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Leading London literary festival Wimbledon BookFest works with 100 schools to improve literacy and access to books for young Londoners 

Today on World Book Day, Wimbledon BookFest launches its annual Young Writers’ Competition for school students aged 4 – 19. This year’s theme is “The Tree” and entrants are invited to submit their poems and stories through their teachers and schools at wimbledonbookfest.org. Winners will have their work published in an anthology, and be invited to a prize-giving event at Wimbledon BookFest in September. 

Last year’s Young Writers’ Competition received shortlisted entries from 72 schools across London and Surrey. The overall winner was Raynes Park High School student Jonathan Esenga (pictured above)His powerful poem, My Name is 2020, was inspired by world events during the pandemic, and was read by best-selling author and performance poet Sophia Thakur at a prize-giving event in September 2021. 

Wimbledon BookFest celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2022. It was one of the few festivals to continue to deliver live, in-person festivals throughout the pandemic, reaching audiences of 38,000 last year including many school audiences. The Young Writers’ Competition, and BookFest’s regular programme of live events with inspiring, relevant writers, are among the ways in which the organisation works to promote a love for reading and writing, and to improve access to books throughout the year. To date, Wimbledon BookFest has worked with 100 schools in south London and Surrey across its projects.

Research published this week for World Book Day by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (1 March 2022) shows that six out of ten primary classrooms have no access to new books. In 2021, Wimbledon BookFest gave 7,300 books to children in London through its partnerships with school, libraries, publishers, and booksellers. 

This week, in support of Marcus Rashford’s national campaign to increase children’s access to books, Wimbledon BookFest has provided copies of Rashford’s book You Are Champion: How to Be the Best You Can Be to all 53 state schools in the London borough of Merton – thanks to the support of BookFest ticket-buyers who participated in a ‘pay it forward’ scheme in 2021.  

Wimbledon BookFest Founder and Director Fiona Razvi said: 

“When we set up 15 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined the place Wimbledon BookFest would have in the community and London more generally. We are now looking ahead to the exciting opportunities the next 15 years hold. We strongly believe books really do change people’s lives, and that everyone should be able to enjoy them, as well as having opportunities to tell their own stories.” 

Wimbledon BookFest will stage two multi-day festivals in 2022 featuring Lenny Henry, Dame Sheila Hancock and Nobel Prize-winner Abdulrazak Gurnah

Wimbledon BookFest’s much-loved marquee village will return to Wimbledon Common twice in 2022.  

Sunrise for seven days in June and Sunset for four days in September 2022, repeating a successful format used in 2021. The programme for each will feature BookFest’s trademark mix of big names writers, thinkers and speakers alongside emerging creative talent, spanning a broad range of genres and interests. 

 
Sunrise will run from 9 – 15 June 2022 and will feature: 

  • National treasure Lenny Henry who will headline the schools’ programme, bringing his heart-warming debut novel for children, The Boy with Wings 
  • Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, who discusses his work and untold stories of colonialism and the fate of exiles  
  • Full programme information for Sunrise Festival will be announced in mid-April 2022 

Sunset will run from 22 – 25 September 2022 and will feature:  

  • Dame Sheila Hancock, one of Britain’s best loved actors, who opens up about her ninth decade in her new book, Old Rage 
  • Part talk, part classical music performance, members of the remarkable Kanneh-Mason Family who return to Wimbledon BookFest following a live appearance in 2020 
  • Full programme information for Sunset Festival will be announced in July 2022 

For more information, visit wimbledonbookfest.org or follow us @wimbookfest.

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