It is not often that six remarkable people gather in a room to discuss a body of young people’s writing. It is perhaps even less often that an adult defends the merits of an essay by admitting that it made her gasp. But on Monday, 1 August 2016 these events occurred in a humble room in central London, as the Final Senior and Junior Panels met to decide the Winners and Runners-up of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2016.
The day began with the Junior Panel meeting to discuss the roughly 70 essays that had been given Top Gold Awards by their first round judges. The judges were impressed by the beauty of the writing they were asked to read. Many Junior entries invited the reader into the their world; as one judge noted, “one of the things I like most about the competition is seeing how people live all around the world.” The creative visualisations, descriptive imagery, and sophisticated writing meant the judges had a difficult decision on their hands. Ultimately, however, two pieces were chosen as the Junior Winner and Runner-up – but it was not a choice made lightly.
In the afternoon, the Senior Panel was similarly met with the difficult choice of selecting just two pieces from a body of “spirited,” “moving” and “imaginative” pieces. With more than 60 from which to choose, the panellists defended their favourites and heard cases put forward passionately by their colleagues. The winning essay, unanimously chosen, was described as “profound and simple” by one judge. The Runner-up earned similar praise as a “flowing,” “multifaceted” piece of writing.
The 2016 Panels were a resounding success, with impressive individuals reading fantastic pieces and being inspired by the young Commonwealth. This year’s competition, the 133rd edition, was the most successful to date, with 13,500 entries from nearly every Commonwealth country. The young writers explored the theme of An Inclusive Commonwealth, responding to one of four topics in their category. The pan-Commonwealth Winners and Runners-up will be flown to London in October for a series of educational and cultural events, culminating in an Award Ceremony at Buckingham Palace attended by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. The competition is open to all citizens and residents of the Commonwealth aged 18 and under and is generously supported by Cambridge University Press.
Despite there being only two pan-Commonwealth Winners and Runners-up, the Royal Commonwealth Society is proud of every one of the thousands of young people who took a chance, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and wrote their thoughts on An Inclusive Commonwealth. All entrants receive a Certificate of Participation, and over 4,000 entries received a Gold, Silver or Bronze Award. Congratulations, and deepest thanks, to all who took part in 2016.
Now, however, the Royal Commonwealth Society leaves the public in suspense. As the Winners and Runners-up are contacted and details are confirmed, we know many are waiting in anticipation for the names to be announced. We look forward to the moment when the four brilliant writers will be revealed on 15 August 2016.