Poetry 2019 Judge’s Report

To read the winning poems CLICK HERE

Organiser’s Report

This was a difficult year, with many talented poets taking a chance that their work would catch the eyes and hearts of our judges and to make it through to the final sift. As ever we had a good spread from across the globe, though more than a couple came from France. The south of England and Scotland had good representation also, leading to a wide mix of cultural influences in the work we received. There is something special about how the differing experiences of individuals give birth to these 40 line windows into other types of lives.

Popular themes this year included Cats (going to show that people did their research!), Religion, DIY, Age and for some reason quite a lot of poems around the Sea and similar nautical themes. Very few about Love or War this time round, which is an oddity in itself, but nice to see writers branching out in their art.

A side note – Every year we have entries whose writers are a little loose with their interpretation of the rules, in terms of line count or things as fundamental as not putting their name on it. I’m happy to say this time round we had the least disqualifications on record for this competition, which is great, because as everyone is aware, you don’t stand a chance of winning if your entry does not even get read. Well done to everyone who entered correctly and please know, it was very hard to decide the shortlist indeed as the majority were excellent.

Chief Judge’s Report – Daniel Riding

It is never a difficult task to explain why you love or loathe a certain piece of poetry, for some, it may be the emotional tone that evokes long lost memories, or it may be the intelligent use of form and structure that alerts me to the talent behind a poem’s creation. However, when greeted with numerous poems that exhibit such a level of intelligence and passion, that the task of choosing winners proves somewhat difficult. Given the difficulty of said task, I am thrilled to say that it was a complete joy to see so many people still writing and enjoying the art of poetry. 

1st Place – Mistaken Identity – by Hannah Stephenson

First place goes to the wonderfully constructed, and charmingly visual ‘Mistaken Identity’. It quite simply made my heart sing, with its delightful childlike quality and the use of a normally overlooked piece of nature to effectively get across its message.

2nd Place – Finally – by Laurence Hughes

Second place goes to a poem that enabled me to see the beauty of beginnings hidden in endings. Finally is a piece of poetry that is small in stature but big in presence. Each sentence, each word, and each syllable is used carefully and with thought. Not a single moment is wasted in this small but poignant piece. 

3rd Place – The Space Between – by D.C.Tunstall

This poem had a smoothness about it that drove home hard this idea of love, it’s limitations and its limitless power to change everything. Be it familial, plutonic or even passionate, love is explored cleverly and with heart in this lovely piece of writing.

Humour Prize – No, don’t tell me – by Dan Hicks

I would like to tell you what I enjoy about this poem, but I may have forgotten! In all seriousness, this poem made me chuckle with its razor-sharp observations about memory loss. Something that all of us can admit to dealing with every now and again. It had a nice rhythm which kept the pace of the poem ticking along nicely and only added to its very funny take on a sometimes serious subject matter. Cleverly done. 

Highly Commended – Fingers for Eyes – by John Morris

Commended – 

Grenfell Tower: The Day After – by Jacqueline Pemberton

Still Water – by Michael Hobbs

Journey – by Helen Jeffery

Short Story 2018 Results


Organiser’s Report

It is always a pleasure to read through the stories that so many people decide to send, in the hopes that their little pieces of inspiration will gain the light and recognition that they deserve. The quality of many entries deserved such recognition, though it has to be mentioned the importance of reading the rules for any competition, which sadly some people fell afoul of this year (don’t put your name on every page of an anonymous entry!).

We had stories about every topic going – romance, war, shopping, robots, babies, time travel, chocolate and many more. Entries came from Germany, France, and Spain as well as a good concentration from the south of England. Of course, shortlisters can only go so far, and any love they have for particular favourites in the sifting has to be put aside for the final judge to have her say. We were fortunate this year to have an award winning novelist join us and we respect her final opinions.

Chief Judges Report – Carys Bray

It is not especially hard to decide whether a story is enjoyable and satisfying – as readers, we do this all the time. It is, however, hard to take a group of satisfying and enjoyable stories and pick a winner. I recognise that another judge, on another day, may have looked at these stories and placed them in a different order. The stories below intrigued and surprised me, and I enjoyed reading each of them.

1st Place: Peace and Quiet by Louise Wilford

First place goes to this well-written and intriguing short story that invites an active, interrogative response from the reader and concludes with an enjoyably sinister twist.

2nd Place: The Spae Wife by Julie-Ann Rowell

Second place goes to this evocative, historical short story that makes beautiful use of sensory language and explores themes of prejudice and judgement in an isolated community.

3rd Place: Closer to the Edge by Robert Kibble

Third place goes to this tense short story in which the writer examines the line between cruelty and humour while achieving a satisfying combination of action and introspection.

Highly commended: Equinox by Marianne Whiting

This highly commended historical short story explores themes of shame and sacrifice, reaching a powerful, understated conclusion.

Commended: The Angel and the Bridge by Norman Kitching

This commended story empathetically tackles big themes: guilt, betrayal and the kindness of strangers.

Commended: The Real Fake News by Paul Barnett

Resonant and timely, this commended short story contains some lovely images and has echoes of Orwell’s 1984.

2018 Poetry Results

To read the winning poems, Click Here

Organiser Notes –

Another year, another set of difficult decisions. In the role of Chief Judge we were graced by the talented and prolific Alison Chisholm, whose opinion is very much respected in the world of poetry (and is also an ex-member of SWC!). The International part of the competition did not fail to surprise us again, with entries from France, Germany, and South Africa. The shortlisting was a hard process with so many excellent entries, but somehow we got it down to the final filter of twenty or so. The downside of an anonymous system also struck, as the 1st Prize winner also turned out to be the Humour Prize winner. I’m sure you will agree though, that both poems are worth of taking the prizes, as well as the 2nd 3rd and Commendeds. For those who did not make the final cut, we hope to see your work again next year, as in such a tight competition, anyone could swing it next time!

Judges Report from Alison Chisholm –

My big problem was with the humour section.  The hilarious pieces were badly crafted.  The beautifully crafted pieces weren’t funny.  I’ve ended up picking a poem that has some wry touches of humour among pretty dark layers, and is without doubt the best contender for a humour prize.  The results, then, are:



Your Call is Important to Us

by David Mark Williams

The repetition and delicious images work well, and while there is clear humour in the recognisable frustration of the repeated announcement, there are neat undercurrents to show this is not just a poem about an annoying phone call, but has a much deeper significance.


First Prize

Insomnia Soliloquy

By David Mark Williams

Anyone who has ever spent a sleepless night will identify with this poem.  It uses imagery with precision, and it’s an object lesson in how to craft a free verse poem in which slant rhyme and lineation are applied beautifully.


Second Prize

The Curse

By Elizabeth Horrocks

Another free verse poem, this takes an original subject and clothes it in finely crafted free verse.  The route from innocence to Mammon is charted perfectly.


Third Prize

Allowing the Light

By Sheila Aldous

This piece, written in response to a recent tragedy, can hardly fail to touch everyone who followed the story.


Highly Commended

Cold Egg

By Jenny West

This brilliant evocation of family life is image-rich and enormously appealing.  The only thing wrong with the poem is its lack of punctuation, which is such an important factor in the poem.



Edges of Autumn

By Lynne Taylor


On This Summer Day

By Sue Kauth


The Edge of Alderley

By Elizabeth Horrocks


Clacton 1967

Susi Clare


Short Story 2017 Results

For Winning Stories Click Here

Organisers Report

This year’s standard of entries was just as high as previous ones and our shortlisting team had real trouble filtering out the best for Joanne to peruse. The most common theme this year was ‘Divorce’ which was a new one for us, but the perennial ‘Ghost story’ showed its face more than a few times in the literary mix. Globally, entrants were fairly spread out, with France, Spain and New Zealand being represented this year and also a small story from the Isle of Skye.

Every entry though had a different idea as to what was a good story and many of them were exactly that, however, as ever, the massed ranks of creativity were whittled away to leave us with but a scant handful of winners. Well done to them and to everyone else who entered.

Those who did not make the cut, we encourage you to keep trying, as one day it could be you on that ethereal winner’s podium claiming a prize for your excellent writing.


Judges Report – Joanne Reardon

First Prize: Giving Him Back – Valerie Bowes

Understated and assured writing which pulls the reader into a world where nothing is quite as it seems.  Three children spending an unremarkable day at the beach building sandcastles and playing football are disturbed by a young child who has wandered into their space.  When the eldest child, Mara, tries to return him to his family she finds that this simple task is not as easy as she imagines.  This is a gentle ghost story just strange enough to undermine our expectations but familiar enough to imagine ourselves in the same predicament. It does what all good short stories do and captures a whole lifetime in an instant and although the reader has to work to get to the final twist in the story, the trouble is worth it. The writer creates an engaging and believable world full of longing and regret.

Second Prize: Hara-kiri       – Richard Stephenson                         

Another story where a familiar world becomes something completely unexpected and the reader is shaken out of complacency into a world altogether darker and more unsettling. The writer paces the narrative with care starting by establishing the familiar banality of office life where spreadsheets and data are analysed in detail and where one badly misjudged decision can bring down a corporation. So far, so familiar, but our sense of equilibrium is challenged by events in the story and the elegance of Japanese ritual combines with British stiff upper lip to take a dark turn, which lingers in the reader’s mind long after the story has ended.

Third Prize: Old – Marcia Woolf                                                                                       

This was a moving story where moment by moment emotions find themselves poised on a knife’s edge as though one wrong word or move could break the carefully wrought tension.  This matches the content and tone of the story which takes place in the aftermath of a funeral where long held secrets remain stubbornly unresolved. Despite the final confrontation between mother and son being a little too predictable which tends to lessen the tension overall, the story nevertheless has credibility and honesty which would easily connect with a reader.

Highly Commended: Stranger, Stranger – Robert Kibble                                          

Nothing is quite as it seems in this story where a parent’s worst nightmare is realised as a child disappears in the London Underground.  There are some good narrative decisions here – the first person narrative voice creates genuine warmth and honesty and the use of the immediate present holds the reader in the grip of the narrator’s fears. Bringing in a second first person narrative does slightly undermine the control of the narrative, it being hard to convince of two personal stories in such a short space of time, but genuine promise in the writing here all the same.


If Walls Could Talk – Pamela Trudie Hodge,

Parka Billy – Juliet Hill

Poetry 2017 Results

Note From Organiser

Another busy year for our little international poetry competition, and it was truly international with many entries from France, Germany, Australia and other parts of the globe.

The standard as ever was exemplary and the skim down to the shortlist was difficult with well over 300 fine examples of poetry pouring in. This time round Romance was NOT the common theme, instead a wide array of themes, tones and styles graced our eyes and moved our emotions; there really are some talented people out there.

In the end though, this years judge Carole Baldock had the final say and her report is below.


SWC Annual International Poetry Competition 2017 Judges Report

According to some people, there is a difference between competition poems and those submitted to a magazine – can’t see it myself, because in both instances, the focus is on the best work. As to what is best, that’s always subjective. As is humour, which is where we’ll start.

I have been known to point out that all too often, Orbis seems to be full of doom and gloom so the light-hearted is greeted with open arms, and publication. That said, humour is a tricky thing to master but what’s interesting is that it’s invariably in rhyme, and as some of you may know, Orbis is one of the few magazines which continue to publish such work – I love a good rhyme.

Incidentally, once you’re down to a shortlist, most submissions unfortunately rule themselves out through the tiniest of details – or maybe it’s a case of choosing a judge who tends somewhat towards nit-picking…But like they say: shame to spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar, in particular when it’s a little something which can easily be remedied, such as spelling; grammar; inconsistent layout etc – yes, the dreaded semicolon, or omission thereof, should be in that list.

For example, the poem I found the most amusing was not labelled with ‘H’ but even though technically disqualified, it deserves an Honorary Mention.

‘Trumpery, Trumpety-Trump’ by Grahame Lloyd

Runner-up: the vast majority of humorous poems use rhyme because it adds punch. This used partial rhyme, which I am not generally a fan of since it can be jarring but it works well here. And such a daft idea, with an incongruous twist.

‘The Man in the Red Sombrero’ by J Gorman

The winner of the Humour prize could not really be faulted, except that the poem deserved a more interesting title. But it sauntered along jauntily so there was no sense of the poet desperately seeking for words which sound the same instead of focusing on imagery and language – let alone being humorous. A clever comment on Society, all the more so for not preaching, and the message was conveyed with a great deal of wit, and puns: eg, ‘down at heel’; ‘poor old soul’. And a clever twist at the end.

‘Peggotty-Sue’ by A K S Shaw


Main Prizes

Honourable Mention

‘A Blue Time’ by Judy Drazin

A very personal poem, extremely moving. It dealt with a difficult subject with memorable delicacy. And you could argue that the often seemingly indiscriminate line breaks making it a somewhat disjointed read were appropriate, given the theme. Nonetheless, it may have had more impact with less of a distraction if the rhyme scheme had been consistent and line endings were more logical and effective, used to add focus with stronger words rather than ‘a’ or ‘my’.


‘Bombs Don’t Fall’ by Scott Elder


‘Baby Sheep’ by Leo Holloway

One, richly painted, the other, plain speaking; the former, on fairly familiar territory; the other portraying a surreal landscape – no, I did not quite get the latter but there again, one of my favourite pieces of advice about poetry: you don’t have to understand a poem to appreciate it. It also had a stronger – stranger – conclusion; the former, again, may have worked better with some lines the other way round.

In both cases, I could complain about the use of dashes: seemed to be used mainly to replace punctuation rather than reserved to add emphasis/drama; because 1 of them seemed superfluous, the other had less of an effect. And one misplaced capital letter in the former but with both, I could not fault the line endings nor the use of language – marvellous metaphors in the former: ‘lambs scuttling on salad-server legs’; stark comments in the latter: ‘The wind was ever from the north’. Both, in their own way, were heart-felt, and so beautifully crafted, they have the same effect on the reader.


‘I will buy a trunk’ by Cathy Whittaker

So what was I looking for? Originality: ideas, imagery and language, and the winning poem caught my attention right from the start – although maybe an unfair advantage since I happen to know Whitehaven. But still, pretty flawless, even transcending a full stop which should have been a comma. And there were a couple of line endings I could quibble about, while a couple of stanzas may have been more effective swapped around.

Nevertheless, it was written with considerable authority and verve, successfully transforming the everyday (garage full of tools) into the extraordinary with some striking metaphors: ‘nightmares squared like maps’. Based, sort of, on ‘pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag’, it effortlessly manages to avoid reading like a list, conjuring up memories, good and bad, being full of vivid imagery and ideas, often very wittily: ‘I’ll think of a number which is not my birthday’. Above all, it is that very rare thing: a happy poem.

As I was taught, many years ago, studying for a degree in Librarianship, one of the golden rules of business is getting it right the first time, every time, although, fair enough, that’s extremely, perhaps impossibly, stringent. And should never, ever be applied to computers of course.

But the finalists can rest assured, they passed this text with flying colours. And authority; work which has been a labour of love but in being expertly crafted, read effortlessly: entertaining and often educational. And something which it would be a pleasure to consider for publication in Orbis.

SWC International Short Story Competition 2016 Results

2016 Story Competition Roundup

This was an excellent year for entries and the shortlisters had a lot of trouble sifting out the final batch from the hundreds received. This year’s most distant entry was from Australia, with Cyprus being the next closest, the majority coming from the south of the UK. The favourite themes this year were ‘Ghosts’ (inevitably), ‘War’ and of course ‘Unlikely Romance’ which always gets our hearts pumping.

Of course a year of SWCSSC cannot go by without a spot of controversy, this time in the form of a very short entry that was practically a poem, but was accepted as a type of flash fiction after much debate.

In the end though, no matter a stories credentials or history, our Chief Judge has the last say and this year it is respected sci-fi author Robert Scott-Norton who has agreed to fill those heavy boots and tell us who has the honour of rising up from the literary mire to win this year’s comp.

To Read Winning Entries Click Here

Chief Judge’s Comments – Robert Scott-Norton

Third Place – The Dissolution by Theresa Curnow

A single setting. A man and his mother, and something bad outside the boarded up windows. A dead father who needs to be buried. This is bleak, yes, but the writer held my attention through this darkness. The characters were simple and true. There is no happy ending here; the story tracks on to its inevitable conclusion—but that scarcely matters.

There is an almost forgivable mini exposition dump towards the end that unbalanced things for me, but that ultimately doesn’t detract from an enjoyable read.

Second Place  – Maria’s Curse by Charles Warren

There’s a quest and a knight and a beast—there’s always a monster to be slain. In this tale we have a story within a story and it just about gets away with it because the author brings colour to the setting and characters. I felt like I was there, listening to the old woman recount her story. Description is handled well, with a strong sense of time and place created.

The final reveal is perhaps inevitable. The old woman archetype at play here was never going to be up to any good. And there’s a slight issue with pacing, I suspect due to the story within a story conceit. Those quibbles aside, this stood out from the pack as a strong runner-up.

First Place- An Act of War by Valerie Thompson

This had me from the first line. ‘Everyone was frightened, except me.’ OK, with such a strong hook, there’s every risk that the story fails to deliver, but the author delivered an impactful tale that drew me in immediately.

There’s a war. People are scared. What happens when the enemy gets a little too close for comfort? And what if you’ve got others in your care? Children?

It takes a young girl to solve the problem and her solution is all there in the story, but it still came as a surprise. The author obviously has a great understanding of feeding the plot.

With such a strong premise, the author had a great foundation for a tale that explored the ideas of losing hope and innocence. Language was tight and flowed simply and clean. Descriptions were evocative and characters brought to life with an effortless ease. Just enough of a sketch to make these characters breathe.

An Act of War is a worthy winner for this contest.

Southport Writers’ Circle Annual Poetry Competition 2016 Results

Note from competition organiser:

This year was a good one for entries, with some very high quality poems throughout the entire batch and many which could be worthy of prizes. Each respective poet should be proud of the work they have hopefully cast into the world and we have been glad to read each and every one. This year, the most distant entry came from California and the closest from about two roads over from where the group meets. The most obscure topic for a poem was an odd ditty about slippers and the most common topic was (surprise) relationships. Another noteworthy fact about this year over others was the number of people who took advantage of the 4 for £10 offer, boosting the numbers of very good verse we had to peruse significantly. Overall, the standard as ever was excellent and we wish you all well for future competitions.

 Judge’s Report from Lindsey Holland

It’s been an honour to judge the SWC Annual International Poetry Competition. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries, many of which stood out to me for their moments of insight, precise images or overall poetic sensitivity.

I’ll begin with the humour prize.

Humour in poetry is hard to get right. I was looking for poems which didn’t depend on easy rhymes and which showed a love of language and detail rather than simply cracking a joke.

The winning poem stood out for its narrative and detail as well as for its imaginative subject matter. We’re lulled into a sense of everydayness, and although we sense that something unusual will happen, the twist is surprising.

The winner is Pamela Trudie Hodge for her poem ‘Be Careful Who You Pick Up’

The main prize entries impressed me for their variety of style and subject. I was looking for poems which demanded to be read and read again, which took an idea and did something new with it. I was also looking for poems with focus—I wanted to have a clear sense of what the poem was about—and which left me either with strong visual images or with a sense that I had experienced something powerful and authentic. It’s perhaps needless to say that I was also looking for poetic technique: control of rhythm, form, voice and language.

I’ve chosen to commend one poem. This poem stayed with me for the way it links two events, and for it’s precise use of language. The images are strong and when I thought back through all the poems I’d read, it was one I remembered each time.

Well done to Kitty Donnelly for her poem ‘Migration’.

My top three poems emerged quite early on but that’s not to say that my final decision was an easy one. Each of these poems truly is a winner. I see much to admire in all three of them. I’m excited to be able to bring them the attention they deserve.

My 3rd Prize goes to a poem which stood out for its confident voice and for the poet’s ability to add layer upon layer of detail. There’s a grittiness to the images but then they suddenly take off, using fantastical or mythological metaphor. Working class lives are made beautiful in this poem. It works on another level too, using a quotation to sensitively develop an idea, and threading this through the poem. The language is precise and steers clear of sentiment.

Well done to Peter Burgham for his poem ‘The Putter-Togetherers’.

2nd Prize goes to a poem which impressed me for the gentleness of its observation and keen eye for significant detail. There’s a curiosity in this poem and an unwillingness to accept its subject at face value. It’s an ekphrastic poem, and I think this is often an easy type of poem to write. this poem is successful because it doesn’t simply describe the painting, instead it brings it to life, questioning what goes on before and after the painted moment, looking for the real lives behind the canvas. Technically it’s a very adept poem: the language is spare but exact and the images are strong.

Well done to John Clarke for his poem ‘Pouring Milk for the Master’

My 1st prize and overall winner is a poem which haunted me. The voice is insistent and raw. It’s a brave poem in many ways, both in its subject and in the way it isn’t afraid to stumble, disagree with itself, loop back and forth. The poem questions itself and its subject and then questions again so that in a sense, the questioning is the essence of the poem. There’s something of Keat’s idea of negative capability here: life isn’t all about certainty. The voice of the poem conveys this so authentically—twisting and hesitating, repeating itself—that we could almost be listening to a person speak in the vernacular. But the poem is far more than this too. We’re given carefully chosen images which are surprising and precisely written, from the early stanzas to the final haunting line. The pain in this poem is so raw it’s palpable. There’s also love, fear, loss and determination in it. This poem would not leave me alone. I have great pleasure in announcing it as the winner.

Huge congratulations to Mary-Clare Newsham for her poem ‘Bed-Lined Corridor’

I’d like to thank you again for the honour of judging this competition, and also to congratulate you all for providing me with hours of reading wonderful poetry.


The local prize was pulled due to insufficient interest and those entries put in for the main prizes. If you entered specifically with the ‘L’ mark and you wish for a refund on your entry fee, please contact us.

Short Story Competition 2015 Results

All winning stories available to read HERE

CRITIQUE by  Chief Judge: Dennis Conlon

Thank you for asking me to judge your competition again. The standard was very high two years ago and I enjoyed the task so much I was happy to undertake it again. This year, the standard was even higher. It’s pleasing to see there are so many good writers around. Naturally, even with a strict marking scheme, such as you use, the result is always going to be subjective. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with the choice of winner. Apologies to all those who didn’t win especially to those who thought they should. There were many good pieces that didn’t make it for a variety of reasons. As with any competition of this nature, there was a great degree of differing styles and abilities. Some appealed, some didn’t. Some pieces were very well written but then, as might be expected, spoiled by the usual mistakes, POV being the most regular. It’s difficult to empathise with a protagonist if the writer suddenly jumps into another character’s head. There was a quantity of stories where the writer was unable to RUE, ‘resist the urge to explain’ and the usual smattering of over exposition. Having said all that, there was also a good deal of promise.


A very poignant tale that reminded me of John Boyn’s “Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”. It had an interesting structure, using the story of three Wartime children to follow the journey of a doll. It deceptively draws you in to think you’re reading a simple children’s story before subtly revealing the horror of the Death Camp. The motif of the doll’s description keeps us in the story, bringing together the three children and creates a character of the doll itself.

SECOND PLACE – “INVISIBLE” by Helen Matthews

Well-written story, perfectly formatted, always a good pointer to any publisher’s reader. Astute use of character to set up the plot, totally believable, best highlighted by the introduction of the Polish security guard, the key that secures the clever denouement. At no point before the reveal is it predictable. The writing is of good quality, creating a well-structured page-turner.

THIRD PLACE – “NOT WITH A BANG” by Eileen Gilmour

Very cleverly told with a unique style that demands the reader’s attention. The pace is very well controlled and the dialogue and language really suits the piece. Easy to empathise with the protagonist character, even when she appears to get her comeuppance.


A really well written page turner, would’ve definitely been placed had the female character’s motivation been better disguised.


Although it wasn’t placed due to the story not being strong enough, I couldn’t let this piece pass without mentioning the writing, which was extraordinary.


Unfortunately, this competition doesn’t include a ‘Humour’ section or this would’ve surely been the top contender.


Another really well told page turner with very satisfactory ending.


Very clever

SHORT LISTED – “THE WATCHER” by Frank Catchpole

Well told


Accomplished ending


Nice fairy tale


Quirky well delivered story


Strong characterisation, would’ve made good opening to a novel

SWC Poetry Competition 2015 Results

Thanks to one and all who entered! Once again we were overwhelmed by the volume and quality of submitted entries, though this year the ‘international’ part of the competition only stretched to Ireland and Spain. Nevertheless, every poem was scrutinised, shortlisted and submitted to the chief judge who in time gave us what he considered to be the best of the bunch. Comments are below, most winning entries will be available to read No longer available.

Chief Judges Report

It is often said that poetry is a subjective force, waxing and waning according to those who look, listen and dwell upon it and in many regards that holds true. The standard of entries this year upholds that thought, as no two were alike in form and function and were nearly all without a doubt extremely well written.

There were songs of woe, ridiculous assertions, attempts to capture the essence of base sensations and at least one that made me blush somewhat. But as ever with the flurry of competition, individual snowflakes must be found and plucked from their brethren and be presented as slightly more snowflakey than the rest (which is where the comparison falls down). Out of several hundred entries, we whittle down to the following.

Humour Prize

Farewell to the Barber – Tony Oswick

Short, sweet, to the point and with definite strains of the familiar, this piece makes use of occasionally quite abrupt rhymes and has one wobble with the metre, but certainly expresses perfectly well the secret agony of the oncoming baldy. Some might say a topic that strikes close to my own heart, to which I can now hide my cans of spray on hair, point to this poem and proudly say ‘It’s not just me!’

Local Prize

Body Polish – Jacqueline Pemberton

An unusual, yet compelling piece of work, on one level simply a lady(?) having a wash and contemplating her navel as she does so. On another level, this speaks of rebirth by water, the action of sea and effort transforming the object into a wonderous thing. On a third level, the impression of some form of beach debris being worn down, polished and refreshed into a natural piece of art. Only the original poet probably knows what this is actually about, and that is perfectly fine, highly enjoyable regardless.

1st Prize

Gran’s Living-Room Triptych – Roger Elkin

This may be a contentious winner, but this set of three brief studies on the grace of a grandmother and her possessions speak volumes about family, necessity, personal taste, respect and is positively oozing with whispered backstory, given as subtle word choices and overt examples, hinting at a history most chequered. Each section focuses on the choice of a particular painting upon her wall, using the very description of the paintings’ contents to enable the true subject, the grandmother to express her life story through her choices. Excellent.

2nd Prize

The Elephant Game – Angela Platt

One gets the impression this one is based on true events, of a child getting a bit too up close and personal with a (less than) gentle behemoth and the strength of a mothers love winning through. Whether it is or isn’t, the poet captures the mothers observations, panic and triumph very well, with some very strong language choices (‘reptile fury spits’ is wonderful). I would have preferred a more consistent structure, but good nevertheless.

3rd Prize

Bearing Fruit – Val Ormrod

An idea oft used is about ideas themselves and this short piece does well to equate the spirit of idea with fleeting fruit, which one day might stop growing (a terrifying prospect!). Inspiration lost falls to rot and the overall arch of the Seasons peeks through the words, the life of an idea hidden in soft juicy flesh. Very nice.

Highly Commended

An Illustrated Book – Angela Platt


Three Strange Birds – Anne Harding

Angel of the North – Peter Cash


Journey – Ailie Wallace

Goldfinches – Anthony J. Matthews

Eruption – Frances Whiteman

Short Story 2014 Results

Once again the standard of entries to the Short Story competition was astounding, with many tales of intrigue, romance, adventure and at least one with pirates in it. We had entrants from France, America. Australia and others (one entrant who hailed from very far away wrote in a flawless Yorkshire accent which was impressive), all of whom added colour to the overwhelming pile of manuscripts that we received.

However, only so many people can win and after a lengthy sifting process our final judge picked the top three as well as some Highly Commended entries. See below for winners, judges comments, and as ever, any highlighted titles can be clicked on to link to the winning stories themselves.


First – ‘Before After’ by Michelle Brown

Great title, and an intriguing opening that pulls the reader in. A moving story about a life event that, for the narrator, will change things forever. A story about life beginning and life ending. Very well written with some memorable phrases. Good tension in the relationship between the narrator, her partner and her sister. Left me thinking about the story long after I’d finished reading.


Second –‘Tuesdays’ by Carly Schabowski

An engaging story that pulls you in and makes you care about the characters, written fluently with good style.  Vivid, atmospheric descriptions with realistic, believable characters and good dialogue. A surprising but apt ending that leaves you wanting to know more.


Third – ‘Damp Grass and Forward Rolls’ by Heather Allison

An absolutely delightful story involving two charming elderly characters. The story is alive with engaging and amusing dialogue, with the final promise of a deliciously unlikely romance. Very enjoyable and well written.


Highly Commended:

‘Address Unknown’ by Joyce Walker

‘Cycle Lane’ by Sue Hoffmann

‘Eye of the Beholder’ by Bruce Harris

‘Letters from Happy Land’ by Richard Kelly