Angellica Bell and Michael Underwood host children’s writing competition


ANGELLICA BELL and Michael Underwood have launched a new 500 Words competition, inviting children aged 5-13, of all ethnicities and backgrounds throughout the UK, to submit pieces of creative writing expressing personal experience, empathy, learning and respect, building on the international conversation around Black Lives Matter.

When children write they can get to the heart of a subject in a way that adults often can’t

500 Words celebrated its tenth anniversary during its 2020 Final on Friday June 12.

Hot on its heels, the new competition issues a brief intended to encourage important conversations at home, at school and across the nation, on the themes and issues emerging from the Black Lives Matter movements around the world.

The initiative encourages children to tap into their own creativity and imagination, using storytelling to share their experience and understanding of how different ethnicities and cultures interact.

Bell and Underwood said: “We are so excited to be a part of this new era of the 500 Words challenge, asking young people for the first time to write about a specific theme, and in this case, Black Lives Matter.

“For both of us, writing has always been a powerful tool to help us work through difficult subjects that are often tricky to articulate.

“This fantastic competition will give children from all backgrounds across the UK, the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about the recent tragic events, the global response to it and how it has impacted us all.

“Empowering the next generation to share their personal views through their love of writing is brilliant!”

Bell and Underwood are joined by supporters of the competition from the entertainment industry including Aasmah Mir, Adam Kay, Amanda Abbington, Barney Harwood, Beverley Knight, Colin Jackson, Dr Ranj, Fay Ripley, Hermione Norris, Konnie Huq, John Pienaar, Noel Clarke, Paula Radcliffe, Shobna Gulati and Stephen Graham. 

In addition, publishing houses throughout the UK are supporting the initiative, including Atlantic, Bonnier Books UK, Canongate, Faber & Faber, Hachette UK, HarperCollins UK, Pan Macmillan, Oxford University Press, Profile, Puffin (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and Simon & Schuster.

A spokesperson for the supporting publishers said: “All publishers love stories, they help us to expand our worlds and understand more about ourselves and others.

“When children write they can get to the heart of a subject in a way that adults often can’t and so we are really proud to support 500 Words: Black Lives Matter and we are already looking forward to hearing from the next generation of storytellers.”

Helen Freeman, Director Children’s Dictionaries & Language Data, Oxford University Press, said, “Oxford University Press is delighted to be supporting this latest 500 Words initiative, continuing our role as children’s language experts.

“Our analysis informs our understanding of how children use words to express their ideas in writing, which enables us to better support their learning.”

Children will be able to submit their written work from June 29 with a deadline of July 3.

All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of professional readers, up until the semi-finals take place live on air from July 13-16.

Bell and Underwood will chair the judging panel, and will be joined by an illustrious team to judge the semi-finals, which includes former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman OBE, actor, comedian and author Charlie Higson, children’s author Francesca Simon, and screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Winners will be invited to join Chris Evans, creator of the 500 Words initiative, on the Virgin Radio Breakfast Show on July 17 (with further prize details to be revealed).

This morning, Evans officially announced the competition on air.  Chris says of this writing competition “500 Words has enabled children to stretch their creative writing skills for over 10 years, with more than a million entries submitted.

“We’re excited to be able to continue the initiative with a focus on encouraging children to write stories with their own voices, not filtered by the thoughts of adults.”

The entry process and details on how to submit stories can be found here:

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