The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is proud to state that every one of the 12,000 entries submitted was read and marked by one of our 150 voluntary judges from all five regions of the Commonwealth. The Royal Commonwealth Society is grateful for the time, dedication and expertise of these judges, without whom it would not be possible to run such a successful and unique competition.
Subsequently, we were delighted to welcome an expert panel of judges (pictured) to make the final decisions on Senior and Junior Winners and Runners-Up. Drawn from a range of creative writing industries including publishing, screenwriting, poetry and journalism, these experts kindly spent a day at Clarence House to read, judge and select our four winning pieces.
Judges commented on the maturity shown by many of the young writers, with entries described as ‘intelligent’, ‘impassioned’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘articulate’ and ‘beautifully written’.
The Society is grateful to HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Clarence House for hosting the judging day.
Meet the Senior Judges
Vicki Wienand, Senior Chair is a freelance publisher currently working for Cambridge University Press (CUP) which sponsored the Competition over five years. She served on the Senior Judging Panel in 2013. Experience from her first career as an English teacher in a variety of schools in the UK and Australia has proved useful. Most recently, she has been writing for and series-editing the Cambridge School Shakespeare series for CUP.
Graham Mitchell is an experienced, BAFTA-nominated TV scriptwriter who has a special interest in thrillers and drama. He has a multitude of prime-time credits and was a core member of the Silent Witness writing team. He also develops his own shows and is working with Buffalo Pictures and Euston Films
Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. Awarded The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, she has received the Cholmondley Award and an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS. Her collections include Postcards from god, I speak for the devil, The terrorist at my table, Leaving Fingerprints, Over the Moon and the latest, Luck Is the Hook, all published by Bloodaxe Books UK.
Dotti Irving is the founder and chief executive of Four Colman Getty, an organisation which uses culture and campaigning to build profile for its clients which include the Man Booker Prizes and Women of the Year. She is a lifelong member of the Groucho Club and sits on the committee of the Book Society. She regularly features in the PR Week’s Power Book and in the Bookseller Top 100.
Roy Williams began writing plays in 1990 and is now arguably one of the country's leading dramatists. In 2000 he was the joint-winner of The George Devine Award and in 2001 he was awarded the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. He was awarded the OBE for Services to Drama in the 2008 Birthday Honours List. Roy's most recent play The Firm ran at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in 2017.
Giles Coren is a restaurant critic and columnist who has been writing for The Times since 1993. A previous winner of British Press Awards' Food and Drink Writer of the Year, he was also named the restaurant writer of the year at the Fortnum and Mason Awards in 2016. As well as an award-winning journalist, Giles is a television presenter and author.
Meet the Junior Judges
Dr Diana Owen OBE, Junior Chair is the Director General of the Royal Over-Seas League and former Chief Executive of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford Upon Avon. She has extensive experience of working with young people both in the UK and worldwide to encourage and inspire their creative talents. Diana was awarded an OBE for her services to culture and tourism in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Joanna Brown designs and manages the Royal African Society Education programme, including 'Africa Writes: Young Voices', which offers pathways into the world of African and diaspora literature for young people. She facilitates literary workshops and offers educational consultancy to schools and organisations with a focus on centring literature and authors from Africa and the diaspora.
Jaspreet Kaur, better known as 'Behind the Netra' for her poetry, is an award-winning Spoken Word Artist from East London focused on sharing her thoughts on gender issues, mental health stigma, historical topics and positive social change. Jaspreet actively works with national governments, corporations and charities alike, such as TED, Westminster Interfaith Council and Action for Children, using her poetry to inspire and drive change.
Dominic Lawson is a weekly opinion columnist and book reviewer for both The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. He is the presenter of two BBC Radio 4 series, Across The Board and Why I Changed My Mind. Previously he was Editor of the Sunday Telegraph and of the Spectator. He is the author of The Inner Game and is the President of the English Chess Federation.
Matthew Parris s a former MP and a prize winning author, columnist and broadcaster. He currently writes columns for The Times and the Spectator as well as presenting the BBC Radio 4 biographical programme Great Lives. He was named Political Journalist of the Year at the Press Awards in 2015.
Francesca Dow is the Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children's. She worked at Penguin since 2002, coming first to manage Puffin, then Penguin Children’s division and from 2013, the Penguin Random House Children’s publishing house. Francesca’s literary hero is Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and the book she’d recommend to anyone is The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman.