The final of BBC Radio 2's 500 Words short-story writing competition, live from Windsor Castle
Now in its ninth year, the story-writing competition for children aged between 5 and 13 attracted over 110 000 entries. In addition, 500 Words was supported by Oxford University Press in 2019 to reach over 20,000 schools.
Each and every one of this year’s entries was read by a fantastic team of 5000 volunteer teachers and librarians from around the UK, before being whittled down to the Top 50 finalists (plus six wildcards) by The Reading Agency. The 500 Words’ panel of judges then had the gruelling task of selecting three winners in each of the two age categories (5-9 and 10-13 years) from this group of talented young writers.
The final, presented by Zoe Ball, promises to be an extravaganza of live music and sensational story-telling, with the six winning wordsmiths announced on-air by celebrity narrators including David Walliams and Helen McCrory. There will also be fantastic music from Busted, Tom Walker and Matilda the Musical.
Actor and writer David Walliams brought the show to a close with his reading of the final winning story
The gold winner in the 10 to 13 age category was Why Did the Chicken… by Esme Harrison-Jones.
‘Chickens are daft creatures with no brain at all. They have absolutely NO sense whatsoever and this story confirms it.
There was once a group of chickens, who fitted the above description well, that arrived at a busy road. No they didn’t fly across or anything like that, they simply tried to cross it. As is the norm with chickens, the smallest chicken went first…’
Read Esme’s full story here or listen to David’s reading below.
The excitement in the room was peaking as actor Helen McCrory announced the first gold winner
The gold winner in the 5 to 9 age category was Snow Blood Window Frame by Eve Molloy.
‘A queen pricked her finger while sewing and some blood dropped onto the cloth. She said to herself, if my baby is a girl, I want her skin to be as white as snow, with blood-red cheeks and hair as black as the window frame. I will call her Snow Blood Window Frame, or Snowy for short…’
Read Eve’s full story here or listen to Helen’s reading below.
500 Words fairy godmother and honorary judge Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall spoke to the audience about the importance and history of the English language
Actor Michael Sheen gave a monster performance when he read this winning story
The silver winner in the 10 to 13 age category was TYRANNOS-ORAL HYGIENE by Millie Robinson.
“Tyrone King to see Dr Rose Gummeridge please,” called the receptionist over the dentist’s intercom.
“Tyrone King?” she repeated.
Rita the receptionist peered around the corner to find a 12-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to get into the dentist’s office. In shock, Rita could do nothing but stare…’
Read Millie’s full story here or listen to Michael’s reading below.
Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville felt right at home in the Waterloo Chamber when he read the next winning story
The silver winner in the 5 to 9 age category was Pants by Mya Dainty.
‘Have you ever thought about something that lives in such terrible conditions? Something that lives in horror and disgust? Well, pants are probably the most ill-treated product in the universe!
At house number two, Holly Branch Drive, lived Frilly. She was a beautiful and frilly pair of pants. Frilly hated being worn in such an utterly disgusting place…’
Read Mya’s full story here or listen to Hugh’s reading below.
Broadcaster and writer Sandi Toksvig made someone’s year by announcing the next winner
The bronze winner in the 10 to 13 age category was A Walk in the Park by Beth Helliwell.
‘The wind ripped at Charlie’s clothes like icy daggers. As he walked home from school in the rain, his mother’s words replayed through his head. ‘Be careful in the park tonight, you know people have gone missing in there before.’ With the stealth of a burglar, Charlie slid open the jagged gate and entered the park…’
Read Beth’s full story here or listen to Sandi’s reading below.
TV presenter and writer Konnie Huq joined us to announce the first winner
The bronze winner in the 5 to 9 age category was Fragile Freya by Rosa Moody.
‘Freya was a perfectly ordinary little girl, ordinary in every possible way. Except that is for one perfectly extraordinary little thing. You see, Freya believed that if she ever tried to do anything new, she’d fall apart. The fear had always been so strong she’d never actually tried. But she really, really believed she would, and that was enough…’
Read Rosa’s full story here or listen to Konnie reading it below.