Eleanor Winn, a sixth-form pupil at St Paul’s Girl’s School in London, was chosen as the overall winner of the Connell Guides Essay Prize for her appraisal of the play ‘Jerusalem’ by Jez Butterworth. Pullman chose her 1,500-word essay over nearly 200 other entries. Eleanor has won the £500 prize and a full set of Connell Guides.
Commenting on the judging process Pullman said: “I was delighted to read such vivid and frank essays. The writers seemed to have looked with fresh eyes and open minds at a wide variety of texts, and to have responded with vigour and honesty. They all had good qualities, but what stood out for me in the work of Eleanor Winn was the kind of ease and authority that we see in the performance of a gifted singer or ball-player – a complete familiarity with the medium, a way of presenting the material that seems effortless. She’s at home with language, so that writing and thinking about story and drama comes naturally to her. When we see a gift like that, the only thing to do is enjoy it.”
Eleanor, aged 17, said: “To be able to write about anything I wanted was such a unique opportunity and actually to win was something I never could have imagined. Having Philip Pullman read (and actually like) my essay is so surreal and amazing – it really hasn’t sunk in. It’s particularly special because Philip Pullman has always been my favourite author.”
The first runner-up was Phoebe Gipson from Bradfield College for her essay on ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan, followed by Lailah-Tul-Anne Choudhry from Chelmsford County High School for Girls for her piece on Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Stillborn’. They each receive a full set of Connell Guides and a £50 voucher to spend at www.connellshop.com
Jolyon Connell, founder of Connell Guides, said: “We are thrilled to have Philip Pullman as our judge this year. As a former teacher himself, he was well equipped to spot young talent. We wereâ€‹ inundated by would-be winners, I’m glad I didn’t have to pick the winner myself.”
The competition was open to all sixth-form pupils studying English literature. Its aim is to encourage young people to think about and interpret literature in a way that helps to foster a life-long love of reading and writing.
All the essays can be read on our blog: www.connellreview.com Details of next year’s Essay Prize will be announced in September.