Thank you, all you young authors who sent in such a wonderful rainbow of stories. Each one of you has brought enthusiasm, originality and a passion for words to this competition. You have made us laugh, you have made us cry and you have made us hope. 

Good morning everyone – and a very happy tenth birthday to 500 Words!  

Just like many of you this year, 500 Words is having to settle for a virtual birthday party, rather than the one we had planned. I was really looking forward to meeting the Finalists at Buckingham Palace today. But, thankfully, technology has brought us together across the airwaves – and we will still celebrate as hard as we can.

But just before we get to celebrating, I want to say something a bit serious. The last few months have been very difficult, confusing and worrying for lots of you. Thank you for staying at home, being kind to others and cheering up your family and friends whenever you could. You have been brilliant. And so I want to tell you that Zoe, Chris and I have put our thinking caps on. And the three of us are hoping to plan a giant 500 Words party for when parties are allowed again. 

After all, a tenth birthday is an extra-special one. And ten years as the country’s most successful short story-writing competition for children definitely needs to be celebrated. As you all know, Chris started 500 Words in 2010. In his words, he “dreamt of getting children excited about reading and writing”. And he succeeded. In its ten years, 500 Words has received a staggering million plus entries. And it hasn’t just got children excited about reading and writing – lots of grown-ups have got very excited too. Including me, the competition’s rather ancient Fairy Godmother! 

Thank you, Chris – and well done!  I should really like to pat you on the back in person. As I can’t, may I ask whoever is closest to Chris right now to give him a hearty thwack, please?

Now this year, we may have been confined to our homes, but nobody can confine imagination. Once again, I have been blown away by your genius and creativity. In fact, you reminded me of a wonderful quotation from Beatrix Potter: “There's something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you”. For me, there was something delicious about reading the beginnings of all your stories.  I could never quite tell exactly where I would end up – but I had a wonderful time getting there! And I am certain that amongst you Finalists are some of the great writers of the future.

Let me end by thanking BBC Radio 2 for making the 2020 final – and this tenth birthday - so special and memorable. A huge thank you to Zoe. And thank you, all you young authors who sent in such a wonderful rainbow of stories. Each one of you has brought enthusiasm, originality and a passion for words to this competition. You have made us laugh, you have made us cry and you have made us hope. 

Keep safe and well. Always keep reading and keep writing. And that, everyone, is exactly five hundred words.