Celebration Day 2015

“All the entrants were brought together for the Prize’s Celebration Day, hosted at Pembroke College, Oxford, on 22nd June. After a tour of the college, we attended various writing seminars. I was inspired by Alison Holt’s account of the painstaking work that went into her Panorama broadcast Undercover Elderly Care: Behind Closed Doors. The teenagers in the audience then saw the familiar face of Rick Edwards opening the formal proceedings, a highlight of which was the cracking one-man performance of Animal Farm by Guy Masterson.

We know George Orwell – but who is Eric Blair? Historian Jean Seaton chaired an interview with his son Richard Blair and self-confessed Orwell pundit Alan Johnson MP, allowing us to find out. His sharp shift in political ideology, his quiet but firm refusal to enter the world of Westminster, reveals a complex and beguiling figure. The day concluded with a presentation of Orwell’s books to the prize winners. It was a real privilege to meet so many distinguished figures in the spheres of journalism, politics and academia.”

Vidya Ramesh, 2015 winner in the Years 12 and 13 category

“A massive thank you to all who contributed to the Orwell event – my students thoroughly enjoyed it and found the event inspiring and informative and we are all honoured to have been part of the launch year and celebration.”

Shelley Eastwick-Thorne, Banbury Academy

The first year of the Orwell Youth Prize was celebrated at a day-long event on the 22nd of June. Prizes were awarded to young writers who had submitted entries on the theme of ‘Exposing a Lie’ focusing on everything from the stigma of anorexia to the legacy of Arthur Scargill. Some of the country’s best writers and most prominent politicians were present to give workshops and seminars to the students in attendance.

Students and guests in the Pichette Auditorium

Over one hundred young people and their teachers travelled from schools across the country to Pembroke College at the University of Oxford for the inaugural Celebration Day.

Students arrive and are given tours round Pembroke College

The day featured Alan Johnson MP and George Orwell’s son Richard Blair in conversation with Professor Jean Seaton about their experiences of Orwell, with TV presenter Rick Edwards acting as compère and explaining his perspective on young people’s engagement with politics.

Jean Seaton in conversation with Alan Johnson and Richard Blair

In the morning, writers and broadcasters Martin Chulov, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Brian Cathcart, and Alison Holt led workshops explaining the process behind their award-winning work.

Brian Cathcart leads a workshop on the battle of Waterloo

Brian Cathcart leads a workshop on the battle of Waterloo

The Celebration Day also featured a one-man performance of Animal Farm by Guy Masterson, and tours for students around the College led by current Pembroke students.

Guy Masterson performs Animal Farm - here, playing Clover the horse

Guy Masterson performs Animal Farm – here, playing Clover the horse

Winners each received a copy of Orwell’s Collected Works (Penguin), of Alan Johnson’s autobiographical This Boy (Bantam), and of Rick Edwards’ book on engaging young voters None of the Above (Simon & Schuster).

Details of those shortlisted and the winning entries can be found by following this link.

Rick Edwards interviews the three winners in the younger age category

Rick Edwards interviews the three winners in the younger age category

Richard Blair presents the winners in the older age category with their prizes

Richard Blair presents the winners in the older age category with their prizes

Full photos of the event are available at the Youth Prize’s Facebook page (no login needed).

The Chair of the Orwell Youth Prize, Elizabeth Paris, said: “This first year has proved that young people hold passionate views about the lies and social injustices that they see around them. In the next academic year, we plan to extend the scope of our workshops in schools across the country to give a voice to even more young people.”

Students browse the College library

Students browse the College library

Professor Jean Seaton, the Director of the Orwell Prize, said: “We want to nurture a new generation of engaged, articulate young people – from everywhere in our society. The Orwell Youth Prize, in this first year, has shown that it is capable of doing just that.”

A participant asks Alan Johnson a question

A participant asks Alan Johnson a question