A WRITING group based in the Hengistbury Head area have received a record number of entries to their annual writing competition.

Hengistbury Writers’ literature contest was launched at the beginning of lockdown on Wednesday April 7, to coincide with the centenary celebrations on the birthday of English Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

With many schools encouraging students to take part in the competition during lockdown, organisers received hundreds of submissions for their sixth annual Hengistbury Head Writing Competition.

Jane Skellett from Hengistbury Writers said: “We were inundated with nearly three hundred entries across all the age categories. There were plenty of entries from private individuals, both young and old - but the biggest response this year was from our school communities.

“Our judges this year were Christine Aziz and Kerriann Godwin-King, both local published authors and creative writing tutors. They had a tough job – the standard was very high – and there have been a lot of Covid related delays along the way.”

Schools across the conurbation entered the writing contest, including Talbot Heath, Bournemouth School for Girls, Bournemouth Collegiate School, Linwood School and Kings Park Academy from Bournemouth, as well as St Peter's in Christchurch and Poole’ Talbot Primary School and Corfe Hills in Broadstone, all well represented in the Prize winner and Highly Commended awards.

Everyone received a certificate for their entry, with extra gifts of writing stationery handed to prize winners.

The writing group usually organise a big prize giving event at Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre but, with the current Covid-19 restrictions on meetings, the event was forced to be cancelled.

However, Jane will now visit the schools in turn over the coming weeks, to make presentations in an appropriately safe manner, as each school determines.

She added: “I think that it's so important to continue to celebrate all the good things in life – in whatever ways we can – especially to support and encourage our young people through this difficult time.”

On Friday October 16, Jane made the first of these visits – to Talbot Heath school – to present a prize winner’s award to Sophia Aquilina, for her poem ‘A Wonderful Place’.

She also awarded Highly Commended certificates to Isabel Brewer and Gabriella Williams, also for their poems – and Alexia Lewis and Suzannah Cribb for their creative prose pieces.

The event took place in the school's front garden, with the Head of English, Donald Sinclair-Smith, and English teacher, Danielle Marshall, who co-ordinated the event.

The prize giving was streamed on a live video link to the whole of the Talbot Heath community, as part of their socially distanced Friday assembly programme.

“It felt strange to be talking to a technician with a hand-held iPad, and not to be able to physically hand the certificates to each girl with a congratulatory handshake, but you can still 'feel' the smiles behind the masks and visors – and it's so good to gather together, even in a small group.”