It’s been a grim week. The Grenfell Tower blaze covering newspaper front pages for the third day running is the sort of horror that can’t be put into words.
And it caps off a grim few months, coming just weeks after the terror faced by those at Manchester Arena and in the London Bridge area, all set against the backdrop of a laboured General Election.
So as the headlines remain bleak, it falls to Radio 2 to offer us a shaft of brightness, highlighting the creativity and potential of the younger generation.
Now in its seventh year, the station’s 500 Words competition is the brainchild of Chris Evans – a short story writing contest that asks kids aged 5-13 to pen a tale in under 500 words.
131,798 took up the challenge and today (Friday 16th June) saw 50 finalists (and their proud parents) come together for a grand final at the Tower of London, broadcast live on Evans’ Radio 2 Breakfast Show. Another prestigious venue (previous years have seen Shakespeare’s Globe and St James’s Palace play host) and a new bunch of A-list narrators (David Williams, David Suchet, Noma Dumezweni and more), who gathered in the historic landmark to read out the six winning stories.
Host Chris Evans at the 500 Words final
As ever, each composition shone with talent. Every year this event leaves me marvelling at the skill, nuance and imagination of young people – some just five years old. The 2017 batch of winning stories featured magical beards, tap dancing slugs, chilling limericks and – most memorable of all – a haunting tale of homelessness and hunger with a twist that left me wiping away my tears.
In dark times, there is comfort to be found in the enchanting power of fiction and escapism – and the fact that there are young people in this country who will always be capable of conjuring a little bit of magic with the power of their pens.
Read entries from all 50 finalists on the 500 Words website