Le voice of ye Circle, in ye electronique forme.

SWC Annual Open Short Story Competition 2021

First prize: £150      Second prize: £80     Third prize: £30

Closing date: 31st October 2021


Chief Judge: Spencer Leigh

Spencer Leigh was born in Liverpool in 1945 and has lived in the area all his life.
He has written several books on the Beatles and the Mersey Beat era including Let’s Go Down The Cavern (1982). He wrote 1,000 UK Number 1 Hits with Jon Kutner in 2005 and he collaborated with Hunter Davies on The Beatles Book (2016). In recent years, he has been writing music biographies for McNidder and Grace, the most recent being Bob Dylan: Outlaw Blues (2020). Spencer has written hundreds of obituaries for newspapers and each week he writes a weekly My City column for the Liverpool Echo. He has also written hundreds of sleeve notes for LPs and CDs: he says, “I’m proud to say that the soundtrack album for Heartbeat topped the album charts, but of course nobody bought it for my notes.”

Full Rules:

  • Your entry should be an unpublished, original story on any theme of up to 2000 words (previous publication includes via internet or independent press).
  • Do not put your name or any other identifying information on your story (including in headers/footers) but do give it a suitable title. Titles should be both appropriate and interesting.
  • There is no set theme or style for the competition, other than the above.
  • Entries in English please (dialect allowable).
  • You do not need an entry form. Send us a separate cover sheet with each entry’s title, word count, your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.
  • For internet entries: Put the above cover sheet details in the body of email. Please include PayPal ref. number OR put the story(ies) names in the comments box on PayPal when paying. Also please use basic formatting in any of .doc, .docx, rich text or .odf file types only when attaching your entry file(s) to the email. Any sidebars, headers, footers or unusual layouts may result in your electronic entry being rejected. Please do not use .pages files unless you have no other alternative.
  • No individual correspondence will be entered into regarding receipt of works/payments. Please do not send any confirmational material or use Recorded Delivery.
  • Once your entry has been submitted, any entrant contacting the judges for any reason deemed to be an attempt to circumvent the judging process is liable and likely to be disqualified.
  • If entering by post, please include an SAE if you wish to receive a print of the results/judges report (if available) when the competition is finished. For email entries, please note clearly in the body of the email “I would like to receive a copy of the results”.
  • Winners will be informed in Dec 2021/ Jan 2022, results will be published on this site thereafter. There may be a delay publishing results and/or winning stories depending on circumstances and permissions.
  • Winning stories may be published on this site for 12 months with permission of original author(s).
  • The organiser’s decision is final.

Optional – Paper saving single-spaced entries encouraged.

  • The fee is £3.00 for each story, or £10 for 4 (E-entries have a processing fee.). You can pay by cheque or postal order made out to Southport Writers’ Circle.

Send postal entries to:

SWC Short Story Competition

5 Carrwood Park




Online entry available HERE


Poetry 2021 judgement and winners are now available to read and enjoy on the Comp Results link (on the right unless you are on mobile).

Short Story 2021 judge has been confirmed and will launch very soon! We look forward to see what people will come up with this year…

Southport Writers’ Circle Open International Annual Poetry Competition 2021

Read winning poems HERE

Organiser’s Report

Poets are able to take incredibly vast concepts like the nature of the universe, or the fine details of the smallest microcosm and express them in a  handful of choice words, evoking the full meaning and understanding to any who experience the lines they set out. It is a talent that is worth being jealous of.

This year, entrants gave us a bewildering array of subjects for their verses, from the coveting of a grandma’s ornaments, to the death of an empire, to bleak/golden/insightful/harsh reminiscences of experiences that this writer has never had. Each gave a facet of our little reality, expressed in stark/oblique/playful/simple stanzas, each one a unique perspective on many esoteria.

There was a good global coverage of entrants this year, with the usual concentration in the North of England, and a general representation from France, Spain, Germany, Italy and others. The US had a few poems in the mix and as well as one hopeful from Nigeria.

As per usual, the standard of entries was ridiculous and most of our shortlisters had trouble with the sift, exacerbated somewhat by the aforementioned topical range of poems. A brief insight into the marking process – we have a set range of criteria by which we gauge poems, involving metre, structure and so on. Quite a lot of the poems were very non-standard and somehow were still very good, making matters more difficult.

The final shortlist was eventually reached and sent to notable poet and artist, Ali Harwood to deliver his final judgement. I hope you will agree that the winners are deserving and intriguing in equal measure.

Chief Judge’s Report – Ali Harwood

We rush to them when emotions run high and when experience cuts deep. We make our own and take what others have given. Poems. They have a lot to answer for. And lots of answers for us. And even more questions…

Judging the dozens of shortlisted poems was an honour and a privilege and I enjoyed returning to all of them many times as they insisted on talking to me. The subjects written about were broad. There was much compassion and empathy in the entries plus more than a little beauty. Encounters with nature and each other were common, alongside the passing of time. Yes, there were also mentions of pandemics and politics: at their best, these were contained in the context of a broader humanity. In the end, what won through were truths that resonated and still do.


The Awakening

by Pauline Hawkesworth

This is a hopeful and organic poem that unwinds and grows throughout its five stanzas. Intimately and delicately, it reveals a bee’s journey observed through glass. The metaphors expand in size and scope – from ‘pear-drop’ to ‘something the earth rolled’ – as the poet’s fancy takes flight towards potential fresh starts. A vast landscape is seen in the size of a bee with the symbiotic dance between the order of mountains and the chaos of ‘honeyed rain’.

Perhaps the embodied wedding rings the bee wears show its promise to the Earth and, in the poet’s observation, also the interdependent relationship between the natural world and us. The closing lines leave things open – we are provided with the space to imagine where this instinctive insect is bound next…


Snarl up at the cemetery

by Christine Buxton

Death visits and unites us all and this poem shares some diverse responses to the loss of a loved one. Despite the jam of mourners, ‘none of the cars is beeping’. It is a poem that succeeds in showing not telling. Whilst using the broad brushstrokes of associating cars with their drivers, the people grieving do not become caricatures. The ‘one way system’ mentioned could be the inevitable timeline of each of our lives. The congestion takes place on Mother’s Day, when ‘grief takes you in not so unexpected ways’. And every day is in fact a mothers’ day, as from mothers we all are born. At the end, with Mum ‘still going strong’, we are reminded to keep calm and journey on.



by Jacqueline Woods

What we have here is a poignant poem of pride and pain. An ageing mother recites Wordsworth impeccably in the depths of night whilst her child listens intently outside her bedroom door, reminded of lucid times past that now do not last.

The ‘respite and light’ in this performance could perhaps be for the minds of both generations present.

As the new day starts and the mother’s stem weakens again, we witness her diminished existence yet hope for the next flutter into clarity.

Daffodils points to the importance of appreciating moments of connection – however fleeting – as time tugs the sleeves of those we love and, indeed, also our own.

Catherine Fenerty Humour Prize

A Halloween Love Story

by Stephanie Ward

We are encouraged to gallop through this amusing poem with its lively and consistent rhythm and rhyming couplets. It made me smile throughout. As we in the real world clamber our way somewhat clumsily and inconsistently out of lockdown, it’s refreshing to read a love story about two lost souls who, after many blunders and misfires, somehow find each other in their own fairytale chaos.

Even though the witch’s ‘green skin faintly blushed’ and the ogre finds a trio of rodents in his pants, they eventually unite by the end of the night and have a fruitful relationship, producing enough troll children for a football team plus substitutes. Let’s just hope they all live happily ever after.  

Highly Commended

Pack It In

by Hazel Teare

A series of containers constructed to constrain their contents are explored here. However, these painful reminders of earlier times escape. In this compact poem, each word is thoughtfully curated for maximum impact. Assonance is to the fore with the ‘pain nailed down’ neatly packed with their vowel sounds in parallel. When the lid of the last box with the narrator ‘folded in’ is closed, I for one feel the need to rummage within again.


Second Husband

by Duncan Fraser

Is this a fable? Is it a warning? Or is it an inevitable premonition of a predator on a mission? An alluring woman full of cutting wit and magnetic malevolence seduces you and attracts you to her side. Just like the last discredited and discarded prize. Unsurprisingly, you will be next on the chopping block: told about, laughed at and despised.  

This is a promise.