2017 Humanities Writing Competition Winners


The annual Humanities Writing Competition for current Year 12 students is now in its sixth year. The prize-giving ceremony was held on Thursday 27 April 2017 in the Fellows’ Rooms at Girton College. The aim of the competition is to encourage students of any subject to research, think and write about one of the five chosen items from the College Museum of Antiquities at Girton College, known as the Lawrence Room.

The chosen items for this year’s competition were a carved stela and a tilapia-fish amulet from ancient Egypt, a Greek aryballos (flask), a pair of terracotta tortoises from Greece, and a brooch found in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Girton’s grounds.

A record number of entries was received, including essays, short stories and poems. The terracotta tortoises in particular seemed to capture the entrants’ imagination this year, accounting for the majority of the submissions, but each object inspired at least one piece of work. All showed evidence (sometimes highly impressive) of interests and research outside the set curriculum. The general standard of proof-reading, referencing and written style was good. A few entrants did not observe the requirement to base their work on one or more of the museum objects, and we must point out that this is one of the conditions of the competition. It was also evident from this year’s work that creative writing should not be regarded as an easy option compared to essay-writing: not everyone avoided the pitfalls of clichéd style, stereotyped story-lines and an unrelieved emphasis on the awfulness of the past, with childbirth trauma being a particular ‘flavour of the year’.  The best of the creative entries, however, opened arresting windows on life in the remote past, and all gave food for thought and enhanced our appreciation of the educational and human value of Girton’s museum collection. 

First place was awarded to Maria Telnikoff (Leicester Grammar School) and second prize to Harry Dearlove Still (Lewes Old Grammar School), who both wrote fine essays on the cultural significance of tortoises in the ancient Hellenic world.   A joint third prize was awarded to the authors of two creative pieces: Sophie Al-Hussaini (The Maynard School) and Catherine Ogilvy (Cheltenham Ladies’ College), who wrote respectively about the tortoise figurines and the tilapia amulet playing pivotal parts in their characters’ lives.

In addition, the judges wished to highly commend the entries by Isabella Jakobsen (North London Collegiate School), Hannah Lewis (Oxford High School), and Peter Mumford (King Edward’s School, Bath).

The four finalists were invited to Girton where they browsed the Lawrence Room with two of the College’s Fellows and judges of the competition, Dr Helen Van Noorden and Dr Gillian Jondorf, before going on a tour of the College led by one of our undergraduate finalists. They then enjoyed tea with the Mistress and judges in the Fellows’ Rooms, where they were presented with their prizes and certificates. 

The winning entries are now on display in the Lawrence Room, which is open to the public from 2 - 4pm on Thursdays. Girton are grateful to Cambridge University Press and to Miss C. Anne Wilson for their kind sponsorship of the competition.


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Published: 05 June 2017