South Shields schoolgirl wins Orwell Youth Prize for poetry inspired by climate crisis

A South Shields schoolgirl has won the a prestigious award for her poetry after taking part in a competition.

Evie Alam, 15, a pupil at Harton Academy, was crowned one of the winners in the junior section of the Orwell Youth Prize competition for her poem entitled ‘Destination – Underwater’.

The writing prize is handed to young people aged 12-18, and was inspired by political author George Orwell who wrote about the importance of our relationship with the natural world and the destruction of the environment.

Candidates of this year’s competition were tasked with writing a critical and creative piece about how the climate crisis affects the people, places, and things around them.

Evie with her award

Evie’s poem was selected by judges from over 400 entries as a poem about the drowning of places, among them Bangladesh, well expressed in rage and disgust.

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The 15-year-old, who is set to enter her final year of school, said: “I really enjoy writing as it allows me to be creative and express my thoughts and it’s definitely something I want to continue as a hobby.”

Evie along with some of her family members attended the Orwell Youth Prize award ceremony at University College London where she received her award.

Evie and family at UCL

She said: “It was such an honour and I was so pleased when I found out I’d won. I’m so grateful to the Orwell Youth Foundation, my school and my mum and my sister for all their support.

“It was such a lovely event to attend and all the other entries were great.”

George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, is best known around the world for his literary works including 1984 and Animal Farm, but was also a prolific essayist, journalist, and critic.

He has links to South Tyneside, having married South Shields-born Oxford scholar and poet Eileen O’Shaughnessy.

The pair met in 1935 and married a year later in Wallington, Hertfordshire.

O’Shaughnessy is thought to have been a strong influence on Orwell’s style of writing, on Animal Farm in particular in which he credits his wife for help in planning the book.