From 220 entries, three winners have been revealed from the Nature on your Doorstep writing competition: Danielle Amouzou-Akue (14) from Essex, Anna Stone (10) from Norfolk and Benji Janes (6) from Sussex.
All three winning stories will be published in an upcoming issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.
“Stories are at the core of everything we do on BBC WildlifeMagazine, so we were thrilled to be able to support this competition and offer the next generation of wildlife writers the chance to see their work appear in the country’s longest-running natural history magazine,” says Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife.
“The standard of entries was exceptional, and a real testament to what’s important in telling stories. It’s not about grammar, spelling or demonstrating a wide vocabulary (although I was amazed at the level of all three), it’s about truly engaging with your subject. And that’s what makes Nature on Your Doorstep so vital right now.”
Launched in April by nature writer and storyteller Lucy McRobert, the competition aimed to connect children and young adults with the nature right outside their homes – up in the sky, on their streets, in their gardens, from their windows – during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I, and all the judges, have been so moved by the stories we have received. We have laughed and cried and mourned and smiled and learned lots, too,” says McRobert.
“Two things struck me. First, we’ve seen many children who struggle with writing who have been motivated to write a story for the first time. They might have dyslexia or English as second language and yet they produced beautiful prose and imaginative ideas. Second was the way that nature can heal us, help us, inspire us and provide solace. We had entries from children who had suffered from bullying; who were recovering from serious illnesses and in strict self-isolation; who were separated from parents because of coronavirus; who had suffered recent tragedy or even bereavement.”
The winner of the 13-17 category, Danielle Amouzou-Ake, read her story on Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin’s broadcast of The Self-Isolating Bird Club on Friday 19 June.
Nature on your Doorstep on The Self-Isolating Bird Club (from 13.23, Danielle Amouzou-Ake reads her story at 14.23):
The competition was judged by a team of wildlife writers, champions and publishers:
Lucy McRobert, nature storyteller and writer
Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine
Jini Reddy, journalist and author
Stephen Moss, one of the UK’s leading nature writers
Tiffany Francis, nature writer and illustrator
Judy Ling Wong, painter, poet and environmental activist
Hugh Warwick, ecologist and author
Mya-Rose Craig, naturalist and president of Black2Nature
Anita Sethi, writer and journalist
“It was a hard competition to judge,” adds McRobert, “but the diversity of stories – from different backgrounds, ages, cultures right across the UK – has meant for a magical experience. Children have shown us the different ways that they experience nature, and it feels purer and more authentic than we do as adults.”
Extracts from the winning stories:
The Homecoming, by Danielle Amouzou-Akue (14):
The lovely nightingale was flying home this year and yet he didn’t see as many planes as usual. No one was around. The towns and cities and even countries he saw were covered by a blanket of deathly silence. And he wondered - had humans really stopped? They didn’t usually go home. Didn't migrate. Nor stop doing. Although some called them human beings, in his experience they rarely had time to be.
The Apple Tree, Anna Stone (10):
Emily wandered over, and a knobby branch came out. On it was a brown paper parcel. On the way to the New House, Emily opened the package. She smiled when a handful of brown apple seeds tumbled out. She did not have to leave the tree, she realised. In fact, she had it in her hands.
The Story of Flutter and Flims, Benji Janes (6):
The first time I saw Flutter and Flims they were still in their eggs. When they became chicks, I found out that they weren’t just brought up by sparrows, but by other garden birds, too! Robbins, blackbirds, blootits, a great tit, doves, magpies, a crow and a pigeon all helped to raise them.
All three winners and the three runners-up, Daisy Oldfield (16) Elsa Lazaro-Fitzgerald (11) and Scarlett Serventi (6), will receive prizes, and all entrants will receive a certificate of participation designed by Tiffany Francis-Baker.