I’ll admit it, I’m biased. I’ve been gladly roped into plenty of literary festivals over the years but only one has sent me home with a box of fresh-baked brownies: Henley.
Another reason to love the festival is its packed children’s programme. I’ve never understood why so many literary festivals overlook junior readers, but Henley is a happy exception. Better yet, in 2015 they teamed up with sponsor Dragonfly Teas (yep, another reason for my Henley crush) to launch a nationwide children’s writing competition. Now, it’s back for a fourth year and you still have a couple of weeks in which to get your kids’ creative juices flowing.
The Dragonfly Tea Story Competition is open to children aged five to 15. Its theme – and it’s a cracker – is ‘the wild garden’, and book voucher prizes (£50 for winners and a further £100 for their schools) will be awarded in three categories: age 5-7, 8-11 and 12-15. The winners, picked by judges Baroness Floella Benjamin and Hughes Douglas creator David Melling, will also be invited to a special prize-giving ceremony on the final day of this year’s Henley Literary Festival.
The deadline – mark it in your diaries now – is July 31st, making it the perfect project to kick the summer hols off with.
The competition is coupled with a pledge by Dragonfly to match donations made to literacy charity Beanstalk for its duration. Last year nearly 200,000 primary school leavers were unable to read to the expected level. Beanstalk’s response to that is to recruit and train volunteers across England who go in to schools to help children who’ve fallen behind with their reading. The aim is to raise £40,000 via Crowdfunding over the next fortnight. To give you a sense of just what that sum means, £30 provides one month’s worth of reading support, £189 provides a full year’s worth, and £945 pays for five children to receive one-to-one reading support for a year, turning them into confident, passionate readers – an invaluable gift.
You can enter your short story here.