The 16th annual Martin Wills Memorial Trust Awards, for creative writing (fact or fiction) on, or with a background in, any aspect of horse-racing, by a young person resident in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, have attracted 130 entries – 35 in the under 26 category, 21 in the under 19 category, and 74 in the under 15 category – one of the highest ever totals.
For the first time, entries were invited for three categories – under 15, as well as under 19 and under 26 – and prizes were awarded to both winner and runner-up in each category.
The under 26 winner is 20-year old Georgie Hibberd from Hilmarton, near Swindon in Wiltshire, who is reading English Language at Cardiff University. She won the under 19 award in 2006 and is the first person to win both Awards. She receives £1,250 for her article “Memento Mori”, about a jockey’s troubled life. In addition, she will retain for a year a bronze trophy of two galloping horses by Gill Wiles.
The under 26 runner-up is 25-year old Marie-Claire Jones, who is resident in Aberdeen but is originally from Glasgow. She is a graduate in English Literature & Film and Television Studies from Glasgow University and has a post-graduate degree in Journalism from Strathclyde University. She is currently Acting Features Editor of the Evening Express in Aberdeen, part of the DC Thomson Group. She receives £750 for her article, “Reining in a Sapling”, about a boy whose odd behaviour and imaginary equine companion reveal a burning ambition.
The under 19 winner is 17-year old James Moloney-Quinn from Kildare Town in Ireland, who is at Newbridge College in Co.Kildare studying for his Leaving Certificate and hoping to read Law at the University of Limerick from this autumn. He has ridden out for Martin Brassil, trainer of the 2006 Grand National winner Numbersixvalverde, has a half-share (with his grandfather) in a winning hurdler, and is a keen show jumper. He receives £500 for his article “The Birth of a Passion”, about the first experience of working in a racing yard.
The under 19 runner-up is Nellie English, who is now aged 19. Brought up in Zimbabwe, she now divides her holidays between Ireland and Switzerland. She attends Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, where she is taking this summer her A2 exams in English Literature, French and History of Art. She receives £250 for her article “Day at the Races”.
The under 15 winner is Chloe Pitts from Hatherleigh in West Devon, who is aged 14 and is a pupil at St. Mary’s School, Ascot. A keen horsewoman, she hunts with the South Tetcott foxhounds. She receives £250 for her article “Fly without Wings”, about the essence, thrill and beauty of horse-racing.
The under 15 runner-up is 14-year old Stephanie Posner from Woodford Green in Essex, who is a scholar at Bancroft’s School, also in Woodford Green. She receives £125 for her article “Jenny’s Request”, about how a young milliner’s debut design for Royal Ascot makes the headlines.
A selection of winning articles will be published, in the next few weeks, in the Racing Post and, in the next two editions, in The Irish Field. At least some of the winners will also have the opportunity of work experience at the Racing Post.
Rosanna Verdon from Adderbury in North Oxfordshire, aged 10, was highly commended in the under 15 category for her article “The Finishing Post” and receives a book token.
The judges were: Brough Scott, Editorial Director of the Racing Post, sports feature writer of The Sunday Telegraph and for 30 years chief presenter of Channel 4 Racing (Chairman); Christopher Fildes, for many years a leading financial journalist, including for the Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator; Andrew Longmore, a senior sports writer on The Sunday Times; Tim Richards, a racing journalist for 45 years, principally with the Daily Mirror and the Racing Post, where he was chief reporter and news editor; Denis Walsh, chief sports writer of the Irish edition of The Sunday Times; and Catherine Wills, PhD art historian sister of Martin Wills and a Jockey Club member.
Brough Scott stated “The original idea of these awards was to encourage young people to write about racing with originality and style just as Martin Wills did himself. This year’s set of winners have fulfilled that intention and more.
The talent Georgie Hibberd showed to win the Under 19 category two years ago has blossomed into her stunningly evocative Memonto Mori which took the Under 26 prize. 17 year old James Moloney-Quinn’s Under 19 winner “Birth of a Passion” was rightly named and took me right back to my own racing beginnings and for sustained writing ambition you would have to go a long way to beat Chloe Pitts “Fly Without Wings” which won the Under 15s.
It’s been a pleasure reading through them and never more than the smashing idea behind 10 year old Rosanna Verdon’s “Finishing Post.” We gave it a special prize. It really deserves a cartoon film of its own.”
The winning entries can be read on the Awards’ website, whose new address is www.willswritingawards.co.uk.
The Awards are being presented at 12 noon today, in the Limekilns Room in the Millennium Grandstand on the Rowley Mile Course, Newmarket, the room being kindly lent by the Racecourse. The Award winners will additionally receive an expenses paid day’s racing, plus (for four of them) a tour of Henry Cecil’s and James Fanshawe’s yards.
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