‘Imagination ran wild’: Three Greater Manchester kids win national writing competition

Three Greater Manchester children have had their stories published as part of a national writing competition endorsed by Dame Jaqueline Wilson.

Isabelle Cunningham, 10, Sanah Mahmood, 11, and nine-year-old Molly Murray – all from Rossendale – were chosen by award-winning children’s authors and competition judges Harriet Goodwin and Linda Chapman, along with three other winners from across the UK.

Over 500 children submitted stories inspired by the designs of Arthouse’s latest collection of children’s wall coverings, which have been published in The Little Book of Imagination – For Children by Children.

Arthouse, a Lancashire-based home decor supplier, plan to donate all proceeds from the book to Rossendale Hospice.

IMAGINATION: The six inspirational winners

They see the competition as a great way to encourage children to think creatively and raise money for the charity of which they have been a proud patron for eight years.

Anita Kenyon, Managing Director for Arthouse, told MM: “We designed a range of wallpapers last year and it got us all thinking that when us old ones were little girls and little boys, we used to let our imagination run wild.

“So then we got to thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we ran a competition to encourage lots of children to write stories based on their favourite person in that book.

“And that’s what we did. So we launched a national competition.

“We were quite nervous because we wanted to make the day special for the children. But I’m overwhelmed by it.

“I think the stories, the quality of them all is amazing and then when you see it all here and it’s real, it’s quite emotional.

“The idea was a huge success. But with around 500 entries from boys and girls aged four to 11, choosing the finalists seemed like no easy task.”

“When I was first approached by Arthouse I was told that I would get 40 entries I got 120,” added Harriet Goodwin, author of children’s book The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43.

“They sat there on the doormat and then they made it to the kitchen table and I told my four children and husband to go away while I dealt with 120 entries!

“When I was judging this competition I didn’t sort of put an author’s hat on to do it, I just put a normal person’s hat on. You know, what springs off the page.

“And that’s how I made my cuts as I went through.

MM also spoke to best-selling author of over 200 children’s books, Linda Chapman, who advised the kids to ‘keep on making up stories’.

“If you do, you could end up being a writer,” she said.

“Being a writer is a wonderful job.”

MP for Rossendale Jake Berry congratulated Arthouse for their inspirational project.

Specifically, he said that it combined two things close to his heart  raising money for the hospice and celebrating the ‘fantastic’ work of schools from around the country.

Speaking directly to the children, he said: “You are what I have always wanted to be which is a published author and to have achieved that at your age is amazing.”

But this hasn’t been the only fundraising Arthouse has led for Rossendale Hospice.

Staff have taken part in sample sales, bake-offs and a zip wiring challenge in Wales in which they raised £2800 more than double their target.  

Marketing and Public Development Manager for Rossendale Hospice, Alison Whittaker told MM: “It’s a long standing relationship in which we’re very, very grateful for their support.

“But over the last year they’ve done so much, so this is just one of the fabulous, fabulous events that they’ve taken part in.”

Ms Kenyon told us that the two organisations have ‘grown together’ and that the staff’s support is key.

“We try and get everyone engaged,” she said.

“It’s easy to hand a cheque over whereas what we try and do is come up with initiatives that everyone’s involved with.”

The competition follows a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development indicating that children’s literacy levels are not developing at the rate they should.

The study found that English teenagers have the lowest literacy rates out of 23 other developed nations.

Mrs Goodwin told MM that this was ‘dire’ and parents should encourage their children to turn their screens off and read.

“[Reading] is so important because you soak up language and you’re then able to find your own voice,” she said.

Ms Kenyon backed up this point, stating that there is a need for creativity to be nurtured in children.

“I think unfortunately it’s not just in schools, it’s in the home as well,” she said.

“It’s parents. I think somehow we’ve got to reenergise that whole creative thinking.”

The other three winners include nine-year-old Faye Binstead from Sussex, Alex Detre, seven, from Herefordshire and ten-year-old Aaron Lewis from Cheshire. 

The Little Book of Imagination – For Children, by Children is available to order here.

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