Oundle pupil shortlisted for prestigious national poetry competition
18th May 2016

With his poem, ‘Driving Lesson’, Oundle School pupil, Ed Pryor (17) was shortlisted for this year’s Christopher Tower Poetry Competition, receiving a prize of £250 awarded at a ceremony held in the McKenna Room in Christ Church College, Oxford on 20th April.

This year’s theme of ‘wonder’, for the UK’s most prestigious poetry competition for 16-18 year olds, which has been running for sixteen years, attracted over 1,100 entrants (all born between 1997 and 2000) with many schools encouraging entrants for the first time. The judges were Peter McDonald, Christopher Tower Student and Tutor in Poetry at Christ Church, Scottish poet and critic, Alan Gillis and Katherine Rundell, author and Fellow of All Souls College.  Prizes were awarded by the Dean of Christ Church, after which the winners were interviewed by the media and filmed reading their poems. 

Photographs after the presentation were taken in the Dean's garden, which was once Alice Liddell's garden, hence the link to "wonder".  The tree in the background is the Cheshire cat's tree and the doorway is the locked door to the students' garden that Alice was not allowed to open. 

The Christopher Tower poetry competition has a reputation for discovering fresh and exciting poetry talent. Previous prize winners such as Helen Mort, Caroline Bird, Richard O’Brien, Anna Lewis and Annie Katchinska, are now gaining further acclaim in other competitions or within the publishing/ writing world. The competition is just one of the initiatives developed by Tower Poetry at Christ Church to encourage the writing and reading of poetry by young adults. Other projects include summer schools (to which the first three winners are invited as part of their prize), poetry readings, conferences, an ongoing publication programme and website, which is used as an educational resource in schools.

Ashani Lewis, from The Tiffin Girls’ School, Surrey, was awarded the £3,000 first prize for her poem ‘Flowers From The Dark’. The winner of the second (£1,000) prize Safah Ahmed (Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre, London) with ‘Accent’ and the third prize winner, Sophia West (Oxford High School) won £500 with ‘The Awakening’. Their schools receive £150 each. Each of the three prize winners are invited to the Tower Poetry Summer School, worth £750 approximately. The other two short-listed winners were: Natasha Blinder (South Hampstead High School, London) and Grace Fraser (Hartismere High School, Suffolk).

109 entrants (excluding the winners) from 97 schools were placed on the longlist representing most regions of the UK.

Alan Gillis commented, “Reading through all the poems, I was struck first of all by the great range and diversity of work in terms of voice, style and subject matter. But overwhelmingly, I was impressed by the consistency of excellence. The experience of judging has been really uplifting because of the passion and daring, boldness and confidence of the poems entered. This is a wonderful competition.”

You can see the winning entries on the Tower Poetry website where the talented young authors read their own poems (, and further information on the competition and other Tower projects from or on 01865 286591. Follow on Twitter @TowerPoetry; on our Facebook page or on YouTube at

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