Good Morning everybody,
It is a huge pleasure to be with you all today – and to have travelled here in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the magical car from one of my favourite stories was a very special treat. Those of you who have seen the film might remember the – slightly bonkers – character of Grandpa Potts. Well, Grandpa Potts has some very good advice that I want to share with you this morning. His advice is "Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes', otherwise you'll lead a very dull life".
As I read your wonderful "500 Words" stories, I was really impressed by the adventures that your imaginations took me on. So, in return, I thought I might tell you about some that have taken place here at Hampton Court Palace.
When you have a chance to explore later today, you'll see glimpses of Henry VIII everywhere. It was his favourite palace. The huge Tudor kitchens were fit for a King, but they also fed hundreds of people here at his court. And, like Chris Evans, he had musicians to play for him too.
William Shakespeare came here too. He put on the very first performance of Hamlet in the Great Hall for James I and it became one of his most famous plays. Maybe you can still hear an echo under the great hammer-beam roof of 'To be or not to be'…
Much later on, Sir Christopher Wren built a chocolate kitchen in the palace. I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't a kitchen made of chocolate – that would have been a story worth telling – but a special kitchen for roasting and grinding cocoa beans for making the fashionable new drink of 'hot chocolate'… Those are just a few interesting stories: and no doubt you'll discover a lot more.
I know that all of you here understand the pleasure and excitement of stories. They light up our imagination, touch our hearts and get the brains whirring. Everyone who entered the competition, I think knows what I'm talking about…
But you know, there might be some people listening to Radio 2 this morning who haven't found that first captivating story, to pull them, head over heels, into a whole new world they won't want to leave. It could be Horrid Henry's antics or Young James Bond's adventures; the stories of two brothers with a million pounds to spend, or the world of 'Noughts and Crosses'. And those are just books by my fellow judges!
I won't go on – because we all have our favourites – but there is surely a book for everyone to start them on this adventure. We can all spread the word. Parents and teachers, brothers and sisters, friends and classmates can help: you don't have to be an ancient fairy godmother to find that one magical story for someone else…
And once you start reading, you'll want to start writing too. The pleasure of telling stories goes back a long way. I'm pretty sure that, in Henry VIII's time, people here in Hampton Court Palace entertained their friends with many a tale or two. Well, they didn't have a young James Bond in those days, but they certainly did have a (horrid) Henry…!
All you talented young writers understand the thrill of choosing just the right words, and the lasting pleasure of creating a brilliant story. And what brilliant stories you all sent in to this competition! I wish you could all join me, and my new chauffeur (Chris), in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and drive down to the river for tea on the Gloriana! … but sadly there is not enough room in that dear old car….
But I should like to end by thanking you all – Chris, Vicki, the whole 500 Words team, the wonderful judges – and of course the magnificent young writers – for all the hard work that you all put in to the eighth year of this unique competition. And I want to encourage everyone here to keep reading, to keep writing, and to keep saying a big fat 'yes' to adventures.
Thank you very much.