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The Ridding Reading Prize 2023

The second round competitors (from left to right): Andrew McLeod, Sophie White (winner), Christina Koning (Chair), Maddie Robertson, Damien Macedo

The second round competitors (from left to right): Andrew McLeod, Sophie White (2023 winner), Christina Koning (Chair), Maddie Robertson, Damien Macedo 

The competition for the Ridding Reading Prize 2023 was held in the Fellows' Rooms on Monday 6 March, 2023. The competition is a Girton tradition, now in its 80th year, was founded in honour of Caroline Mary Ridding, who won a scholarship to Girton to study Classics in 1883, and became a renowned Sanskrit and Pali scholar.

The evening began with a buffet supper for competitors, audience, and the panel of judges. The panel consisted of Dr Stuart Davis, Dr Seb Falk, Ms Christina Koning (Chair), Dr Anna Nickerson, and Dr Sandra Fulton. During the Judges’ discussions, the audience were given an account of Caroline Ridding’s life and activities by the Librarian, Mrs Jenny Blackhurst, and delighted by music from pianist, Emma Scott, a 3rd year music undergraduate.

There were originally 14 entrants, but two had to withdraw, and the remaining 12 were fairly evenly divided between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year undergraduates and postgraduates.

In keeping with this year’s theme of ‘A Just World?’, the passages chosen for the first round were extracts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and George Eliot’s poem, ‘I grant you ample leave’.  

The four competitors who were chosen to go forward to the second round were Andrew McLeod (2021 Classics), Damien Macedo (2022 CPGS in Legal Studies), Maddie Robertson (2021 History and Modern Languages) and Sophie White (2022 Economics). The two prepared passages for this round were an extract from Ruth Rendell’s 'A Judgement in Stone', and Amy Lowell’s poem, ‘Number 3 on the Docket’. The contestants were also given two minutes each to prepare an unseen poem, Banjo Paterson’s ‘A Bushlawyer Poem’.

When it came to awarding the prize, the Judges were unanimous that, for the overall consistency of her performance and the quality of her reading over both rounds, Sophie White was a deserving winner. Many congratulations! 

Having announced the winner and awarded the prize, Christina Koning drew attention to the sound advice offered by a previous Chair of the Judges, regarding ways that competitors might improve their performances:

  • they should not read so quickly that listeners could not keep up;
  • they should not end-stop lines of verse so fiercely that meaning was lost; 
  • they should make the most of any characterisation conveyed in the passages, particularly those containing direct speech.

Our thanks go to all those who competed, and to everyone who contributed to making the evening enjoyable and a resounding success. 

Special thanks to the Catering team, who customised the buffet to fit with the first round's prose passage, an extract from 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'