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The Duchess of Cornwall attends the final of the 500 Words competition at St James's Palace

29th May 2015

The Duchess of Cornwall attends the final of Radio 2's 500 Words competition at St James's Palace in London

The Duchess of Cornwall attends the final of Radio 2's 500 Words competition at St James's Palace in London

The Duchess of Cornwall attended the final of the 500 Words competition today at St James’s Palace and hosted a reception for finalists.

The competition challenged children aged 13 and under to put pen to paper and compose an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. The finalists of the 500 Words competition were invited to a prize-giving ceremony staged at St James's Palace and featured live on DJ Chris Evans's Radio 2 breakfast show.  

Now in its fifth year, the BBC Radio 2 writing contest attracted more than 120,000 entries during 2015 and the presentation ceremony featured live performances from boy band The Vamps and singer Will Young, accompanied by the London Community Gospel Choir.

The Duchess told the winners: "Like climbing through the wardrobe into Narnia, stories open doors into different worlds. They stretch imagination and get our brains buzzing.

"We fall in love with heroes and heroines and can't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens. We meet impossible people, travel to remote places and make hundreds of new friends.

"We look around with new eyes and recognise Horrid Henry next door and Professor Snape the chemistry teacher in the school down the road."

Celebrity narrators who read the gold, silver and bronze winning entries in the age categories - five to nine, and 10 to 13 - included Sir Kenneth Branagh, Charles Dance, Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson and Jeremy Irons.

Amabel Smith, 10, from Chorley in Lancashire, won gold in the older age category with a futuristic tale about a society where people are not allowed to leave home and live their lives through computers.

The 10-year-old winner said: "I got in the top 50 last year and I thought I might come third.

"I really wanted to write a story where there are two people telling their own story from their own point of view.

"The election was coming up and I thought what would happen if a government was elected and did something bad with the country - they might want more power."

Jeremy Irons, who read 10-year-old Amabel Smith's winning entry It's A Wide World, said: "I think this is such a wonderful initiative, people writing, putting pens to paper or fingers to computers, while they're writing a story, it's wonderful.

"It's what we, as actors, we feed on, because we need stories. I want stories to read, I want stories to act - to turn into films to turn into plays. It's really a fantastic initiative."

 

The Duchess of Cornwall and Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson attend the final of Radio 2's 500 Words competition at St James's Palace in London

The Duchess of Cornwall and Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson attend the final of Radio 2's 500 Words competition at St James's Palace in London

A speech by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the 500 Words Final, St James's Palace State Apartments

Published on 29th May 2015

Like many other ardent TOGS (Terry's Old Geezers, for those too young to remember), when Radio 2's Breakfast programme lost Terry Wogan and replaced him with a wild red-headed young man I was tempted to switch channels… but having tuned in to Chris Evans I realised how wrong I was. It was his inspirational idea, five years ago, that gave birth to 500 Words and it is for the final of this great competition that we are all gathered at St James's Palace this morning.

Now, whenever I have the chance (and I don’t often get to talk on Radio 2!) I tell everyone that we must never forget how important reading and storytelling is. I'm sure you'll be doing the same now – telling anybody who will listen how much fun it’s been writing your 500 words. So I thought I should take the Chris Evans Challenge too and write my own 500 Words. I am a tiny bit above the qualifying age, so I have cheated and asked if I may just read my entry out this morning...

I can’t compete with all your brilliant stories, so I’m going to talk about why I think stories themselves are so magical.  Before we can write, we tell stories …

Close to home, everyone has family stories – about our parents when they were naughty children; about grandparents living in a different world, without smartphones or YouTube; about families moving home, moving countries and making new stories of their own.

Then there are the old stories handed down through the years - about heroes and heroines; myths and legends and fairy tales.  They speak to us today about good and evil, ...

Read full speech