The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition

EssayCompetition TwoLines

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s oldest schools’ international writing competition, managed by The Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. Every year, it offers all Commonwealth youth aged 18 and under the opportunity to express their hopes for the future, opinions of the present, and thoughts on the past through the written word. The competition is used by individuals and teachers to build confidence, develop writing skills, support creativity and encourage critical thinking, using literacy to empower young people to become global citizens.

All entrants receive a Certificate of Participation and one Winner and Runner-up from both the Senior and Junior categories will be invited to attend Winners' Week. Past winners include author Elspeth Huxley, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mei Fong, and the Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong.

A Commonwealth for Peace

The 2017 competition theme was A Commonwealth for Peace, with topics that challenged young writers to consider peace at every level: from the personal to the political to the pan-Commonwealth. Thousands of young people took part, writing stories, poems, essays, scripts and cartoons about this important and contemporary topic. The competition was run in partnership with Cambridge University Press.

Winners Strip

2017 Results

Congratulations to Annika Turon-Semmens, Ariadna Sullivan, Hiya Chowdhury, and Ry Galloway, the Winners and Runners-up of The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 2017 (pictured l-r). Here's what the experts are saying about their entries:

Max Porter, publisher and award-winning author of Grief is the Thing With Feathers

'How vital and thrilling these pieces are, evoking with deft strokes the fraught, complex and curious times we live in. But what strikes one most is the eye for detail; for nuance and cadence, the light and shade of physical and mental space. This is writing that gives its reader faith in humanity and it is a joy to read them. I offer my warmest congratulations to the writers.'

Sarah Waters, award-winning and bestselling author of six novels: 

'It is very exciting to see the breadth of talent on display in the winning and runner-up entries in this year's Commonwealth Essay Competition. These young authors have a real relish for language and for what language can achieve. They are not daunted by big issues – on the contrary, they are as unafraid of being provocative and they are of celebrating the possibility of social change. I find them wonderfully inspiring.'

Anne Fine OBE FRSL, prize-winning children's author and second Children's Laureate: 

'It’s fascinating to see the sheer range of response to any competition theme, but what varied pieces we have here!  The entries come from places in the world that could not be more different – or more colourfully described. But all our young winners show boundless imagination, along with impressive control. It was a pleasure to read these poems and stories, and my warmest congratulations go to all.'

William Boyd CBE, best-selling author and screenwriter:

'I was hugely impressed by the standard of this year's winners: evocative, innovative, thought-provoking and strangely haunting. And very sophisticated -- it seems astounding that this quality of writing can be achieved by such young writers. Congratulations all round!'

Ali Smith CBE FRSL, Scottish playwright, academic and journalist: 

'I loved reading this year's winners and runners-up. It filled me with hope, to read them.  The senior winner, Annika Turon-Semmens, already has the refusal to compromise that marks a real writer.  Human Nature is an astute fusion of funny, vivid, apprehending, powerful, sympathetic and visionary. The senior runner-up, Hiya Chowdhury, has pulled off something very difficult indeed, a story that shines with subtlety and rightness, skilful articulacy, with a communal understanding in which contemporaneity and history, both essentially held together, are made visible in the briefest space like a flare in the dark.  The story has a perfected choreography wise beyond its years and its size.  

I loved the junior winner Ariadna Sullivan's ingenuity.  That's what great writing makes us do – it makes us look again from another angle, think again, pick apart our preconceptions.  And the runner up, Ry Galloway, combines senses and wit to catch and recreate a pure piece of life.'

Find out more about Annika, Ariadna, Hiya and Ry and read their entries on the 2017 Results page

Sign up for our newsletters