Creative Writing Competition 2020

The Winners!

The judges have spoken! Bali and Chitra very much enjoyed reading all of the work and although a prize-giving event was impossible due to Covid restrictions, they recorded messages for the participants. We’re very grateful for all their hard work in choosing the winners from the hundreds of stories an poems we received.

Prize-giving and book launch

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a prize-giving event will not be possible this year, and so prizes and copies of the book will be sent out to the pupils’ schools.

For pupils who left their school in July, we can send prizes to their home address OR to their new school. Please get in touch to make any arrangements.

Winning poems and stories will feature in the paperback and eBook editions of ‘This Hidden Island’.

Winners list

Winners are listed alphabetically by school.

Arnhem Wharf Connie He Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Ben Jonson Mohammed Yameen Hussain Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Blue Gate Fields Infants Sameeha Begum Year 1 and 2 Poetry
Blue Gate Fields Infants Tasfiyah Marwah Year 1 and 2 Poetry
Blue Gate Fields Juniors Adam Rahman Year 3 and 4 Poetry
Blue Gate Fields Juniors Sohana Abbas Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Bonner primary Ivy Tighe Year 5 and 6 Poetry
Bygrove Primary Umaira Chowdhury Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Central Foundation Girls School Fateha Sonali Jahan Year 7+ Poetry
Central Foundation Girls School Safaa Islam Year 7+  Short Story
Christ Church C of E Primary Odysseus Rhys-Taylor Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Christchurch Primary Amira Miah Year 1 and 2  Short Story
Clara Grant Primary Aleena Ali Year 5 and 6 Poetry
Columbia Primary Ada Joy Dalgleish Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Cubitt Town Junior Jennifer Scantlebury Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Cubitt Town Junior Unaizah Chowdhury Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Culloden Primary Olivier Badzioch Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Globe Primary Amelie Gilian Isenburg Daw Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Globe Primary Tanushe Ziesche Pacarada Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Guardian Angels Primary Elena Pellicci Year 1 and 2  Short Story
Halley Primary Ronnie Davis Year 5 and 6 Poetry
Halley Primary Saarah Ahmed Year 5 and 6 Poetry
Harbinger Primary Abida Akhtar Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Home educated Kezia Burden Year 7+ Poetry
Home educated Muhammed Aadil Year 1 and 2  Short Story
Kobi Nazrul Primary Fariha Firdaus Sayed Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Marion Richardson Primary Fayqah Salum Omar Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Marner Primary Maryam Miah Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Osmani Primary School Mohammed Ali Year 3 and 4 Poetry
Osmani Primary School Janan Ahmed Year 3 and 4 Poetry
Osmani Primary School Kamran Ahmed Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Osmani Primary School Maliha Islam Year 3 and 4 Poetry
Osmani Primary School Mohammed Ali Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Osmani Primary School Sarah Jannat Ali Year 3 and 4 Poetry
Seven Mills Primary Kelsey-leigh Reynolds Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Sir John Cass Foundation Secondary Sazid Hoque Year 7+ Short Story
St Elizabeth Primary  Michelle Rollins Ezeja Year 5 and 6 Poetry
St Johns Primary Hannah Richards Year 5 and 6  Short Story
St Johns Primary Lucy Richards Year 3 and 4 Short Story
St Luke’s Primary Suhasini Shetty Year 1 and 2  Short Story
St Mary and St Michael Primary Felipe Vieira Santos Year 3 and 4 Short Story
St Mary and St Michael Primary Jacob Lees Year 3 and 4 Short Story
St Mary and St Michael Primary McKenzie J Rutland Year 3 and 4 Short Story
St Paul’s Whitechapel Primary Ali Ahmad Year 1 and 2  Short Story
St Paul’s Whitechapel Primary Melino Momin Year 1 and 2  Short Story
St Paul’s Whitechapel Primary Ibraheem Sadeek Year 1 and 2 Poetry
St Saviors Primary Charlie Payne Year 1 and 2  Short Story
Stebon Primary Inaya Rahman Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Swanlea School Zareena Hannah Raynor Year 7+ Short Story
Thomas Buxton Primary Ruben Borg-Jones Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Virginia Primary Aqilah Malik Year 5 and 6 Poetry
Virginia Primary Jubayra Khatun Year 5 and 6  Short Story
Wellington Primary Jinan Ahmed Year 5 and 6 Poetry
Wellington Primary Rayan Hoque Year 1 and 2 Poetry
Wellington Primary Arifah Akhtar Year 3 and 4 Short Story
Woolmore Primary Tanisha Hassan Miah Year 5 and 6 Poetry


The judges’ decision is final.


The Tower Hamlets Creative Writing Competition is an annual event for schools in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for students aged six years to sixteen. Conceived in 2004 by Tower Hamlets Gifted and Talented strand of the Excellence in Cities programme, it has been run by Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service since 2011 with the aims of promoting wider reading and literacy, and to encourage young people to express themselves through the written word. Research carried out during the 2018 competition showed that pupils participating in the competition and in the author workshops benefited by gaining confidence in their writing ability and developing greater insight into the issues raised by the competition themes.

We are thrilled to announce that Arts Council England has again awarded Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service with a grant to enhance our annual Creative Writing Competition with author-led creative writing workshops for schools, Idea Stores and home-educated children.

In order to take advantage of these free author workshops, schools need to enter the competition by “buying” it via SLAonline (S0933 – Creative Writing Competition 2020) and letting us know who is to lead on organising the workshops.

The grant also enables us to produce a book of the winning entries.

This Hidden Island

Our Guest Judges

Every year the competition is judged by a childrens author or authors. This year Chitra Soundar will be reading the Year 1 to Year 4 entries and Bali Rai will be judging the stories and poems from year 5 and up. Both authors will be awarding prizes in June!

Chitra Soundar is a closet clown, consummate liar, writer, teacher and storyteller. As a kid, she has danced in a Bollywood movie, acted on stage with her neighbourhood friends and disliked Maths because it never added up.

She has over 30 books in print worldwide, including the Farmer Falgu picture book series and A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Wisdom. In the UK she’s published by Lantana Publishing, Otter-Barry Books, Walker Books and Red Robin Books.

As a child, Bali Rai dreamt of playing football for Liverpool, being Bob Marley and becoming a writer.

He has since written over 35 books, including the Tales from Devana High and Soccer Squad Series. Now Or Never : A Dunkirk Story was shortlisted for the 2019 Tower Hamlets Book Award

Theme : This Hidden Island

There is an island waiting to be found.

If it does not exist, then it is up to you to shape it.

Give it form, bring it into the world.

Where is it?

What is found on it?

Who, or what, lives on it?

What stories does it hold?

Tell us one of them.

You can interpret the theme This Hidden Island in any way you wish. We’ve collected possible ideas here.

What are the distinctive cultures and features of  islands and groups of islands?

  • The people and culture
  • History
  • Contact with other cultures including colonial history
  • Myths, legends and folklore
  • Animals and nature
  • Geographical features and climate

Story choices

  • What genre and style do you want to write in? Genres include; Adventure, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Horror
  • Who are the main characters and what are they doing in the story?
  • Because we don’t have long to get involved in your story – how do you make the reader interested in the characters or their situations?
  • If it’s a poem, what sort of poem is it? Is it in rhyme, a narrative poem? Is it meant to be read aloud?

 Things to consider

  • Islands can be real or imaginary
  • Or a mixture of both!
  • There are millions of islands in the world and people still haven’t been to them all
  • Islands can be isolated and alone, or part of something larger
  • Many islands are unique, with life or features and culture that are found nowhere else
  • Islands can be difficult to find and travel to
  • They can also be difficult to leave!

Examples of real world Islands and archipelagos

  • Polynesia
  • New Zealand
  • The British Isles (soon to be minus Scotland and Ireland?)
  • Hawaii
  • Easter Island
  • Scottish Islands including Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands
  • The Caribbean
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Ross Island (Antarctica)
  • The Faroes
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Philippines
  • Australia
  • Madagascar
  • Greek islands
  • The Isle of Dogs
  • Surtsey
  • Svalbard (Norway)

Popular themes associated with stories about or featuring islands

  • Pirates
  • Treasure
  • Voyages and quests
  • Fantasy
  • Adventures
  • Identity and culture
  • Isolation
  • Isolationism / delusions of superiority
  • Being trapped
  • Finding oneself
  • Welcoming strangers
  • Rejecting strangers
  • Strange places
  • The unknown
  • Returning home

Examples of books and stories featuring, or set on, islands (real and imagined).

We’ve listed some of the themes of these books that are related to the use of islands as settings. These themes can inspire pupils’ own work.

Picture books

  • The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (Australia and colonialism/ invasion)
  • The Katie Morag Stories by Mairi Hedderwick (Scotland and island life – fictional but inspired by real islands)
  • The Little Island by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (UK – a satirical look at Brexit and the perils of isolationism)
  • Gregory Cool by Caroline Binch (Caribbean, identity and contrasting places)
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Imaginary places and monsters)
  • The Island by Armin Greder (Imaginary and expressionist – exploring isolationism and prejudice against immigrants and refugees)
  • King Kong by Anthony Browne (Imaginary islands and taking someone from their home)
  • The Lighthouse Keeper series by Ronda and David Armitage (the problems of living in a remote lighthouse)
  • Three Monsters by David McKee (welcoming strangers / sharing / acceptance)
  • Jeremy Button : The boy that Darwin returned home by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali (removing someone from their home, and returning home)
  • The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton (mysteries, fantasy and living islands)
  • Archipelago : An Atlas of Imagined Islands by Huw Lewis-Jones (An imagined atlas created by a range of illustrators)

Myths and Legends

  • Atlantis (Lost Islands -Various)
  • The Odyssey and the stories of Odysseus (Epic journey home and discoveries – Greek)
  • Brexit (a pyrrhic victory)
  • Jason and the Argonauts (Epic journey on a quest -Greek)
  • Stories of Maui and other Polynesian myths (Fantastical inhabitants of islands – Polynesia and also Hawaii and New Zealand)
  • Sinbad (sea voyages to islands – Arabic)


  • The Earthsea stories by Ursula Le Guin (Magic , fantasy and quests)
  • Peter Pan by J M Barrie (Pirates and imaginary lands)
  • Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo (Japan and isolation)
  • The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kieran Millwood Hargrave (Fantasy and mythology)
  • The Island at the end of everything by Kieran Millwood Hargrave (Banishment and journeys)
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolke (Isolation)
  • An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls (Contemporary Treasure hunting)
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Pirates and treasure hunting)
  • The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho Yen (An urban ‘island’ – being trapped in a tower block)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C S Lewis (Fantasy sea voyage and quest)
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (Fantastical journeys)
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Dinosaurs and science fiction)
  • Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaugrean (Being stranded and survival on a remote island : based on real events)
  • Oliver and the Seawigs by Phillip Reeve (Explorers and living, moving islands)
  • Meteorite Spoon by Philip Ridley (Excaping to a fantasy island)
  • Tintin and the Black Island by Herge (A mysterious island used by criminals)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (A castle as a wandering island)
  • The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman (Featuring a journey to Svalbard)
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (Lake District, sailing, camping, childhood holiday adventures)

What are the judges looking for?


  • An original approach to the competition theme
  • Good story structure (a beginning, middle and end)
  • Engaging and interesting characters


  • An original approach to the competition theme
  • The power of the poem!
  • Creative use of wordplay and style
  • Use of poetic forms and structure


All entries must be received by the Schools Library Services by the revised deadline date (see top of page)

Prize Giving: Monday 2nd November


  • Entries must be appropriate to the theme!
  • Entries should not be adaptations of other writers’ or poets’ published work (such as stories or films), however alternative versions of fairy tales/ myths and legends will be accepted.
  • All entries must be the entrant’s own work, including all illustrations. All work shortlisted for a prize will be thoroughly checked and plagiarised writing and artwork will be disqualified. Please remind your pupils that copying work isn’t allowed!

Boring but important

  • Entries can be cooperative efforts. Any prizes will be split between the named entrants.
  • Entries without entrant’s full name and competition category will not be eligible for judging.
  • Each page should have the entrant’s full name written clearly on it
  • Entries must be written or typed on one side of the page only
  • Work should be in black or blue ink or text on white paper
  • No decorative fonts unless they directly contribute to the writing/ storytelling
  • If you are illustrating your work, all artwork must be in black and white for consideration for the printed book
  • We will contact all winners via their school (or parents/ carers if home schooled) in May.
  • Work will not be automatically returned to entrants but can be collected on request after the competition closes. The Schools Library Services can take no responsibility for lost or damaged work.

Privacy notice

Commended and winning entries to be published in eBook and print formats. By entering the competition, entrants are giving permission for their work (including their name) to be published and distributed in these formats, and all supplied information including name and contact details to be held by the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services. Copyright on poems and stories will remain with the author(s). Supplied information, including names and contact details, of competition entrants who do not win prizes will not be stored beyond the duration of the event.

Entering The Competition

In 2020 there will be 4 age groups in the competition:

  • Group 1 : Years 1 & 2
  • Group 2 : Years 3 & 4
  • Group 3 : Years 5 & 6
  • Group 4 : Secondary schools

Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd & 3rd places and for commended entries in each category.

To enter

  • Write a short story up to 500 words (KS1/2) and 750 words (KS3)
    • may also be an illustrated story or comic book
  • Write a poem or verse story up to 25 lines (KS1/2) and 35 lines (KS3)
  • Poems and stories must follow the competition theme

Pupils may enter both the short story and poetry categories. The competition deadline is Friday 15th May 2020. 

If you are entering via a participating school entries should be passed to a teacher or school librarian

If you are entering via an Idea Store entries should be handed into an Idea Store member of staff

Parents / carers of home-educated entrants may send work directly or via the Tower Hamlets education safeguarding team.

Entries can be submitted via:

  • emailed as an attachment : OR
  • post: Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services, PDC, 229 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6AB

and must include the information below.

  1. Writer’s full name
  2. Year group (age if home schooled)
  3. School (parents’/ carers’ contact email if home schooled)
  4. Class teacher/ English teacher (parent’s/ carer’s name if home schooled)
  5. The category being entered (select from below)
  • Group 1 : Years 1 & 2 Short Story                         Poetry
  • Group 2 : Years 3 & 4 Short Story                         Poetry
  • Group 3 : Years 5 & 6 Short Story                         Poetry
  • Secondary Short Story                                            Poetry
  1. Title of work (untitled winning entries will be given a title by the competition judges)

Opening Times

Opening times

Term time Monday – Thursday: 9am to 5pm

Fridays and holidays: 9am to 4:30pm

Christmas holiday

23rd December to 1st January : CLOSED