The Great British Write Off 2016 Winners Announced!

We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Great British Write Off 2016! Our judges, Mark Grist, Angela Readman and Brian Bilston have marked the 20 shortlisted pieces on their creativity, originality, content, rhythm/meter/structure as well as the overall impression it made on them. Work was sent without any author details, so the quality of the work could speak for itself.

Each judge scored the work separately and back at the office we added up each judge’s score for each piece and the highest scoring piece wins!

We’re delighted to announce the 1st prize winner as...

Lindsay Bamfield from London. Congratulations Lindsay! You’ve won the prize fund of £686!

“I loved this! I loved the birds and the sense of someone who can’t hear any longer carrying on their own music. The longer ending is particularly beautiful.” said Angela Readman.

“I love the simile of the telephone lines as a stave. Such a clever ending!” said Brian Bilston.

“Lovely metaphors and really engaging,” said Mark Grist.

Here are Lindsay Bamfield’s winning words...

Bird Music

Sheilah watches the last few swallows assembling on the telephone wires in readiness for their long flight to Africa. Three or four birds still swoop in the evening sun, but the evenings are now growing shorter and chilly. She'd yearned to hear their high-pitched screams all through summer as they flew seeking food for their young waiting in the nests under the eaves of the old house. But now her world is silent.

People assume the worst aspect of losing her hearing is being unable to hear music. Especially the music she'd played. But she can hear that - it is fixed in her mind. The symphonies and arias are all stored in her memory and she can play them for herself at will.

It is birdsong that Sheilah misses the most. Since childhood, growing up in the country, she had loved listening to bird music, from the dawn chorus in the early misty mornings to a lone blackbird singing from the top branches of the ash tree in the garden or the swallows in flight on a summer's evening.

She looks again at the telephone lines with the birds perched on them. There are five wires arranged like a stave. The birds are notes. In her head she tries the notes; they sing.

Reaching for her manuscript paper she studies and carefully copies the birds, transcribing them into quavers and crotchets, a semi-quaver, until they are all on the paper. In her head Sheilah plays the music of birds.

© Lindsay Bamfield, 2016

Lindsay Bamfield has been writing for 10 years. She was a co-founder of Greenacre Writers based in Finchley, London and Finchley Literary Festival.

She has written a number of flash fiction pieces and several short stories and is still wrestling withrewrites of two novels.

”I am delighted to have won the GBWO 2016. My only sadness is that my mother, who died just over 2 weeks before it was announced, was not able to know. It was she who taught me the names of birds when as a child we lived in the country. She would have been so pleased. We used to love watching the swallows lining up on the telegraph wires ready for their long flight.”

Well done to our 2nd and 3rd place winners too...

2nd Prize - £500 Book Printing UK Voucher

Josephine Dowswell, Wolverhampton

“Beautiful verse of light and feeling small as the world rushes past. This world takes on us on a journey from the outside to within” said Angela Readman.

“Gripped me from start to finish” said Mark Grist.

“I really enjoyed this - and I love the way the piece shifts from a meditation on the light and self into love,” said Brian Bilston.

Light

It's in the sun, as it bites through the clouds and spills onto the grass, that I feel the strangest. The sun lights up other people's skin, pink and dark and fleshy. Fragile human bodies. The sun illuminates us, tells us that we all have a skeleton, a heart pushing blood through our limbs. I look at all the separate bodies, walking, breathing and navigating the Earth with their feet on the ground and instantly my own breathing seems so real.

Or, I'll feel strange when I peer through a train window. I'll feel uneasy, seeing so many houses pass by me, never knowing who's in them, them not knowing me; it's unsettling, to live as an ant in a nest, so tiny. I live in a row of houses just like them; I'm a miniscule figure out of the window of a train, my house a box, a toy house full of ants, faceless and nameless. I'm a figure through a window too, a half second blur, someone else's insignificance. I vanish just the same. I'm an instant and a stranger, never seen again or never seen at all. Like a ghost.

I thought these things alone, on the train; but, when I'm with you I feel as I do in the sun. It's like I'm in the sunlight, as though my skeleton and my blood vessels are on display. Lamp-lit. You've always been like that, lighting up my insides. You're full of fire.

© Josephine Dowswell, 2016

Josephine Dowswell is a first year university student at UEA, studying English Literature. She has always loved to read and to write, especially ghost stories, and is currently working with her university’s drama society on a play that she has written and directed. She loves to act, and hopes to become a successful playwright, although her greatest dream is to direct horror films.

”I’m so excited and delighted to have come second place in this competition. It has been the most excellent confidence boost, and an inspiration for me to continue writing - I’m so looking forward to using my prize money. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”

3rd Prize - £100

Geraldine Douglas, Bolton

“There was a beautiful language in this poem, ‘rain seethe and sizzle’. I could see the scene - it was well described” said Angela Readman.

“Some wonderful phrases - ‘dripped with ivy chains’, ‘perch-pose on plump branches’. Written with a real eye for fine detail and obvious love of its subject” said Brian Bilston.

“What a lovely piece. So many effective uses of language in this. Love how the writing mirrors the movement of blue tits” said Mark Grist.

Blue Tit

As the story book harvest moon wanes between
postcard-green meadows...
Paridae songbirds lovingly weave nestling frameworks of art, dripped with ivy chains.
Glide to and fro, tie knots through midget globes,
skid-slide on shafts of peach midday rays.
Perch-pose on plump branches, 'chink-chinks' crackle the air,
cha-cha here and there.
Stars twinkle out as Spring's lemon shades disappear,
twirling azure flashes dart around sobbing streams,
pinching dragonflies from midair beams,
arrows dart to hidden home,
then flutter bath in dandy dew.
Fledglings snuggle, encased in world of pearl,
dark-stubbled, wobbly heads, knobbly legs, gaping pert beaks,
settle in moulded cradle...
As sprays of rain seethe and sizzle through shreds of mist,
busy Blue cap and jacket Tits... preen smooth buttercup-yellow waistcoats
while white cheeks glow they beakily grin above mini beards...
Beautiful little fellows.

© Geraldine Douglas, 2016

Geraldine Douglas has had a vivid imagination since her deprived childhood, this was not unleashed in expression until she attended a basic English Skills course in 2012, aged 57.

Her tutor recognized her and encouraged her talent. From here Geraldine gained a Bolton University place based solely on the strength of her work, gaining a degree in ‘Creative Writing’. She has been an active member of ‘Forward Poetry’ website since 2015. with support and positive feedback from fellow poets she progressed to being several ‘Poet of the Month’ awards and had poems regularly featured in the monthly ‘Top Five’, leading to poems being published in three separate anthologies.

All achieved, despite suffering for over 17 years with chronic Fibomyalgia.

‘I am humbled and delighted to be judged worthy of a place alongside excellent writers Lindsay and Josephine. I believe everyone has the ability to unlock their imaginative creativity, whatever their age or background. This award has gifted me a boost to continue to share my poetry and finish my autobiography. The majority of my poems morph from the worlds of nature and the spiritual. I continue to help local children to express their thoughts and feelings with the written word. ....’

Your Highness Will Speak,
Hidden Tombs Awake,
Poets Thrive.'

A huge thank you to everyone who entered, we’ve enjoyed reading every single entry and we can’t wait for The Great British Write Off 2017 to open this summer!