Lily’s imaginative tale wins inaugural Ottery writing competition

Lily Allen-Smith

Lily Allen-Smith - Credit: Archant

Judges praised high standard of entries for the new John Gaffney award

A young author’s tale of an adventurous otter won over judges to scoop top prize in an inaugural Ottery writing competition.

Lily Allen-Smith, 11, was praised for her well-written prose that artfully combined an imaginative story within a local context in the contest that received a high standard of entries.

Runner-up in the John Gaffney Young People’s Writing Award was year seven pupil Emily Elizabeth Brant, with 12-year-old Natasha Ross’s submission taking third place.

The competition was initiated and led by former journalist Philip Algar to commemorate the work of the late editor of the Ottery Gazette, John Gaffney, who died suddenly in June.


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Lily said: “When I found out about the competition, I thought I would give it a go and see how it turned out. I was really surprised to win.”

The King’s School student said she wrote the story over the course of a few days, taking inspiration from the wildlife in the town.

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Mr Algar praised the standard of entries and congratulated the winners, but expressed disappointment it had not inspired more people to put pen to paper.

“I am pleased that we were able to organise this competition,” he said.

“But the response has been very disappointing, despite our strenuous efforts to stimulate interest.

“I realise that there are many competing interests for activities in free time but - as a former journalist - I had hoped that, as the topic was any aspect of Ottery, we might have had more entries.

“That said, the standard of the articles we received was very high and I congratulate the winners, who showed imagination, flair and a love of writing which I hope will be sustained over the years.”

He thanked Ottery Town Council for its donation of cash prizes and book tokens and Sainsbury’s, which gave vouchers, as well as local media for publicity.

Mr Algar set up the award scheme as a way of encouraging the writers of tomorrow and recognising journalistic and literary talent within the parish.

Prizes will be presented at the annual parish meeting in The Institute, Yonder Street, on Tuesday, April 26, at 7pm.

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