Thought-provoking writing earns prestigious prize for Perse pupil
20 Aug 2021
William Walker (Year 8) was praised for ‘a brilliant piece of journalistic work’ after winning the renowned Orwell Youth Prize.
Organised by the Orwell Foundation with the aim of inviting young writers to think critically and creatively about the world around them, the theme for this year’s competition was ‘A New Direction: Starting Small’.
William was one of four winners in the junior category with his essay Creating Norfolk Wetlands, in which he mixed his own thoughts and experiences of visiting wetland areas with in-depth research into their importance to the environment.
He said he had become interested in wetlands after researching Sir Peter Scott, who established the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), for a history project in Year 7 before investigating how climate change is likely to impact Norfolk’s wetlands for his Perse Project Qualification (PPQ) this year.
“I discovered wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, but have a vital role to play,” said William.
“As the WWT states, ’if the rainforests are the lungs of the planet, then the wetlands are the lifeblood,’ protecting biodiversity and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
“My PPQ research highlighted how important Norfolk has been for birds for millennia, yet many of these birds’ populations are in catastrophic decline. My conclusions from the research were that climate change is likely to impact Norfolk’s wetland habitat, but that there are things that can be done, such as managed retreat and creating new wetlands that would help mitigate the impact.
“For example, I visited Lakenheath Fen, a wetland restored from a carrot farm, where biodiversity is now thriving with cranes, otters and water voles.”
William decided to enter the Orwell Youth Prize as he felt his topic chimed with the theme.
He said: “It is a small step local to me, but with big potential. Using my research to then write persuasively was interesting.
“Sir David Attenborough once said, ‘no-one will protect what they don’t care about,’ so entering the Orwell Prize was a way of raising awareness of the value of restoring wetlands and hopefully making more people care that we could lose UK species, such as curlews.”
Among the judges was investigative journalist Adam Cantwell-Corn, who described William’s work as ‘a powerful and original interpretation of this year’s theme, drawing the link between the local environment and the climate and ecological crisis, which is the defining issue of our time. A brilliant piece of journalistic work, written with flair and urgency’.
William was delighted to receive such a response and as one of the winners, he became a member of the Orwell Youth Fellows, which will allow him to connect with other talented young writers and take part in special workshops.
He said: “I was thrilled to discover that I was one of the winners and at my first virtual meeting with the other Orwell Youth Fellows, I met Richard Blair (George Orwell’s son), which I found fascinating.”
To read William’s prize-winning work, click here.