BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans launches new short-story writing competition for children aged between 5 and 13 aired on the breakfast show

Chris Evans launches the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show 500 Words short-story writing competition for children aged between 5-13 years of age.

He revealed that this year’s live final will take place on Friday 8 June from the stage of the Hampton Court Palace Festival in the stunning surroundings of the Tudor palace. The competition is now open and the closing date for entries is 7pm on Thursday 22 February.

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall returns as Honorary Judge for the competition, and to mark its launch features in a very special animation where HRH is seen flying over the UK in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Chris Evans behind the wheel! HRH first supported 500 Words in 2015 and has been an Honorary Judge since 2016.

Chris Evans says: “This year’s 500 Words is going to be Chitty Bang-tastic! I encourage children across the UK to fire up their creative engines, accelerate their imaginations and go full steam ahead to write us an amazing story and perhaps see us at the live final in June!”

Lewis Carnie, Head of BBC Radio 2, says: “We’re thrilled that 500 Words is returning for its eighth year. Last year we had a record 131,798 entries, and I’m so proud that Radio 2 is inspiring children all over the UK to get creative and produce such brilliant stories year after year.”

With the live final taking place during the Hampton Court Palace Festival, an annual music event in the grounds, 2018’s competition features a brand new prize for the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners in the two age categories. They will be treated to a ride in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – the amazing car from the legendary movie – around the Palace’s grounds and down to the river where they will have Tea on the Thames on Her Majesty The Queen’s Rowbarge, Gloriana. And more children than ever before will be able to attend the live final – as well as the short-listed top 50 story-writers, entrants will be selected at random to come along and watch the show, filling the 3000 festival seats. Afterwards, all will be able to explore Hampton Court Palace’s historic interiors and famous gardens. And as always, the Bronze winners will also receive their height in books, the Silver winners receive HRH Duchess of Cornwall’s height in books and the Gold winners receive Chris’ height in books; additionally each of their schools are sent 500 books for their library.

At the final, the winners will be announced and their stories read out by some superstar narrators and the show will feature performances from some big music stars. Joining HRH The Duchess of Cornwall on the esteemed 500 Words judging panel are Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Jacqueline Wilson, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon. They will each read the Top 50 shortlisted entries and ultimately decide who will be the Bronze, Silver and Gold winners in each age category.

Following on from the success of Dick and Dom’s 2017 podcast for 500 Words, this year the initiative is launching a brand new weekly podcast, 500 WORDS Bedtime Stories. Featuring stories on a range of themes entered by children into last year’s competition, it will make for perfect bedtime listening for kids. Each weekly episode will have a different theme, with the BBC Radio Drama Company bringing the stories to life. The podcast will be available to download from as well as all the usual podcast places.

As part of the launch today, BBC Learning is holding a Live Lesson at 2pm live from Manchester, which will be free and available to all schools as a webcast. Presented by Barney Harwood and Countryfile’s Helen Skelton, the inventor’s laboratory-themed extravaganza features some special guests including actress Madeleine Harris (Paddington) and 500 Words judges, Charlie Higson and Frank Cottrell-Boyce. They’ll be taking part in fun activities covering different aspects of story-writing, from using the world around us as inspiration, to avoiding dud endings, all to inspire children who want to enter 500 Words this year.

This year 500 Words will be run in association with Oxford University Press (OUP) to increase reach into schools and provide further support to teachers. OUP have expertise in children’s dictionaries and primary and secondary education in the UK. With their tailored support, those engaging in the competition will have access to a vast range of specially-produced learning materials, such as the 500 Words Learning Pack and factoids for 500 Words podcasts. Since 2012, their language team has been analysing children’s short-story entries, building the Oxford Children’s Corpus of over 650,000 stories and 300 million words to track children’s fascinating and evolving use of language. Each year they reveal the Children’s Word of the Year, which has included ‘trump’, ‘refugee’, ‘hashtag’, and ‘minion’.

Vineeta Gupta, Head of Children’s Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, says: “We are always fascinated by the distinctive vocabulary, inventive plots and original settings children use to tell their stories. We can’t wait to see what imaginative creations the future generation of writers will surprise us with in 2018. We learn an incredible amount about children’s literacy by analysing their stories and we use these findings to create resources to help children become even better writers. We look forward to working even more closely with 500 Words in 2018.”

500 Words was created by Chris in 2011 and is now in its eighth year. In that time over three quarters of a million children have taken part, getting creative and submitting their stories. The competition asks children in the UK aged between 5 and 13 to compose an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. Entries are in two categories: 5-9 years and 10-13 years. Budding young writers have until 7pm on Thursday 22 February 2017 to submit their stories. More details and terms and conditions are at Also on the website children will find an array of tools to inspire and help them.

Last year, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall presented the Gold winners with their prizes at a special broadcast live from The Tower of London and in 2016 from St James’s Palace. The six winning stories were announced and read out on-air by celebrity narrators including David Walliams, Jenny Agutter OBE, David Suchet CBE, John Bishop, Olivier-award winning Noma Dumezweni and actor Sir Derek Jacobi CBE. Plus there was live music from One Direction’s Niall Horan, Olly Murs and Anne Marie.

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