skip to content

School of Arts and Humanities




#BBCYWA #shortstories @BBCR1


The need for understanding, emotional connection and reconciliation feature in a ‘confident’, ‘irreverent’ and ‘experimental’ shortlist for the 2019 BBC Young Writers’ Award

with First Story and Cambridge University announced live on BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks today (Sunday 22 September).


For the first time, a love of poetry and a desire to experiment with the short story form has been mentioned by each of the shortlisted writers, with 2018 Foyle Young Poet Georgie Woodhead featuring on the shortlist. The five stories – many deeply personal – range from the comic, to the lyrical, to the tragic, and are written by an all-female shortlist of young writers aged 16 and 17 years from across the UK.


Showing a fearless confidence in form and tone, the stories explore divorce, coming of age, mental illness, loneliness and the meaning of life, and range from the meditative to flash-fiction. Whether it be the brutally evocative story of kinship found in hospital as a teenager battles anorexia; the implosion of a young girl’s family life told through the change of seasons on her father’s allotment; the tragi-comic story of a freak accident on a nightclub roof; a search for the meaning of home via a journey from island to city; or the funny and tender story of an introvert archivist and his connection to an exhibit – each finalist has shown a fresh, sophisticated and unique approach to their subject.


Katie Thistleton, BBC Radio 1 presenter and Chair of Judges, BBC YWA 2019 says:

I am particularly excited about the shortlist this year because we had such a diverse range of stories submitted and the final five really reflect that – no two have a similar style or topic. For that reason, there’s something for everyone and I think it will also encourage people listening or reading to want to write themselves, and perhaps enter next year!


The shortlisted stories and writers are:


  • ‘Insula’ by Eleanor Clark, 16, from mid-Devon. This ‘rite of passage’ is told via a young woman’s journey from the safe community and almost magical island of her childhood to the brutal, isolation of the city. Evocative and sophisticated with a strong sense of place, the story laments the inevitability of growing up and champions the importance of rural communities.
  • ‘Another Pair of Eyes’ by Tallulah Haworth, 17, from Macclesfield. Inspired by the true story of John Dalton, a Northern scientist known for his study into colour blindness who asked for his eyes to be preserved after his death, this is the strange and touching tale of a lonely archivist who becomes emotionally attached to ‘Dalton’s eyes’. Tender and funny, this unique piece of flash-fiction is short, yet beautifully realised.
  • ‘The Blue of Spring Violets’ by Isobel Paxton, 17, from Edinburgh. Set in a psychiatric ward, this brutal, rich and sensory story explores the kinship of the patients as they find kindness, connection and humanity in their pain.
  • ‘Allotment’ by Rowan Taylor, 16, from Reading. The story of a daughter’s changing relationship with her father after her parent’s marriage break-up, this beautifully told story shows the shift from desolation through sadness to new love as the seasons pass and new life, and hope, awakens on the father’s allotment. 
  • ‘Jelly-headed’ by Georgie Woodhead, 16, from Sheffield. ‘Jelly-headed’ is a comic, quirky and ultimately tragic story of two friends, a night out and a lightning strike that brings devastation. A story about guilt and the absurdity of life, this funny, subversive story is ultimately about searching for meaning or connection.


The five shortlisted stories, each under 1000 words, are available to read on the BBC Radio 1 website, and can be heard on BBC Sounds as part of the Short Works short story podcast.


Katie Thistleton is joined on this year’s judging panel by former teacher and Betty Trask Award winner Anthony Cartwright; Waterstones Prize and YA Bookseller Prize-winning writer Patrice Lawrence; winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year children’s author Kiran Millwood Hargrave; and writer, rapper and world-record breaking human beatboxer Testament.


Kiran Millwood Hargrave, judge and author, says:

“This was one of the most stimulating and collaborative experiences of judging I've ever had and we've emerged with a shortlist to be proud of. The writers demonstrate all the skills I look for in any piece of writing, from immediacy of voice to sensitive pacing, and most of all an emotional connection made with the reader. I think the way a story is told is just as important as the story itself, and these writers have each paid attention to language as well as plot.” 


The shortlisted writers will have their stories read by an actor and broadcast by BBC Radio 1, and available to listen to on BBC Sounds as part of the Short Works short story podcast.  The stories will also be published in an anthology and the writers will attend a creative writing workshop with author and judge Patrice Lawrence, in addition to a session in a recording studio and a tour of Broadcasting House with BBC producers. All five teenagers will attend the exclusive BBC Short Story Awards ceremony with their families on Tuesday 1 October 2019, when the winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. There, they will have the chance to meet high-profile authors, publishers, agents and broadcasters at the award ceremony. The winner will also receive a personalised mentoring session with an author to enhance their writing skills.


Antonia Byatt, Executive Director, First Story, says:

Each of these short stories unveils a new distinctive voice, unafraid to take risks with language or to tackle difficult subjects. First Story works to give new young writers from deprived communities across England the chance to write and we are always excited by the incredible standard of work that they produce. These five shortlisted writers are brilliant torchbearers for so much of the young talent waiting to be discovered today.  At First Story we believe that there is dignity and power in young people’s stories and here is real proof of that.”


Dr Sarah Dillon, Faculty of English, Cambridge University, says:

In a modern world in which the pace of life so often outstrips our ability to process it, these wonderful stories all show how words can create a bubble of calm in which to feel, remember, laugh and cry. Our shortlistees represent a new generation of writers whose concerns and use of form both link them to the past and yet depart from it. The University of Cambridge is delighted to celebrate these young women shortlisted for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University, who will shape the future of writing just as Cambridge alumni such as Zadie Smith and Helen Oyeyemi have done before them.”




Eleanor Clark is 16 years old and lives in mid-Devon. She spends much of her time reading, to teach herself all she can about the world of books and writers, and her rural location allows her to spend a lot of time rambling around the countryside, which is one of her main inspirations. Ever since she was a small child, Eleanor has been spending her pocket money on exercise books and filling them with stories. She now has dozens of them in boxes filling her bedroom, and they continue to build up. From a very early age, much of Eleanor’s search for adventure by reading and writing can be attributed to favourite children’s writers such as Noel Streatfield, the late great Judith Kerr and Eva Ibbotson. As she has got older, and explored how stories capture a sense of place and self, she has been inspired by Virginia Woolf, Winifred Holtby and Rumer Godden.


Tallulah Howarth is 17 years old and lives in Macclesfield. This is the first short story Tallulah has written that isn’t part of the school curriculum, and she has been writing poetry for about five years. She sometimes works to prompts, but most commonly one-liners come to her out of nowhere and she’ll add them to a bank of text she has written, before trying to piece a poem together.  Tallulah was poet laureate for her High School and she is part of the Manchester based poetry collective Young Identity. Tallulah is currently reading David Wojnarowicz’s memoir Close to the Knives. Other books she has enjoyed include The Last Policeman by Ben Winters, and the Skippy Dies series by Paul Murray. Outside of writing, Tallulah is involved in political activism, believing strongly in justice for all humans, animals and the climate.


Isobel Paxton is 17 years old and lives in Edinburgh. Isobel has always enjoyed writing but the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University is the first writing competition she has entered. Outside of writing, Isobel loves to take part in aerial sports, such as trampolining and diving. The work of Markus Zusak, and texts inspired by ancient mythology (with a twist), such as Tomi Adeyemi novels, inspire Isobel to write.


Rowan Taylor is 16 years old and lives in Reading. Rowan loves to write as it helps her to relax and it makes her very happy. She has written many short stories and poems. Since the age of seven, Rowan has dreamed of publishing a book of her own. Away from writing, she has very hands-on hobbies such as painting, crafting and modelling. Fantasy books are Rowan’s favourite genre as she finds the imagination required to create new worlds fascinating. One of Rowan’s favourite authors is Lemony Snicket, due to his unique way of writing that reads like a person’s thoughts.


Georgie Woodhead is 16 years old and lives in Sheffield. She is an avid writer and greatly enjoys the creative process. Georgie is also a skilled poet and won the esteemed Foyle Young Poet Award, was highly commended in the Cuckoo Northern Writers Award, and was the runner-up in the young people’s category of the Ledbury Poetry Competition, all in 2018. Georgie likes to read novels and short stories, mainly contemporary fiction, from writers such as Etgar Keret, Kafka, J.D Salinger, and Arundhati Roy. In the future, Georgie hopes to continue to develop her writing work, and to travel.


The shortlisted stories can be read and listened to online at: