Poetry pair scoop prize

Award-winning writers Amy Langdown and Shana Nichols.
Award-winning writers Amy Langdown and Shana Nichols.

Two teenagers with a passion for literature have won a prestigious writing award.

Amy Langdown and Shana Nichols, both 14 and students at Cramlington Learning Village, were chosen ahead of 600 other young writers from across the North to win The Matthew Hale Award for their poem The Competencies of Rage.

They are the youngest recipients of the award, presented in memory of a promising North East writer who tragically died young.

The pair each won £250 and were described by Matthew’s father, one of the judges, as ‘exceptional candidates’.

But they have no plans to become full-time writers. Amy hopes to be a teacher and Shana wants to be a journalist.

They received their award during the Northern Writers’ Awards. It was established in 2000 by New Writing North and has become the UK’s premiere talent development programme for both adult and young writers.

They met Matthew’s parents Spike and Jeanne during the ceremony at Newcastle University’s Great Hall.

Mr Hale said: “Amy and Shana were selected because of the vibrancy and power of their collective writing. They have a unique and strong-minded view of the world and seek to reflect and challenge this through their writing.

“They are both young people for whom further access to the arts and further funding would make a significant difference to their ability to develop as writers and this, combined with their gift for expression through writing, made them exceptional candidates for the award.”

At Cramlington Learning Village, they were encouraged by their school librarian to attend the town’s Cuckoo Young Writers group, where they composed their winning poem.

Amy said: “The poem was entered. We didn’t know anything about it. We then had an e-mail saying we’d won. But when we went to the awards with our parents, we had no idea how fancy it really was and we were the only people who had to perform their work.”

Headteacher Wendy Heslop said: “They are the best ambassadors imaginable to show the joy literature can provide. They are so enthusiastic – as well as very creative and talented – and we are all extremely proud of their amazing achievement.”

Amy and Shana say their influences are JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson, Suzanne Collins – writer of The Hunger Games – Roald Dahl and Shakespeare.