Johnson, and Dan Bernardo.

Our partners and sponsors

‘A New Direction: Starting Small’ was funded by ‘Rethinking Poverty: The Webb Legacy‘, and George Orwell’s son Richard Blair. The Orwell Foundation is grateful to everyone who has made this year possible, from entrants to volunteer readers, teachers, schools and community groups, and all our partners and sponsors.

About The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize is an annual programme for students in year 8 – 13 (or equivalent) culminating in a writing prize. Rooted in Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness, the prize and the activities around it introduce young people to the power of language and provoke them to think critically and creatively about the world in which they are living.

Contact us

The Orwell Youth Prize will return in 2021-2022! If you would like to know more about any of the Foundation’s activities for young people, or are interested in working with us as a partner, school, teacher or volunteer, please get in touch with us at, and mark your email FAO Jeremy Wikeley (Programme Manager).