How to enter

The Orwell Youth Prize uses the writing of George Orwell as a starting point to inspire you to write about your own ideas and experiences, thinking about the world you live in.

The Orwell Youth Prize 2017 is now closed: you can read the results of the prize here. Congratulations to all our winners, and thank you to everyone who entered, or attended an Orwell Youth Prize event this year.

We will be announcing the theme and key dates for the Orwell Youth Prize 2018 shortly. Please watch this space! If you have any queries, please email Jeremy Wikeley at

Who may enter?

The Prize is open to anyone aged 14 – 18 who is at school or college, from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. You don’t need to have participated in an Orwell Youth Prize Workshop to enter.

If you are a previous winner of the Orwell Youth Prize, you may enter again, but you may not enter the same category. For example, if you are a Junior winner, you may enter the Senior category but not the Junior category. 

What should I write about?

The Orwell Youth Prize takes its inspiration from George Orwell. Orwell wrote from his own experience, and observed the social injustices and political happenings of the world around him. He also wrote in language that was clear, concise and compelling for his audience.

We encourage you to follow George Orwell’s example: write about something that matters to you, and that you want to draw to the attention of others.

What is the theme?

The theme for the Orwell Youth Prize 2017 was identity. We will be announcing the theme of next year’s prize shortly.

In the past year, the debate about the UK’s membership of the European Union has made many people think deeply about issues of ‘identity’ in modern Britain. For some, identity is about place: a particular town, England, Britain, Europe or the World. What does it mean to be ‘British’ or ‘English’ or ‘European’ or a ‘Citizen of the World’?

Orwell wrote about English identity in The Lion and the Unicorn:

But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own”.

For others, the EU referendum has stirred feelings about their identity as a young person. And it has made some think about other forms of identity in modern Britain, such as their class identity, their identity as a man, woman or neither, as a gay person, a black person or as an eco-warrior. In The Lion and the Unicorn, Orwell also wrote:

“I have spoken all the while of ‘the nation’, ‘England’, ‘Britain’, as though 45 million souls could somehow be treated as a unit. But is not England notoriously two nations, the rich and the poor?

This Year’s Orwell Youth Prize seeks to inspire writing that explores any form of identity that is important or to you, or which you have observed in the world around you. Which of these forms of identity matter to you and why? Why do you think they matter to others? Are identities fixed? Can they change?

Keep an eye on our website – periodically we will upload examples of writers and journalists that have explored these questions themselves. Lots of Orwell’s work is already available on our website, and we also have a guide to some of our resources.

How should I write?

  • You can enter your own individual writing or a piece of group writing with up to 5 young people in the group
  • The writing can be in any form for example an essay, journalist’s report, a short story, a diary, a blogpost or a poem
  • If you are in years 9, 10 and 11 (or equivalent) the piece of writing should be a maximum of 1,000 words
  • If you are in years 12 & 13 (or equivalent) the piece of writing should be a maximum of 1,500 words


What will happen to the entries?

The entries will be judged in two categories:

The Orwell Youth Prize for those in years 9, 10 and 11 (or equivalent)

The Orwell Youth Prize for those in years 12 and 13 (or equivalent)

How many winners will there be?

  • Up to 5 Orwell Youth Prize Winners in each category
  • Up to 20 Orwell Youth Prize runners-up
  • In addition, we also award highly-commended certificates for additional exceptional entries

What do I win?

Everyone who enters the Orwell Youth Prize invited to the Celebration Day, held annually at Pembroke College Oxford.

Orwell Youth Prize Runners-Up also receive a copy of George Orwell’s selected essays, published by Penguin.

Orwell Youth Prize Winners receive all of the above AND:

  • ALL George Orwell’s novels and full-length non-fiction works.

Vidya Ramesh, one of the 2015 winners in the Years 12 and 13 category, had this to say about her experience:

“Entering the Orwell Youth Prize, receiving helpful feedback and incisive critique from the judges, and of course the Celebration Day itself, has given me the confidence to seriously pursue writing as a possible career. I must thank the Orwell Youth Prize for presenting those awarded with a day’s work experience at the offices of The Guardian. The day was conducted by Stephen Armstrong, journalist and author of the acclaimed The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited. It was a valuable opportunity to learn from Stephen’s expertise, as well as to practise writing at the hot-desk. Sifting through breaking news updates to devise a piece within a thirty minute deadline was an absorbing experience – it propelled me out of my comfort zone to write about the unfamiliar”

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!