What goes on at...The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize takes inspiration from one of the 20th Century's most famously political writers. It's open to 14-18 year olds, and entry closes on 30th April. We caught up with Chair, Elizabeth Paris, to find out more.

What goes on at...The Orwell Youth Prize

What is the Orwell Youth Prize all about?

It's about inspiring a new generation of political young writers. There are workshops led by writers, a writing prize and opportunities to join in journalist seminars and attend events. This year we have the theme 'Exposing a Lie' threaded through both the workshops and the writing prize. This is drawn from George Orwell's essay "Why I Write".

"When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, 'I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose"

What do you hope offer to young people through this experience?

A voice. The young people taking part in our Orwell Youth Prize workshops are not short of energy, passion or ideas. We hope through both the workshops, and the writing prize, to give them tools to communicate clearly. So that we can all hear those ideas. Orwell's values of integrity, truthfulness and fairness are an ideal foundation to the power of language. His writings seem to resonate with young people who relate his focus on justice and deprivation to their own experience.

How can people enter?

The Orwell Youth Prize is about delivering workshops in schools as well as the writing prize - but any young person can enter, whether or not they have attended a workshop. All you have to do is write – a piece of writing on the theme Exposing A Lie of no more than 1,000 words. The writing can be in any form, for example; an essay, journalist's report, a short story, a diary, a blogpost or a poem. You can enter your own individual writing or a piece of group writing with up to 5 young people in the group – or both. The Prize is open to anyone aged 14 – 18 who is at school or college, from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.


What are you looking for in an ideal entry?

Often the most impactful writing comes from writing about your own ideas and experiences, thinking for yourself about the world you live in.

What is the best thing about working for the Orwell Youth Prize?

Without any doubt it is the chance to interact with young people – hearing the intensity of their views in workshops from Banbury to Crewe, and experiencing how engaged they can be.

What are the biggest challenges the prize faces?

When you set out to inspire a new generation the biggest challenge has to be trying to reach as many young people as possible.

What advice would you give to any young people wanting to forge a career in political writing?

Write. At every opportunity. And read different styles of writing, not just those you most enjoy reading. Then analyse what made it persuasive? Did you engage? How did the opening sentence impact you? How transparent was the author's bias? Then hone your own writing and develop a personal style that communicates clearly what you want to say.

Seek feedback. Anyone entering our writing prize can first submit a draft and we will provide you with feedback from a writer or journalist before you submit your final entry.

Are there any resources you'd recommend to help people structure their political writing?

Well, we have developed a range of resources for both young people and teachers on the Orwell Youth Prize website. There is quite a variety here: it includes links to videos, commentaries, even a play script so we hope there is something there to suit everyone. And of course it includes some of George Orwell's own essays as inspiration.


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