When I presented the prizes for the Wicked Young Writers’ Award for the first time last year, the whole country was in a high state of excitement as William and Catherine had just announced their engagement. I remember being asked by a journalist, outside this theatre, what my reaction was.
– ‘Wicked’, I replied, and can I just say how ‘wicked’ it is to be back today to present these awards.
I was delighted when Michael Morpurgo asked me to become the Patron of this award, as I believe passionately in nurturing a love of reading and writing in children and young people of all ages. Reading is not only the start of a voyage of personal development and pleasure, but the foundation stone of all education which, I suspect, many of you here are beginning to find out.
And talking of that, I thought it would be a good moment to mention that today the National Literacy Trust, another wonderful charity of which I am Patron, is celebrating its milestone, in helping one million children to discover the pleasure of books and reading – one million who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to make this choice. I hope that some of those children will be encouraged to enter the Wicked Young Writers’ Award some time in the not too distant future.
Thank Goodness I am not a judge! I know that the judges have, once again, been hugely impressed by the very high standard of entries and I am quite sure that amongst you all today there sits a future bestselling writer, or perhaps even a Poet Laureate.
I would like to congratulate you all, winners, runners up, everyone who has taken part in this inspirational competition. I think you are all brilliant. I am so proud of you. I wish I could have written like that at your age.
I hope you will continue to put pen to paper – or, indeed, finger to keyboard – and develop the remarkable talent which has brought you here today. If this is a cross-section of young British writers, then the future looks very rosy. Thank you very much.