Best Wishes For the End of 2023!

Thank you to all who have entered competitions and attended this year. Much writing goodness heard and shared by all! We look forward to the stories, poems, essays and everything in between as the group heads towards 2024.

We return on Thursday 11th January at Parenting 2000 for 8pm. The first meeting of the year is usually a ‘kick start’ of activities to get the creative juices flowing. So, take out those new sparkly biros and jotters, dust off the type writer or fire up the laptop – time to get writing!

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SWC Annual Open Short Story Competition 2023

First prize: £200      Second prize: £100     Third prize: £50

Closing date: 31st October 2023 £3 per story, or £10 for 4


Chief Judge: John Maguire

John Maguire is a writer, playwright, historic walking-tours operator, community activist and Creative Director of ArtsGroupie CIC.

ArtsGroupie aims to make the arts accessible to all. Developing theatre productions, heritage walk tours and creative workshops taking them out to communities in the Northwest. CIC ArtsGroupie’s website 

John has had nine of his plays staged professionally, including KITTY: Queen of the Washhouse, a play that revisited the life of public washhouse pioneer Katherine Wilkinson. Two of his plays opened the Sir Ken Dodd Performance Gardens at Shakespeare North Playhouse in July 2022. The Kitty Wilkinson play about community cohesion and activism sold out St Georges Hall for the sixth time in October 2022 and went on a mini tour in March 2023 to celebrate International Women’s Day, playing Manchester, Liverpool and for three nights at the Kings Head theatre, Islington, London.  It has recently played to sell out audiences at the Cockpit Theatre in Shakespeare North and has been performed a total of 28 times. It is set to return in 2024 with plans to take it to Ireland.

He has written over 135 articles for online international magazine Ten Million Hardbacks and two children’s books, Sophie and the Spider and The Liver Bird. (Recently adapted into an interactive outdoor theatre experience for parks).

He project managed the Liverpool’s 2021 Year of Writing with Writing on the Wall 2021-2022, running diverse writing events, workshops, activities across Liverpool and co-ordinating a writing bus tour to low- socio economic areas. There were also commissions and various competitions, for all ages and abilities. A full report can be found here:

The creative content throughout the year was also digitally compiled and displayed on arts partners websites and social media platforms using the tag #LiverpoolWrites

John is currently the History Group research lead, working with the Liverpool Irish Festival two days a week on a five year programme to develop assets around the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail. The first year culminated in October 2022 with the publication of a book, REVIVE and a presentation ‘A Research Relay’ by the volunteer team about their work at National Museums, Liverpool.

John is a facilitator with a strong track record of creative engagement and experience in socially engaged practices.  He has fifteen years’ experience of facilitating writing workshops in schools and in communities.

As a white Irish, LGBT+, working class, neuro-divergent writer, from a low-socio economic background John has worked hard to establish himself in the arts overcoming many barriers.

Full Rules: Please Read Carefully

  • Your entry should be an unpublished, original story on any theme of up to 2000 words. A story has been previously published if it has been on an internet site or in an independent publication.
  • Do not put your name or any other identifying information on your story (including in headers/footers).  It must have a suitable title, which should be both appropriate and interesting.
  • There is no set theme or style for the competition.
  • Entries in English, please (dialect is allowed).
  • You DO NOT need an entry form. Send us a separate cover sheet with each story’s title and word count. You MUST include your name, postal address, telephone number and e-mail address. If you don’t, we can’t let you know if you have won a prize.
  • For internet entries: Put the above cover sheet details in the body of the email. Include PayPal ref. number OR put the names of all entered stories in the Comments box on PayPal when paying.
  • Please use basic formatting in your files. Any sidebars, headers, footers, inset images, illegible fonts or unusual layouts may result in your electronic entry being rejected.
  • Submissions should be in any of .doc, .docx, rich text or .odf file types ONLY when attaching your entry file(s) to the email.  Please do not use .pages or .pdf files unless you have no other alternative.
  • No individual correspondence will be entered into regarding receipt of works/payments. Please do not send any material to confirm delivery, or use Recorded Delivery. Please ensure you attach correct postage and use correct stamps (see Royal Mail information Southport Writers’ Circle will not be able to retrieve mail held at the Sorting Office for want of correct postage.
  • Once your entry has been submitted, any entrant contacting the judges for any reason that is deemed to be an attempt to circumvent the judging process is 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 2023/ Jan 2024, results will be published on this site thereafter. There may be a delay publishing results and/or winning stories depending on circumstances and permissions. We will have an Awards Evening where winning entries are read out, and successful writers will be invited to join (and can attend virtually if desired).
  • 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 for each story, or £10 for 4
  • (electronic entries have an additional processing fee.). Postal entries must be accompanied by cheque or postal order for the correct amount, made out to Southport Writers’ Circle.

Send postal entries to:

SWC Short Story Competition

5 Carrwood Park




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Joan Nicolson Award 2023

Joan Nicolson was one of the original founders of the Southport Writers’ Circle. She created the circle after realising she could not live in a town without a writing group, and set up her own! Now, 50 years on, we are still going strong.

Each year we have an internal competition for members in relation to a theme. The prize is the coveted Joan Nicolson mini trophy to possess for a year and bragging rights.

Our guest judge this year is the lovely Hayley Doyle

“I grew up in Liverpool watching old movies with my Nan, putting on my own shows in her living room. Ballet and tap classes beckoned. As did singing in old folk’s homes. I was never without a book to read or a Magna-doodle to draw the stories I was creating in my head.

I became the first person in my family to go to university, graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) with a BA (hons) in Acting. London was the next big step (with an enjoyable side-step to Dartford where I played Tiger Lily alongside Brian Blessed’s Captain Hook in Peter Pan). Many auditions later, I made my West End debut at the Prince of Wales Theatre playing Ali in Mamma Mia!

It was during the 600+ performances of Mamma Mia! that I started to write my first novel. I’d written monologues before, and been part of the creative team on new plays at the Edinburgh Fringe, but I wanted to see if I could get from Chapter One to The End. I fell in love with writing pages upon pages of one story and I’d rush home from the theatre at night to write into the early hours. But I wanted to hone my craft. A few years later, I gained an MA in Creative Writing: The Novel from Brunel University, under the supervision of Fay Weldon. I won the Curtis Brown Award for my dissertation, which was the first 50,000 words of a novel.

Now, I’m a mum to a little boy and a baby girl, and the author of two published novels; Never Saw You Coming and Love, Almost. I’m always engrossed in creating one story, whilst keeping my mind open to the next possibility. There are beautiful stories everywhere. Sometimes, we just need help finding them.”

She has set the theme of: Time Travel

This challenge asks our writers to keep to 1000 words in any genre and to begin with some dialogue! Let’s see how the Circle tackle this…

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Southport Writers' Circle