The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Prize
The Queen has celebrated 140 years of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Prize with winners, supporters and a host of well-known writers at Buckingham Palace.
The competition was founded during Queen Victoria’s reign, and since then, it has given young people aged 11 to 17 opportunities to express themselves on the issues that matter most to them. The Essay Competition is the world’s oldest international writing competition.
Her Majesty met this year’s young and talented writers from across the Commonwealth and heard their work read by some famous names including Dame Joanna Lumley, Sir Ben Okri and Mr Sanjeev Bhaskar.
After watching a short film highlighting the 140th anniversary, Her Majesty gave a speech reflecting on the history of the competition, which was founded during Queen Victoria’s reign.
This year’s competition theme was ‘A Youth-Powered Commonwealth’.
This year’s winners and runners-up are:
Siddhi Deshmukh, Senior Winner, 17, Mumbai, India
Siddhi is currently studying at Mayo College Girls’ School, Ajmer. She is the President of the English Creative Writing Society, and head of the World Scholar’s Cup club at her school. Siddhi has been instrumental in writing and directing the upcoming Annual School Play, and she is also an active member of Mayo College Girls’ School’s English Editorial Team. Her favourite authors include J.R.R Tolkien, Donna Tartt and Oscar Wilde.
Shreeya Sahi, Junior Winner, 12, Panchkula, India
Ever since Shreeya was young, she was hungry for stories, and always wanted more. Now, aged 12, she loves writing stories as much as reading them. She currently lives in Panchkula, a town in Northern India. Shreeya has studied at schools with varied philosophies in the USA and India. Their different perspectives and thoughts have shaped her into who she is today. Her passion lies in filling empty sketchbooks with whimsical drawings, baking, and skipping stones on a still pond.
Yong Sin Kong, Senior Runner-up, 15, Johor, Malaysia
Yong Sin Kong is a 15 year-old Form 3 student from Kluang High School. She has been an avid enjoyer of storytelling since her early years, whether it be in the form of literature, cinema, or theatre. Whenever she writes, she draws inspiration from the people she idolises, ranging from Neil Gaiman to Lin Manuel-Miranda. She is an ardent fan of the Beatles, musicals, 80s coming-of-age films, and dystopian novels.
Mitali Ragtah, Junior Runner-up, 11, New Delhi, India
9 year-old Mitali Ragtah’s writing journey began during lockdown in 2020 when she wanted to do something different. So, she brought together some short poetry and created her first book, Freedom Then and Now. In 2022, she wrote her second book, Fairy Tales with a Twist. It was inspired by girls who believed they were weak and powerless and needed someone else to solve all their problems. Mitali strongly believes in and advocates for gender equality, participating in some in-school organisations and many debating clubs.
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