Today, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, Vice-Patron of The Royal Commonwealth Society, hosted an Awards Ceremony for Winners of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) 2019 at Buckingham Palace.
The reception was attended by Winners and their families, final panel judges and notable literary figures from across the Commonwealth. During the Awards Ceremony writers Geri Horner, Theresa Lola, Evie Wyld, Ben Okri and William Boyd CBE read extracts from the winning pieces. The Duchess of Cornwall and Chair of The Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr Linda Yueh spoke about the importance of the Competition and the value it adds.
Dr Linda Yueh said: “In 2019, thousands of young people from nearly every Commonwealth country submitted entries based on the theme, ‘A Connected Commonwealth’. By participating, young people are encouraged to write about pressing global issues in the Commonwealth, a network of 53 countries defined by shared values. Through this competition, thousands of young people will have been exposed to the importance of engaging with the values that define a better world.”
Speaking at the ceremony, The Duchess of Cornwall said: “The competition is challenging because it asks the young people who take part to write about subjects that require serious thought. The winning entries this year, for example, have addressed issues of gender equality, the environment and cultural heritage, and more besides. It’s challenging, but it is exciting, too, because it gives those who enter the opportunity to contribute poems, stories and scripts as well as traditional essays. And, believe it or not, I am already thinking about next year – I will launch next year’s Competition in New Zealand in a few weeks’ time.”
The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools. It was founded in 1883 to promote literacy, expression and creativity among young people throughout the Commonwealth. In 2019, more than 11,000 entries were received on the theme of ‘A Connected Commonwealth’ from almost every country in the Commonwealth.
A pan-Commonwealth body of more than 100 volunteer judges, drawn from across 40 different countries, assessed entries. Judges commented on the skill and talent shown by each of the young writers, with entries described as ‘massively memorable’ and ‘very powerful’. The final judging decision was taken by part of an expert panel of authors, directors and poets, which included Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola; spoken word artist Jaspreet Kaur; Theatre Director Max Webster; Novelist Wendy Holden; Education Programme Manager at the Royal African Society Joanna Brown; and Theatre Director Femi Elufowoju Jr.
This year’s Competition celebrates the talent of five young aspiring writers from across the Commonwealth. Senior Winner of the competition was Catherine Wang, 15, from Vancouver, British Columbia, who was selected for her poem titled ‘Beached’ which follows the heart breaking experience of three passers-by as they find a whale washed up on a beach. The Junior Winner of the Competition was Veronica Shen, 13, from Singapore, for her poem ‘Lost’ which follows the story of a young girl growing up in China as it explores a complicated relationship with a country’s past.
Senior Runner-up was Nnemdi Ozoemena, from Nigeria who wrote ‘Hello’, a tale of two young people struggling with issues in their society who do not feel truly appreciated for whom they are but who find common ground and become friends. The story is told through direct messages on Twitter. Elise Jensen, 12, from Ghana was named as the Junior Runner-up. she is a student of Ghana International School where Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall launched the 2019 Competition in November 2018. Her poem ‘A place you feel connected to’ is a vibrant, vivid celebration of her favourite elements of Ghanaian culture.
An additional runner-up in the Junior category was also announced this year, Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa. Keiran, 11, was tragically killed in a terrorist attack at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. His essay was entered posthumously by his mother, Dhulsini, who attended the reception and accepted the certificate on his behalf. Kieran’s piece titled ‘My Cultural Connections’ brings to life the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka and his own personal journey and move to the country.