Young Sheffield writer takes bronze in prestigious BBC storytelling competition

A budding writer from Sheffield has beaten thousands of others to take bronze in a prestigious BBC storytelling competition.

Monday, 1st July 2019, 8:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 5:19 pm
Beth Helliwell alongside the illustration by Briony May Smith

Beth Helliwell, aged 11, of Greystones, was crowned bronze winner in the 10 to 13-year-olds category during the live final of the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show’s 500 Words children’s writing competition at Windsor Castle.

Beth impressed judges with her dramatic, and somewhat scary, story ‘A Walk in the Park’ which was read aloud at the ceremony by Great British Bake Off host Sandy Toksvig.

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Briony May Smith, Beth Helliwell, Sandi Toksvig. Picture: BBC / Kieron McCarron

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The Greystones Primary School pupil has always harboured a love of writing, penning her first story while up a tree during an annual trip to Australia where her mum Janelle is originally from.

Some of her other stories also feature in the school library.

Proud mum Janelle Helliwell said: “Beth is not very good at spelling but reads prolifically, she has a creative mind and a good imagination.

“We are immensely proud of her and just really overwhelmed by the love and support we’ve received. We were all completely surprised that she won, but it was an amazing experience to go to Windsor Castle and see all the celebrities and lovely to see what a fuss they made of the children.”

The illustration by Briony May Smith.

As one of the bronze winners, Beth received her own height in books and was presented with an original illustration of her work created by Briony May Smith.

Beth said: “As it was still so early in the morning my first thought when I heard my name was ‘Beth wake up’, I thought I was dreaming. Sandy read out my story and that was a good feeling as I’ve always wanted my stories to be read and heard by lots of people.

“I want to say a massive thanks to my mum Janelle and dad John as they have always supported me and encouraged me to write. I’ve always wanted to be an author even before the competition.”

Chris Jennings, headteacher of Greystones Primary, said: “We’re incredibly proud of Beth, her story is amazing. We read it out in assembly and all the children were just spellbound. They loved the cliffhanger.”

Beth Helliwell is a winner in the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show 500 Words Competition

The final was attended by the Duchess of Cornwall, who is an honorary judge and delivered a speech to the audience and met all the winners.

Other judges included award-winning authors Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon – and chair of the judging panel Chris Evans, who created and launched 500 words in 2011.

The bronze, silver and gold winning stories across the two age categories of five to nine years and 10 to 13 years were read out by Hugh Bonneville, Konnie Huq, Helen McCrory, Michael Sheen, Sandi Toksvig and David Walliams.

Following the final, the audience attended a reception in the castle’s historic state rooms which have played host to state occasions, wedding receptions and other official events for centuries.

There were performances by Busted, Tom Walker and The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical.

Now in its ninth year, 500 Words 2019 was launched in January by Zoe Ball on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

Since its launch more than 900,000 children have taken part.

With 112,986 entries this year, the competition aims to inspire and encourage thousands of children around the UK to think creatively and write their own stories.