Inter-school poetry competition winners!

Essex County Council’s Inter-School Poetry Competition

September this year saw launch of the first ever county-wide Inter-School Poetry Competition, organised by the Cultural Development Team at Essex County Council.

Pupils interested in representing their school were asked to submit a poem relating to the Great War to link in with the council’s First World War project – Now The Last Poppy Has Fallen, funded by a grant of £65,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the project has been be running since September 2013 and includes a touring exhibition, education sessions and two artists (singer/songwriter Georgia Strand and renowned poet Luke Wright) who were commissioned to write new material relating to impact of the war on Essex.

The council received over 35 entries from a number of different primary & secondary schools which were judged by Luke who picked out a winner for each year group along with an overall top three. Each top 10 winner will receive a prize of a £25 book voucher and each school in the top three with also receive a poetry workshop from Luke.

Greensted Junior School, Basildon, who were one of the Top 10 winners, with a Year 5 group entry, even made a short film of their entry, which can be viewed here:

Greensted Junior School on YouTube

Cllr John Spence, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Finance, with responsibility for Heritage, Culture and the Arts, said: “Now the Last Poppy has Fallen focuses on the lives of individuals, families and communities in Essex during the First World War. We were really pleased to be able to involve so many young people in the project and were very impressed by the standard of entries. We were delighted with the response and pleased that so many schools took the time to engage with this competition given their busy schedules.”

Luke himself commented that there were “some lovely, accomplished stuff among the winners, especially the top three”. It is hoped that there will be a celebratory event for schools in the Spring Term where these poems will be showcased.

Winners included:

Other Top 10 winners were:

  • Cherry Tree Primary School – Bethany (Year 3)
  • Greensted Junior School – Group entry: Frankie Curran, Chevy Quirey, Tom Holland, Grace Collins, Ellie Morgan and Blaine Harding (Year 5)
  • Philip Morant School and College – Georgia Lockerbie (Year 11)
  • The Sweyne Park School – Anna Wilson (Year 8) and Lucy Wilkinson (Year 9)
  • Holt Farm Junior School – Elizabeth Ware (Year 4)
  • St Nicholas CofE Primary School – Ronnie (Year 2)

 Poems can be read on our Inter-Schools Poetry Competition Winners page


Where The Poppies Now Grow

Author, Hilary Robinson, shares with us why she wrote her latest book Where the Poppies Now Grow.


The Story Behind The Story

Seeing the beautiful and moving pictures of primary school children planting poppies as part of the World War 1 commemorations has been truly inspiring.

13.tifThe educational initiative by the Royal British Legion aims to help young people understand the impact but it will also, undoubtedly, encourage them to find out more about members of their community who were affected by the conflict.

If I’d had the same opportunity when I was a child I may have been inclined to find out more about my great uncle, Sjt, G B N Johnson who fell on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme.  He was just 22 years old.

For it was many years later, at a family wedding, that my great aunt told me how devastated her mother Jane, my great grandmother, had been when she learned of the death of  Norman.

The shock was devastating.

Every morning, thereafter, for the rest of her life,  Jane would stand at the top of the stairs and visualise the excited commotion of the morning when Norman returned home on leave for what was to be the last time.  Gripping the bannister she would pause and say “it’s alright Norman I’ll be with you soon.”   And even then, frustratingly, I didn’t ask much more.

In 1914  Norman was working in a gentleman’s outfitters in Reading.   He’d volunteered to fight for his county, like so, so many others.

The great uncle of my illustrator, Martin Impey, also fell at the Somme.  Arthur Sainty died a few weeks later aged just 19.

And so it seemed wholly appropriate that we should dedicate our book Where The Poppies Now Grow, to them.


The story, specially written for young children, is a work of fiction and, in homage to the war poets, has been written in rhyme. Through the words and the pictures we have tried to recreate the sense of duty and pride of the time and to celebrate the human condition.  That, no matter what, friendship is a more powerful force than conflict.

Martin Impey’s incredible artwork is true in detail – right down to the black buttons (instead of brass)  of the Rifle Brigade – of which both our uncles were part.03.tif

Our aim is the same as that of the Royal British Legion – to engage young children in that period of history so that they will develop an appreciation for the scale of suffering which was to shape the 20th century world.

It has been an honour to play a small part in the centenary commemorations and to indirectly support the work of the poppy planting initiative.  We were particularly humbled when one reviewer paid us the ultimate compliment by saying that after reading Where The Poppies Now Grow, “children will never look at the poppies in the same way again.”

Hilary Robinson

July 2014

Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey is published by Strauss House Productions.

You can purchase Where the Poppies Now Grow, and Hilary and Martin’s other First World War themed book The Christmas Truce on Amazon. A third book will be available so watch this space…