Winners of the 21st Wills Writing Awards announced

Winners have been announced in the 21st annual Wills Writing Awards, for creative writing (fact or fiction) around a horse-racing theme by a young person resident in Britain or the Republic of Ireland.

The awards commemorate Martin Wills, a journalist and amateur jockey, who died in April 1992, aged 39. The awards are organised by the Martin Wills Memorial Trust, a British-registered charity.

The awards attracted 92 entries. Of these, 37 were in the under-26 category, 30 were in the under-19 category, and 25 were in the under-15 category.

The under-26 winner and runner-up and the under-19 winner had all been prize-winners in previous years, in younger categories. The under-19 winner is also the brother of an under-19 winner.

Brough Scott, chairman of the judges, said: “The idea of the Wills Writing Awards was to encourage imaginative writing with a racing theme. So it was a delight to find this year’s entries more imaginative than ever. Even if sometimes uncomfortably so!”

The under-26 winner is 19-year-old Lottie Pyper, from Storrington, in West Sussex. She was runner-up in the under-19 category last year. At Marlborough College in Wiltshire, she was an Academic Scholar and obtained three A* grades and an A grade at A Level to add to 12 A*grades at GCSE.

She is currently in her first year at New College, Oxford, where she is reading English and contributes to Cherwell, the student magazine. She receives £1250 for her article, “I had no idea”.

Lottie summarises her story as follows: “The appearance of a childhood friend on TV sparks a series of memories, bringing up vivid reminiscences and regrets. The story turns on the power of love and its ability to linger even after close relationships have moved on”.

The under-26 runner-up is 20-year-old Victoria Griffiths, from North Buckland, near Barnstaple, in North Devon. She was the under-19 winner in 2010. At St Paul’s School, London, she obtained three A grades at A Level.

In her gap year, she worked in an American racing stable and obtained an American amateur jockey’s licence. She is currently in her second year at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, studying for a BSc in International Equine and Agricultural Business.

She receives £750 for her article, “Backside at Baltimore”, about Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, where “there is nothing more than a chain link fence between two separate worlds – one of hard work, ambition and money, the other of gunshots, sirens and crime”.

The under-19 winner is 17-year-old Tom Cantillon, from Johnstown, near Naas, in County Kildare, Ireland, where his family is involved in thoroughbred breeding and racing.

He was the under-15 winner in 2010, the year after his brother, Jack, was the under-19 winner. He continues to attend Clongowes Wood College in Clane, County Kildare. Earlier this month, he was one of nine representing Ireland at the European Youth Parliament in Munich. He receives £500 for his article, “Salicional”, a tale of a scary midnight encounter with the spectre of the last of the McCarthy dynasty, Peter, and his favourite horse, Salicional, from whom Peter had fallen to his death.

The under-19 runner-up is 17-year-old Helen Spalding from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. She attends Cheltenham Ladies’ College. She receives £250 for “Blinkered”, a story about a wife’s escape from a gambling husband.

The under-15 winner is 14-year-old Tim Oliver from Tadley, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire. He attends Marlborough College in Wiltshire. He receives £250 for his article, “Horse-riding with no legs”, “about a child with a phobia of horses, with parents that love them. The boy explains why he hates horses, and why he also hates his parents. The story finishes with the boy revealing that he is disabled, and saying that it is his parents’ fault”.

The under-15 runner-up is 12-year-old Georgia Kyte, from Riddings, near Ripley, in Derbyshire. She was shortlisted last year. She attends Belper School in Derbyshire. She receives £125 for her article, “Beyond the final furlong (Aunt Alice’s magical day)”, of which the author says: “My story communicates the magical memories and feelings Aunt Alice holds dear of the times she spent with her father at the local racecourse”.

The winning articles will be published in the next few weeks, in the Racing Post and The Irish Field. The under-26 winner will also have the opportunity of work experience at the Racing Post.

The judges were: Brough Scott (chairman), three times Sports Feature Writer of the Year, Racing Writer of the Year in 1977 and 2010, and author of Henry Cecil, Trainer of Genius, which was published earlier this month; Marcus Armytage, racing writer at The Daily Telegraph and Grand National winning jockey in record time, who was shortlisted for Racing Reporter of the Year 2012; Sean Magee, a versatile racing author and journalist, most recently of Desert Island Discs: 70 Years of Castaways; Lee Mottershead, a writer on the Racing Post, who was named Racing Journalist of the Year in 2011 ; Leo Powell, who is in his 10th year as Editor of The Irish Field; and Catherine Wills, sister of Martin Wills, who is a D Phil art historian and a racehorse owner/breeder.

The prize-winning entries can be read on the website ( under “The Winners” tab.

The winners will additionally receive an expenses paid day’s racing plus a tour of Henry Cecil’s and James Fanshawe’s yards.


The shortlist totalled 22 (10 under 26, six under 19 and six under 15), as follows:

Under 26 – Age at 1 Jan
Jessica Crandon, 21 – Wokingham, Berks
Lucy Elder, 22 – London, SW19
Victoria Griffiths, 20 – North Buckland, nr Barnstaple, Devon
Chris Humpleby, 21 – Carlisle, Cumbria
Orla Murphy, 21 – Upton, Co. Cork
Chloe Pitts, 19 – Hatherleigh, nr Okehampton, Devon
Louise Powell, 21 – Middlesbrough, Cleveland
Lottie Pyper, 19 – Storrington, West Sussex
Joseph Rendall, 23 – Broadwell, nr Moreton-in-Marsh, Glos
Tim Williams, 21 – Bridgwater, Somerset

Under 19
Tom Cantillon, 17 – Naas, Co Kildare
Alex Fanshawe, 16 – Marlborough, Wilts
Lucy Jakes, 16 – Cheltenham, Glos
Laura McKibben, 18 – Macclesfield, Cheshire
Bryony Puckett, 17 – Taunton, Somerset
Helen Spalding, 17 – Cheltenham, Glos

Under 15
Lucy Eddis, 14 – Little Horkesley, nr Colchester, Essex
Rosie Fanshawe, 14 – Marlborough, Wilts
Georgia Kyte, 12 – Riddings, nr Ripley, Derbyshire
Tim Oliver, 14 – Tadley, nr Basingstoke, Hants
Patrick Robinson , 14 – Sible Hedingham, nr Braintree, Essex
Lewis Tomlinson, 14 – Halifax, West Yorkshire

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