Interview with Jessica Tunks, Orwell Youth Prize Winner

Jessica Tunks is a senior 2020 Orwell Youth Prize winner, responding to the theme ‘The Future We Want’.

Interview with Jessica Tunks, Orwell Youth Prize Winner

What was the inspiration for your piece?

The main inspiration for my piece came from an article in the Guardian that was part of the ‘Beyond the Blade’ series, called ‘The boy who killed – and the mother who tried to stop him’. I found the article really moving and it made me reflect on a lot of my own experiences of the area I grew up in, as well as those of my friends, making it quite persona to me. This inspired me to look deeper into the causes of violent crime amongst young people and think about what could possibly be done to prevent it.

Why did you choose the medium of your chosen form to communicate your idea about the future?

I wrote in an essay/article style because I had done a lot of research, and wanted to include it in my piece. Although I told a personal story, I used statistics about the issue as a whole in order to put the story into context, as well as showing how serious and widespread the problems actually were. At the same time, I tried to humanise the offenders I was writing about, to avoid people solely seeing them as a statistic. I wanted to show that every offender has a story much like the one I was telling myself.

Given the global pandemic, has your idea about the future you want changed since you wrote the piece?

My idea about the future is still very similar. I think that, if anything, we need to focus more on community efforts to support young people as a result of lockdown. Absence from school has widened the gap between the most disadvantaged students and the rest of the student body, which will affect academic achievement and well-being. Young people have been isolated at home, away from support systems, and many will have been exposed to domestic violence, poverty, or mental health problems, which can all become factors in drawing someone to violence or crime. It is essential that the support they need is there.

You can read 'Knifepoint' here


The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize is an annual programme for 12-18-year olds culminating in a writing prize. Rooted in Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness, the prize and the activities around it introduce young people to the power of language and provoke them to think critically and creatively about the world in which they are living.

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