The RCS Library is delighted to announce that a significant recent deposit of essays from The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition has been added to its on-line catalogue Janus (ARCS 20). The competition, originally established in 1883 by the Royal Commonwealth Society, and now run in partnership with Cambridge University Press, is the world’s oldest international schools’ writing contest. It reflects the society’s enduring aim to foster the creative talent of young people throughout the Commonwealth by encouraging literacy, self-expression and imagination. Last year’s competition, which attracted almost 13,500 entries from primary to Sixth Form students from virtually every Commonwealth country, emphasises its continuing success. The theme of the 2017 competition is ‘A Commonwealth for Peace.’ The library already holds essays from 1922 to 1985 (with some gaps), and all surviving prize winning entries from these years have been digitised and are freely available on the Apollo digital repository.
The latest deposit includes prize winners from the years 1991 to 2009, and a very large collection of commended and other essays for the years 2002-09, totalling more than 20,000. The essays represent an excellent resource for many fields of research relating to education, and for assessing the opinions of intelligent, articulate and engaged young adults throughout the Commonwealth on a host of contemporary political, social and cultural issues. It is impossible here to list all the topics for each year, which range from the light-hearted to the serious, or to single out individual essays. The essays are occasionally accompanied by examiners’ reports, which contain insightful comparative analysis of entries, as an example from 2009 illustrates. One examiner of essays written by thirteen to sixteen year olds (Class B) commented upon the originality, insight and eloquence with which many responded to the themes ‘Tracks’ and ‘The Long Way Home.’ Many reflected upon the theme of war: its aftermath, consequences and the return to a home country after fighting abroad, while others addressed concerns of especial relevance to young adults such as unwanted pregnancies, abortion and abusive relationships. The examiner concluded, ‘It is remarkable to see such young writers master such sophisticated themes and topics spurred by such vague titles.’
A dedicated and conscientious team of Reader Services Assistants in the Rare Books Department have listed each essay, recording name of author, age, school, country, gender and essay topic. Thanks to their hard work, it will be easy for researchers to quickly sort through the essays, identifying for example, how many students from a particular country or gender answered individual questions, whether they lived in the developed or developing worlds, or studied in state or private schools. In the Class B examiner’s group discussed above, for example, 62 of 150 writers (almost half), were inspired by the theme ‘The Long Way Home.’ They represented thirty different countries, with the three largest numbers of entries drawn from Singapore, Pakistan and India. Many of the essays are illustrated, especially by younger authors, accompanied by beautiful original art work or photographs, which reinforce their themes. The three examples shown here were the work of eleven and twelve year olds from Class D 2009.
Researchers wishing to view these recently-acquired essays and their listings, and to request reproductions, must first consult staff in the Royal Commonwealth Society Department.
A catalogue of the full collection may be found here.
This year has been a record-breaking year for the Commonwealth Essay Competition. Not only has the competition received in excess of 11,000 entries, but over 70 judges have been involved in the judging process and the standard of entries has been excellent.
As the competition celebrates its 130th anniversary, it is evident that the competition remains an important means of expression for young people across the Commonwealth, as over 830 schools across 55 Commonwealth countries and territories participated.
For 2013 the theme of the competition was 'Opportunity through Enterprise'. The judges were impressed at the creativity and research that entrants displayed in approaching the topics.
As ever, there was an extremely high standard of entry as participants competed with their peers from every corner of the Commonwealth, so to win an award is a big achievement.
We are delighted to announce that over 2,000 entries won awards, with the top prizes going to New Zealand, Guernsey, Canada and Hong Kong. The judges also selected a number of excellent Gold entries from both the Junior and Senior Categories to receive special commendations.
The top two Prize Winners will be flown to London for a special awards ceremony in the autumn and the Runners-Up will be invited to local awards ceremonies.
All Gold, Silver and Bronze winners will receive certificates before the end of 2013 and entrants who didn't receive an award this year are entitled to certificates of participation.
Congratulations to all winners and thank you to the Commonwealth Essay Competition 2013 sponsors Cambridge University Press for their support in this record-breaking year!
Senior Prize Winner
Katherine McIndoe, 19 years old, New Zealand
Click here to read Katherine's entry.
"You can really hear Katherine's voice in this entry. It is well researched and structured and elicits a strong emotional response from the reader. Katherine takes a powerful idea and makes it accessible. Whilst keeping a dual focus on the girls she is addressing (the entry is called "A letter to the lost girls") and her reader, Katherine holds the tension of this throughout with clarity and skill. It is really impressive to write like this when still so young!" Senior Judging Panel 2013
Abby Wells, 16 years old, Canada
Click here to read Abby's entry.
"Abby's essay is a genuine, personal entry offering an original approach to the topic 'Are we too risk-conscious these days?'. The structure and focus which Abby maintains throughout is a skilful, smart and sophisticated treatment of childhood. The writing has a simplicity in the way it deals with a complex subject and it displays a light touch. This was a very serious contender for the first prize." Senior Judging Panel 2013
Junior Prize Winner
Tabitha Carr, 12 years old, Guernsey
Click here to read Tabitha's entry.
"Tabitha's entry is authentic, poignant and moving. The Panel particularly liked the concise use of language and the telling images. There are no superflous words. Tabitha takes the reader on a journey into another world and leaves them wanting to read her story again and again. She demonstrates social awareness and confidence in what she writes. The opening and concluding paragraphs very simply and effectively locate the story in relation to the topic "Is change a good thing?" The Panel wondered what it would be like to hear the story performed or read aloud and they wondered where the name "Silverfox" came from!" Junior Judging Panel 2013
Catherine Yu, 9 years old, Hong Kong
Click here to read Catherine's entry.
"Catherine's entry is an extraordinary approach to the topic "Is change a good thing?" which satisfyingly turns full circle in its description of a mountain and the changing seasons. The writing is creative, authentic, poetic, imaginative and witty. The style is concise and sophisticated. It demonstrates emotional depth and attention to texture. The descriptions are excellent. The end result is to leave the reader feeling satisfied and uplifted." Junior Judging Panel 2013