Pennthorpe Prep School, in West Sussex, is thrilled that one of their budding young authors, Henry Cocks, has made it to the finals of the national BBC Radio 2 writing competition, 500 Words 2020. Henry, who is in Year 3, wrote ‘The Grocery Shop Breakout’, which was selected from 135,000 entries to make it through to the final 25 entries in his age category, which will be judged on June 12th. The concept of the competition, which launched in 2011, is super simple. All entrants must pen an original story, no more than 500 words in length, and submit it online.
Pennthorpe’s Headmistress, Mrs Alexia Bolton, caught up with Henry virtually last week to congratulate him, and find out more about his story and his inspiration. Henry’s main character, Otis the Orange, got his name from Henry’s new sausage dog Otis. Henry says of his other characters “I first thought up some facts about each fruit and vegetable, to help create their personalities, and then gave them names that are all alliterations.” Mrs Bolton particularly loved the sour and grumpy character of Lionel the Lemon!
Henry described how he planned the story. “I thought there should be 3 parts to the character’s escape; the first was getting past an old woman, next it got a bit more serious as they had to get past a security guard, and then finally a policeman.” Henry wanted his story to also have elements of humour, which Mrs Bolton certainly enjoyed; from the grumpy old lady getting squirted in the face by Lionel the Lemon, to the policeman slipping on Bob the Banana’s skin!
Henry’s form teacher, Miss Charley Annan, encouraged all the children in Year 3 to enter the competition, and inspired their imaginations by listening to some of the previous years’ 500 Words entries. She shared lots of tips on forming a good structure for a story, starting with considering the characters: “We looked at characters from classic stories that the children knew and then they started to design their own characters by thinking about their appearance and personality.” The children were next encouraged to think about the setting for their stories: “Where would stories containing your characters be most likely to happen? What interesting descriptions could you use when writing about them?” She also challenged the children to “think of problems your characters might face and resolutions for these.” Henry certainly took all this advice on board. His story follows the plight of a group of fruit and vegetable friends, who decided to break free from a lonely and dreary grocers shop in Horsham!
Pennthorpe is delighted that three children from the school, Henry, Holly and Harry, reached the first round of judging in the competition, where their stories were judged by literary agents. Henry’s was chosen to progress from this round on to the final, which in previous years has been judged by celebrities including Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and an impressive author panel.
To celebrate Henry’s achievement of getting to the finals of the competition, Pennthorpe’s Director of Art & Design, Miss Lisa O’Shea created illustrations of Henry’s story, and Art & Design teacher, Mr Julian Smith, designed a professional book for Henry as a souvenir. Mrs Bolton asks Henry to “keep writing!” as she is sure that one day soon we will be buying his books from the shelves of bookshops.
All of the finalist entries are available on the BBC Radio 2 website: https://bbc.in/2zuQWic where they have been narrated by members of the BBC Radio Drama Company. Henry’s story, ‘The Grocery Shop Breakout’ can be found at: https://bbc.in/2LkjVaS. You can also hear from Henry himself at: https://bit.ly/35PxV6a in a short film that Pennthorpe has prepared.