Voices 2021 winners revealed at virtual ceremony hosted by Peter Capaldi and former winner

Published: Thursday 15th July 2021

Last night (Wednesday 14 July), Coram Voice announced the winners of Voices 2021, its sixth annual national creative writing competition for children in care and young care leavers, sponsored by UK management consultancy Cadence Innova.

The awards ceremony took place online again this year due to ongoing pandemic restrictions and were hosted by award-winning actor Peter Capaldi, and Voices 2019 winner Sophia Alexandra Hall.

The awards, which were broadcast on the Coram Voice YouTube channel, featured members of this year’s judging panel including children’s authors Abi Elphinstone and Cynthia Murphy, novelist Kirsty Capes and the poet Joelle Taylor, alongside the young writers reading their winning pieces.

Peter Capaldi, a long-standing supporter of the competition, said: “It is an honour to host the Voices awards ceremony again this year. The competition is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the creativity and talent of care-experienced young people and builds greater understanding around their lives and experiences.”

This year’s competition received over 250 entries on the theme of ‘What Makes Life Good’ submitted from across the country. Just 24 of these were shortlisted, with winners announced across four age categories: primary (age 4-10), lower secondary (age 11-14), upper secondary (age 15-17) and care leavers (age 18-25).

The Voices 2021 winners are:

Winner of the Primary category: ‘What Makes Life Good’ by Jessica, age 10

Judges Em Norry and Alan Dapre said: “This piece buzzes with high energy and made us smile. There was obviously a cheeky, fun personality behind these words. It has upbeat verses that clearly express many positive situations, actions and relationships in this writer’s life.”

Winner of the Lower Secondary category: ‘My Family’ by Cody, age 14

Judges Abi Elphinstone and Cynthia Murphy said: “There are some truly heart-warming images here. We loved the contemplative nature of the phrase: ‘I see the same moon every night, it is always the same, it always looks different’ and the openness and variety of the travelling life. This piece beautifully stirs up memories, hopes and dreams.”

Winner of the Upper Secondary category: ‘Keys’ by Claire, age 17

Judges Christel Dee and Callen Martin said: “Thank you so much for sharing this personal and touching story with us. Your words had us gripped from the start.”

Winner of the Care Leaver category: ‘Happiness in Dark Places’ by Carla, age 20

Judges Kirsty Capes and Joelle Taylor said: “The poem is so evocative, so heart-breaking in its rendering of the mundanities of life and the grief over a lost relationship. We particularly loved the small details in this poem: the poorly cut mangoes, the NCIS box set and dressing gowns. The ‘P.S.’ of the last line was such a hopeful way to end.”

Brigid Robinson, Managing Director of Coram Voice, said: “The uncertainty and disruption of the pandemic has made the past year incredibly challenging for many children and young people in and leaving the care system. But reading the competition entries, we have been so inspired by the stories and poems that show how children and young people are using their strength and creativity to deal with these difficult experiences. Their motivation and resilience is an inspiration to all.”

Read the winning and shortlisted pieces 

Watch the Voices 2021 awards event