London Met proud to announce the winners of the 2023 Big Writing Challenge

Students from across London took part in this year’s literary challenge, with the winners announced at a prizegiving ceremony at the prestigious Orion Publishing Group offices.

Date: 10 May 2023

The Big Writing Challenge, a collaborative effort between London Met and the Orion Publishing Group, has named Saffron Pennycooke, a student at Winchmore School as this year's winner for their submission of ‘Redroom’.

The annual challenge consists of initial schools workshops developed and run by London Met’s Creative Writing lecturers and Outreach Team. The student writers also meet Orion staff from departments including editorial, marketing, publicity and sales. The challenge aims to equip students with a good knowledge and understanding of how the publishing industry works. Using this heightened awareness, students can actively seek out opportunities to get involved in the aspects of publishing that most interest them.

As winner, Saffron’s work will be published in full on the Orion Books website. The Winchmore student also received books from Orion editors’ recommendations, a ‘Moleskine Smart and Classic’ notebook courtesy of Moleskine, a book gift box with a £25 book voucher courtesy of the London Review of Books Bookshop, a creative writing course at The Arvon Foundation, and a copy of The White Review.

The competition judge, Sareeta Domingo, Editorial Director of Trapeze Books, an imprint of Orion Publishing Group said, “Saffron’s story was steeped in dark, gorgeous descriptions and a really assured tone that was perfect for this scary, emotion-laced story."

"Having the opportunity to visit the Orion building was brilliant and I loved being fully immersed in the industry" said Saffron. "Winning the competition was the cherry on top, I'm still stunned and grateful to this day; I couldn't fathom the possibility of placing first, especially with so many other worthy competitors!"

Tallyia Charalambous, Saffron's teacher at Winchmore, praised the event. "It's a fantastic programme that provides all students an opportunity to engage in creative writing, no matter their subjects of study and ability. The combination of London Met and Orion Publishing is one of greatness - communicating every step of the way and giving our students the chance to develop their knowledge alongside their cultural capital through a diverse range of experiences."

Runners up Katie Pangratiou, a student at Barnet and Southgate College, and Tomoya Comrie, a student at Croydon College, also received an Arvon creative writing course prize.

On 27 April, all participating students were invited to the Orion offices for the prize giving, and to take part in a panel discussion with senior marketing executives, sales account managers, and editorial directors. The panel helped students to understand the path from ideation to publication, sales pitching, and marketing that a book takes. The key message for the students was that there is no singular path into publishing, and that regardless of background, reading choices, or work experience, you can make it in the industry.

“We loved welcoming the writers to the speaker panel and prize-giving event at our offices,” said Bartley Shaw, Orion Publishing Operations Director, adding, “It is essential that we show young and aspiring creatives where their interest in the written word may take them – as writers or as part of the publishing industry. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with London Metropolitan and their partner colleges on this year’s challenge and we are delighted that the inspiration for this year’s writing – Disruption – took its inspiration from the Hachette ambition of Changing the Story.”

London Met staff Richard Fisher, Liz Routhorn, Funmi Ajibodun, Rudi Salmon, Renzo Veschini, Charlotte Gaughan and Trevor Norris helped students develop a short piece of creative prose and workshop it at a bootcamp at London Met. Students honed and discussed their writing under the guidance and mentorship of a group leader.

 “Our thanks to all Orion staff involved for helping London Met empower young people and transform their imagination into words” said Senior Outreach Officer, Richard Fisher. “We’d also like to thank our partners and those who donated prizes to all the longlisted students.”