The 18th annual Wills Writing Awards, for creative writing (fact or fiction) around a horseracing theme by a young person resident in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, have attracted 169 entries, equalling last year’s record. Of these, 82, a record, were in the Under 26 category, 48 were in the Under 19 category, and 39 were in the Under 15 category.
Of the 7 prize-winners, 5 were girls, even though girls were in an 8/22 minority on the shortlist. Ireland was disproportionately prominent, with 34 entries, 7 on the shortlist (including 4 from Co. Kildare), and 3 prize-winners. For the first time, the sibling of a former prize-winner was a prize-winner.
The Under 26 winner is 25 year old Aisling Crowe from Derrymoyle in Co. Laois, Ireland. She is studying for a BA in English at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and hopes to become a journalist. She receives £1,250 for her article, Promises, about the personal bonds that racing can create.
There was a tie for Under 26 runner-up. The first runner-up is 23 year old John Condren from Athy, Co. Kildare, Ireland. He is studying for a M.Litt in Reformation Studies at St. Andrew’s University, having already received an LLB in Law and European Studies at the University of Limerick, for whose Gaelic football team he played. He receives £375 for his article, Never Satisfied, about an elderly groom inspiring a young jockey. The second Under 26 runner-up is 25 year old Charlotte Cundall from Driffield in East Yorkshire. The holder of a first class BSc in Agricultural Business Management from the University of Newcastle, she rides out for Richard Fahey at Malton, is leading the Yorkshire Ladies’ Novice Point-to-Point Championship, and has ridden both on the flat and over hurdles under Rules. She receives £375 for her article, Never Stop Dreaming, about her journey from broken back to first winner.
The Under 19 winner is 17 year old Victoria Griffiths from North Buckland, near Barnstaple in North Devon, where she has just taken up point-to-point riding. She attends St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London (as did the runners-up in last year’s Under 19 and Under 15 awards). This summer, she is sitting A2 Levels in English Literature, History and Geography. She receives £500 for her article, Divine Intervention, about racing’s appeal to the Highest Authority.
The Under 19 runner-up is 16 year old Violet Macdonald from Charlbury in Oxfordshire, but until March 2009 from Hobart in Tasmania, Australia. Home educated, she has started an Associate Degree from the University of Tasmania, in preparation for a BA in English. She plays for the Under 17 Oxfordshire girls’ cricket team, as an opening bat and leg spinner, and has just been accepted for the National Youth Theatre. She receives £250 for her article, Better than Evens, about a boy’s formula for successful punting.
The Under 15 winner is 14 year old Tom Cantillon from Johnstown, near Naas in Co. Kildare, Ireland, where his family is involved in Thoroughbred racing and breeding. He attends Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare. His brother, Jack Cantillon, won the 2009 Under 19 award. He receives £250 for his article, A Turn-up for the Books, about a boy’s change of mind about racing.
The under 15 runner-up is 11 year old Lucy Eddis from Little Horkesley, near Colchester in Essex. Last year, aged 10, she was highly commended. She attends Littlegarth Preparatory School in Great Horkesley. She recently qualified a 5 year old pony for the Working Hunter Pony Championship at the Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead. She receives £125 for her article, Bog Off!, about the use of Thoroughbred yearlings to thwart bureaucracy.
A selection of winning articles will be published, in the next few weeks, in the Racing Post and The Irish Field. The Under 26 winner will also have the opportunity of work experience at the Racing Post.
The judges were: Brough Scott (Chairman), Founder of the Racing Post, long time Chief Presenter of Channel 4 Racing and three times Sports Feature Writer of the Year; Marcus Armytage, racing writer at The Daily Telegraph and Grand National winning jockey; Charlie Brooks, Countryside Editor of The Daily Telegraph and former trainer; Mark Costello, Deputy Editor of The Irish Field; Sean Magee, a versatile and prolific author and journalist; Brian Viner, a senior features writer and columnist for The Independent, who is also a best-selling author; and Catherine Wills, DPhil Art Historian sister of Martin Wills and a member of the Jockey Club.
Brough Scott stated “It is an ever invigorating pleasure to be involved with the Martin Wills Awards. For they are an annual confirmation of the young writing talent that still draws inspiration from the racing game. The successful entries were by turns illuminating, funny, exciting and, in Aisling Crowe’s “Promises”, also enviably poignant and sad.”
The prize-winning entries can be read on this website under "The Winners" tab on the left.
The Awards are being presented by Brough Scott 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 prize-winners will additionally receive an expenses paid day’s racing plus, for some, a tour of Henry Cecil’s and James Fanshawe’s yards.
The shortlist totalled 22 (10 Under 26, 6 Under 19 and 6 Under 15), fewer than 1/7 of the overall entry, as follows:
Name Age at 1 Jan Town County Country
Steven Bonnick 25 Burntwood Staffordshire UK
Luke Clarke 20 Ballymore Eustace Kildare Ireland
John Condren 23 Athy Kildare Ireland
Aisling Crowe 25 Derrymoyle Laois Ireland
Charlotte Cundall 25 Driffield East Yorkshire UK
Cathal Dennehy 22 Limerick Limerick Ireland
Tom Francis 23 Cambridge Cambridgeshire UK
Jack Grummitt 22 Newcastle Tyne & Wear UK
Matthew Hamlett 22 Andover Hampshire UK
Andrew Jackson 25 Leyburn North Yorkshire UK
Ross Coakley 15 Doneaney Kildare Ireland
Victoria Griffiths 17 North Buckland Devon UK
James Hollingshead 18 Cheltenham Gloucestershire UK
Violet Macdonald 16 Charlbury Oxfordshire UK
Calum Madell 17 Bury St Edmunds Suffolk UK
Caroline Wood 18 Knowle West Midlands UK
Daniel Archer 13 Epsom Surrey UK
Mark Boylan 12 Banagher Offaly Ireland
Tom Cantillon 14 Naas Kildare Ireland
Lucy Eddis 11 Little Horkesley Essex UK
Helena Jackson 14 Oundle Northamptonshire UK
Rosanna Verdon 12 Adderbury Oxfordshire UK
The Wills Writing Awards commemorate Martin Wills, a journalist and horseman, who died in April 1992, aged 39. The Awards are organised by the Martin Wills Memorial Trust, a UK registered charity.
Brough Scott (Chairman of the Judges and a Trustee) 01483-277379/07860-258 881
Charles Ponsonby (Chairman of the Trustees) 020-7367 8851 /07789-202 312
Andrew Kavanagh (a Trustee) 00 353-5997 73105
Aisling Crowe (Under 26 winner) 00 353 86-08 43 232
John Condren (Under 26 equal runner-up) 00 353 86-39 19 095
Charlotte Cundall (Under 26 equal runner-up) 07887-603 205
Victoria Griffiths (Under 19 winner) 01271-890 325
Violet Macdonald (Under 19 runner-up) firstname.lastname@example.org
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