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I am ‘ancient fairy godmother’ of children’s writing competition, jokes Camilla

Clarence House

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

The Duchess of Cornwall jokingly referred to herself as the “ancient fairy godmother” of BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words short story competition as this year’s winners were announced.

Camilla celebrated the tenth anniversary of the popular children’s event by appearing from Scotland on the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show and praising the “talents” of the young writers who entered.

The winners were chosen from a final selection of 56 stories, with the judging team featuring the duchess, chairman Chris Evans, award-winning authors Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon, as well as Ball.

The duchess joked on air about a squirrel who had joined their video call deliberations after the animal was spotted at her window, and she quipped “he was very helpful”.

Coronavirus forced organisers to cancel the staging of the final at Buckingham Palace and in a pre-recorded message, played on the breakfast show, Camilla said: “I was really looking forward to meeting the finalists at Buckingham Palace today.

“But, thankfully, technology has brought us together across the airwaves – and we will still celebrate as hard as we can.

“But just before we get to celebrating, I want to say something a bit serious. The last few months have been very difficult, confusing and worrying for lots of you.

“Thank you for staying at home, being kind to others and cheering up your family and friends whenever you could. You have been brilliant.”

The message was recorded by the duchess from her home at Birkhall in Scotland inside a Wendy house originally built on the estate in 1935 for the then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret.

She went on to say: “In its 10 years, 500 Words has received a staggering million-plus entries.

“And it hasn’t just got children excited about reading and writing – lots of grown-ups have got very excited too.

“Including me, the competition’s rather ancient fairy godmother!

“Now this year, we may have been confined to our homes, but nobody can confine imagination.

“Once again, I have been blown away by your genius and creativity.

“In fact, you reminded me of a wonderful quotation from Beatrix Potter: ‘There’s something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you’.

“For me, there was something delicious about reading the beginnings of all your stories. I could never quite tell exactly where I would end up – but I had a wonderful time getting there!”

The six winning stories were read during the breakfast show by a host of celebrities including Jodie Whittaker, Dua Lipa and Joanna Lumley and the winners and finalists celebrated with a video call party.

The winners, in the 5-9 years and 10-13 years categories, were chosen from almost 135,000 entries but it was announced this week the competition will come to a close.

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