Year-9 student wins Young Writers’ Competition at Wimbledon Bookfest

A 14-year-old schoolboy is celebrating after winning an iPad for his poem inspired by the biggest moments of 2020 in a regional competition.

Jonathan Esenga, a Year 9 student at Raynes Park High School, was named the overall winner of the Young Writers’ 2021 Competition at the Wimbledon Bookfest for his poem ‘My name is 2020’.

The two-page poem deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s Australian bushfires, the Black Lives Matter movement, and their impact on people across the world.

The judges received more than 500 entries by the theme ‘My Name Is’ from 72 schools from nine boroughs across London and Surrey from children aged four to 18.

Jonathan mainly draws his inspiration from rap music, his favourite musician and writer being British rapper Dave, who is acclaimed for his wordplay and socially conscious lyricism – but the rapper is not his only inspiration.

The student said: “My family has always motivated me to work extremely hard and go for every opportunity in my personal life and career endeavours.

“They have always made me exercise my gifts and talents and keep working and pushing myself to become better, and that is something that will stay with me for life.”   

Jonathan spent a few days making notes and thinking about what he wanted to write, but eventually wrote his full poem in about an hour.

He attended the prize-giving ceremony with his parents, Eky, 60, and Yvonne Esenga, 49, and planned to spend the day off school celebrating with his family over a special lunch.

His father said: “We are very proud.”

Author Michelle Paver, 61, hosted the prize-giving ceremony at the Wimbledon Bookfest this morning, alongside authors and former teachers, Caroline Lawrence and Lindsey Barraclough, who read out the names of the runners up and winners in each category.

Barraclough later said: “I was astonished at the originality of Jonathan’s poem, the fact that it was told from the point of view of the year – that’s an extraordinary thought process.”

YOUNG WRITERS COMPETITION: Winners and runners up together with authors Lindsey Barraclough (far left), Caroline Lawrence (far right, back) and Michelle Paver (left of Caroline Lawrence) after the prize-giving ceremony © Wimbledon BookFest / John Stone

Librarian Sarah Sharp at Raynes Park High School supported the pupils through their submission, but could only choose three entries from Years 7, 8 and 9, to enter the overall competition.

She said that participating in the competition had boosted the students’ confidence in their creative writing abilities: “Witnessing the support Jonathan has received from fellow students is a reflection of not just his writing skills and academic ability but also his popularity amongst his fellow students, for whom he is a role model, particularly noted for his kindness and maturity.

“It was clear from the first read that his poem was a special piece of writing.”

In addition to Jonathan’s poem, Sharp selected ‘My Name Is…’ by Mina Harilal, 14, who was among the runners up and ‘My Many Names’ by Zoe Sheaf, 13, whose poem was highly commended.

She said the three shortlisted entries from Raynes Park High were beautifully written, and found them very moving.

“Sunset Festival”, the second leg of the Wimbledon Bookfest, is running until 5pm on Sunday, 19 September on Wimbledon Common.

Featured Image: © Wimbledon BookFest / John Stone

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