WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS (www.wickedyoungwriterawards.com), created by the producers of the musical WICKED in partnership with the National Literacy Trust (www.literacytrust.org.uk), are delighted to announce that the poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams (Barber Shop Chronicles) and the international poet and mental health campaigner Hussain Manawer are both joining this year’s judging panel. The author, award-winning journalist and former Labour MP Ed Balls returns to the judging panel for a third year, alongside Editor-in-Chief of First News, Nicky Cox MBE. Author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizard of Once books, Cressida Cowell, returns as Head Judge for the fifth consecutive year, together with long-standing judges Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust and Michael McCabe, Executive Producer (UK) of WICKED.

We are also delighted to announce that Dan Freedman, author of the best-selling Jamie Johnson series and who also helped launch this year’s awards at an event for schools at the Loogabarooga Literary Festival in October 2018, now officially joins as an Ambassador for the awards.

Dan Freedman, comments “I’m lucky enough to be a regular visitor to schools around the UK and I can’t wait to start spreading the word about the Wicked Young Writer Awards. There is so much talent out there and I have no doubt that this year’s entries are going to be spectacular.”

Launched in 2010 by the producers of WICKED in collaboration with Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE and the National Literacy Trust, the free to enter awards recognise excellence in writing, encourage creativity and develop writing talent in young people. Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall is Patron of the Awards that raise awareness and funds for the National Literacy Trust, an independent charity dedicated to giving children and young people the literacy skills to succeed in life.

Ed Balls, says, "It’s great to be back again on the judging panel and I’m once more really looking forward to reading all the entries and discussing them with my fellow judges. We all love sampling the talent and creativity on show and it’s always really hard to choose the winners. Awards like Wicked Young Writers are a brilliant way to unlock new talents and help children and young people to give their thoughts, ideas and passions a voice."

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust says, “Writing can open up a whole new world of possibilities for children and young people. It can inspire creativity, fuel imaginations and give them the freedom to explore their thoughts and feelings. What’s more, being able to write well can help children succeed at school, get a good job, and have a brighter future. This year’s Wicked Young Writer Awards will give children and young people a unique opportunity to bring their ideas to life in a fictional story, or non-fiction essay or article, poem or song lyric. I can’t wait to read all the wonderful entries – good luck!”

Michael McCabe, Executive Producer (UK) of WICKED said, “We are honoured that Inua Ellams and Hussain Manawer are joining us as judges for the 9th annual Wicked Young Writer Awards and that Dan Freedman has agreed to become an ambassador. We are all committed to providing every possible opportunity to support the social development and cultural enrichment of young people in the UK and we are proud that these free to enter creative writing awards have encouraged so many new young writers. We remain greatly indebted to Sir Michael Morporgo OBE, whose passionate championing of literacy and creative writing in the UK inspired us to create these awards in 2010.”

We are pleased to announce that First News is returning as media partner for 2019. The award-winning children and young people’s newspaper will also provide a work experience prize for the winner of our non-fiction FOR GOOD category, in which 15 to 25 years olds are invited to write about the positive impact people can have on each other. Editor Nicky Cox MBE will also be a guest judge for the category.

Nicky Cox MBE, editor of First News comments, "I have lost count of how many times I have seen Wicked now, but it is more than ten times. That is how good it is. The standard of entries each year in the Wicked Young Writer Awards is also astoundingly good, so it is always a pleasure and an honour to be part of the judging panel. The talent of so many young writers shines through and I can’t wait to read the entries this year.”

Since launching, over 25,000 young people have entered original and thought-provoking pieces of writing that consistently reflect their interests, concerns and deepest thoughts, providing a first look at the emerging voices of a new generation.

Deadline for entries is 18 March 2019.

Entrants can submit their writing by visiting www.wickedyoungwriterawards.com where they will also find writing tips and resources from the Award judges.

ED BALLS (Judge)

Ed Balls is a broadcaster, writer and economist. He is a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and Visiting Professor at King’s College London, co-Chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Chairman of Norwich City Football Club. His BBC TV series ‘Travels in Trumpland: with Ed Balls’ was broadcast in July. Ed, a former Member of Parliament, was UK Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2011-2015) and served in the UK Cabinet as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (2007-2010). He was the UK Minister for Financial Services (2006-2007) and the Chief Economic Adviser to the UK Treasury (1997-2004) during which time he was Chair of the IMFC Deputies and UK G20 Deputy. While Shadow Chancellor, he was co-Chair with Larry Summers of the Center for American Progress Inclusive Prosperity Commission. Ed is married to Yvette Cooper MP. They have three children and live in London and Castleford. His interests include learning the piano, marathon running, cooking, sailing and supporting Norwich City. Ed was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing 2016 and was nominated for a BAFTA for ‘TV Moment of the Year’ in 2016 and as part of the ITN General Election team in 2017.


Cressida Cowell is the author and the illustrator of the bestselling How to Train Your Dragon book series. How to Train Your Dragon has sold over 8 million books worldwide in 38 languages; it is also an award-winning DreamWorks film series, and a TV series shown on Netflix and CBBC. The first book in Cressida's new series, The Wizards of Once (also signed by DreamWorks), is a number one bestseller. Cressida is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency and a founder patron of the Children's Media Foundation. She has won numerous prizes for her books, including the Gold Award in the Nestle Children's Book Prize, the Hay Festival Medal for Fiction, and Philosophy Now magazine's 2015 Award for Contributions in the Fight Against Stupidity. She grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland and she now lives in Hammersmith with her husband, three children and a dog called Pigeon.


Nicky Cox is editor in chief of First News, the UK’s number one publication for children with more than two million readers a week. Nearly half of schools nationwide subscribe to First News. Nicky is also CEO of Fresh Start Media, a production company making broadcast films for, and about, children around the world - including FYI, a weekly news show for children which airs on Sky News at weekends and across all Sky Kids platforms, reaching millions of young people and their families. Nicky was made an MBE for services to children in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2009, and in 2013, was given a Patron’s award from the NSPCC and ChildLine for dedication to children. Nicky is passionate about giving kids a voice and a fair deal.

Nicky Cox MBE / continued…

In 2014, Nicky was one of the ‘Women of Achievement’ in the Women of the Year Awards. She is often called upon to be a judge herself and has been on the panels for BAFTA, the Global Teacher Prize and the Mum of the Year Awards, as well as being a trustee of British Plaque Trust. She is also a special adviser to UNICEF and patron of the British Citizen Youth Awards. Nicky appears often on television and radio to talk about children's issues and is a regular columnist in several national newspapers.


Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a poet, playwright & performer, graphic artist & designer. He is a Complete Works poet alumni and a graphic designer at White Space Creative Agency. He facilitates workshops in creative writing where he explores reoccurring themes in his work - Identity, Displacement and Destiny - in accessible, enjoyable ways for participants of all ages and backgrounds. His creative work has been recognised with a number of awards: The Live Canon International Poetry Prize, The Arts Council of England Award, a Wellcome Trust Award, twice shortlisted for the Brunel Prize for African Poetry, longlisted the Alfred Fagan Award, Edinburgh Fringe First Award 2009 and the Liberty Human Rights Award. He has been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, Tate Modern, Louis Vuitton, Chris Ofili, BBC Radio & Television. His first three pamphlets of poetry ‘Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales’ and ‘Candy Coated Unicorn and Converse’ were published Flipped Eye and 'The Wire-Headed Heathen' by Akashic Books. Several plays including the critically acclaimed Black T-shirt Collection and award-winning The 14th Tale are published by Oberon. In 2005, he founded the Midnight Run— an arts-filled, night-time, playful, walking, urban movement that attempts to reconnect inner city lives with inner city spaces.

DAN FREEDMAN (Ambassador)

Dan Freedman grew up wanting to be a professional footballer. That didn’t happen. Instead, he went on to become a top football journalist, personally interviewing Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Roy Keane amongst others. Dan was Editor in Chief for the FA and founding editor of http://www.thefa.com/. During his career he has gone to two World Cups as part of the official England Team group. Dan puts his passion and knowledge of football to good use, writing the hugely popular series of Jamie Johnson football novels (Scholastic UK) which have now been adapted for TV by the BBC. The second series started in April 2017 on CBBC with a third series currently filming. BBC Worldwide is promoting the show for international distribution. The Jamie Johnson books have sold more than 700,000 copies worldwide in the UK, Brazil, Turkey and Norway. Dan spends many weeks of the year touring the UK and talking about his books and writing. His latest book is Unstoppable which will be published by David Fickling Books in February 2019.


Having been inspired by a school teacher who urged him to enter a poetry competition, fast forward a decade or so and Hussain Manawer now travels across the world to deliver raw performances that promise to pack an emotional and inspiring punch. Carving out a new genre of socially conscious art for the masses, the ‘Original Mummy’s Boy’ has just released his latest body of work entitled 'Homemade', a 4-track poetry grief cycle through Universal Music’s Virgin EMI Records, to critical praise. Hussain recently launched the UK's largest mental health festival in partnership with Twitter UK at Hackney Empire, received an Honorary Fellowship from the prestigious King’s College London for his work in mental health and public sciences and performed to a sold out audience at Scala in November 2018.


Based on the acclaimed novel by Gregory Maguire that ingeniously re-imagines the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

On 8 December 2018, WICKED will become the 13th longest running West End show in history.


Through its FOR GOOD programme and other charitable endeavours, WICKED is proud to support the remarkable work of the following UK charities: Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA); Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity), the National Literacy Trust and the Woodland Trust.

For more information visit: www.WickedForGood.co.uk