Thank you to everyone who entered the creative writing competition 2015. Your poems and short stories opened up a huge range of perspectives on what it means to care, and many responded to our 50th Anniversary message: no one should have to care alone.
We are also thankful to the following organisations for promoting the 2015 competition: The Poetry Society, The Reading Agency, Mslexia, The Poetry Library and The Poetry School. We are also very grateful to Sainsbury’s plc (a partner of Carers UK since 2010) and The Poetry Society for providing the prizes for this year’s competition.
Report from our judge
Award-winning poet Cheryl Moskowitz describes the experience of judging the Carers UK creative writing competition for the second time.
Making life better for carers is what Carers UK is all about and now, in its 50th Anniversary year, there is a strengthened determination to end carer isolation. So it is a cause for celebration that over 700 entries of poems and stories on the theme of caring were received from all over the world, and so many of them spoke powerfully and imaginatively to the message, ‘No one should have to care alone’.
Alex Dixon and Patricia Walder were the two winners of this year’s Carers UK 50th Anniversary Prize. Dixon’s poem Night Watch is a disarmingly direct account of the loneliness a carer can feel even when the one they love most is right beside them. The poem conveys tenderness and desperation and in the end offers hope, via the internet. It is a poem for our time. Patricia Walder’s story Transitions, with its wonderful twist at the end, is the perfect realization of this year’s theme.
Angel Dyulgerov from Bulgaria (winner of the International Prize) gives us Pictures, a poem steeped in the metaphor of colour and art which reaches across language and cultural barriers and speaks to a universal need to communicate and connect.
In the poetry category, Denise Setterington’s The Nurses Knew (3rd prize) is a joyous celebration of a life and a tribute to the role the caring services can play in helping relatives to manage loss.
Patrick Wright’s The Blind Photographer (2nd prize) was a poem I kept coming back to, a richly drawn and beautifully crafted elegy to a blind friend. Wright uses the language of photography masterfully and to its most luminous effect, so that we, like the blind photographer, are granted sight of a world that might otherwise have been denied us.
Ultimately it was Fiona Ritchie Walker’s ease of clarity and simplicity that won me over in After Diagnosis (1st prize), a poem which is neither easy nor simple. The world can indeed shrink cruelly for both carer and cared for when illness strikes and “Favourite places are barred / by heavy doors, elaborate stairs” but Ritchie Walker manages somehow to make us envy the ‘we’ in the poem, whose lives are so enriched by being together.
The standard was high this year, there are so many rich pickings to be had amongst the winners and the commended poems in the anthology.
In the story category, first prize went to Just My Cup Of Tea by Hayley Clews’ which was right on message. Twenty-one year old ‘punkish’ Alice comes in to clean for an elderly couple; Beatrice and her curmudgeonly husband for whom Bea must do everything. Clews gives us characters we can love and shows us a triangle of caring in which no one can do without the other.
Kendra Rabbitts’ Stargazer (2nd prize) employs the language of fairly-tale and magic to enchanting effect in a story that held echoes of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and takes us on a journey that is both heart-warming and sad.
In joint third place were James Ellis’s quirky The Therapist - a short (only 300 words) snatch of conversation between therapist and patient which really resounds - and finally Emma Sterland’s aptly titled Lessons in Caring which does just that. It teaches us one of the most important things about caring; that no matter what the difficulties, it is the person that matters - that’s why we care and that is why no one should have to care alone.
After Diagnosis by Fiona Ritchie Walker
The Blind Photographer by Patrick Wright
The Nurses Knew by Denise Setterington
Carers UK 50th Anniversary Prize
Night Watch by Alex Dixon
Pictures by Angel Dyulgerov, Bulgaria
Here in the room of his life by John Ling
Logic Lane by Penny Boxall
The Happy Café by Anthony Costello
A Smile From The Turkish Man by Michael Alexander
The Beloved by Jennifer Bassett
What did you think when you heard the news? by Nikki Robson
Never buy me a strawberry ice-cream by Claire Demaine
Callipered by Wendy Orr
For Ted by Romalyn Ante
These faded photos always show you by Claire Farman
The winning stories
Just my cup of tea by Hayley Clews
Stargazer by Kendra Rabbitts
Carers UK 50th Anniversary Prize
Transitions by Patricia Walder
From Career to Carer by Val Ormrod
Alone and not alone by Jude Robinson
All seems well by Jacqueline Pemberton
“The Good Son” by Hazel Humphreys
Remember Me by Jodie Carpenter
Little Patch of Paradise by Ekim Casserly
Some days are diamonds, some days are... by Eileen Brown