Sam Brookes Rockhaq Interview

Meet Rockhaq Student: Sam Brookes

This year we’re running a joint writing competition, featuring last year’s short story writing exercise and a music review writing task for all you young, budding music journalists out there!

The music reviews competition is running thanks to the input and support of award-winning local journalist Michelle Dhillon. Michelle has donated a £255 prize pot to award to the best music reviews. She is also the founder of the Rockhaq student music journalism community, which has recently been relaunched after a successful pilot a few years ago now, involving colleges in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

Meet the Rockhaq Students

Some of the original Rockhaq students from a few years ago have been very keen to return to the community, after a gap of three years. One of these original students is Sam Brookes. Sam was studying A Level English Literature at Regent College when he was first introduced to the Rockhaq community. He has since graduated from Leicester’s De Montfort University, worked as a teacher and is now a writer and editor of his own blog.

Sam credits the Rockhaq student community with inspiring him to pursue writing as a career. He also has agreed to act as a judge on this year’s music review writing competition for ArtBeat Festival.

In the meantime, Rockhaq founder Michelle Dhillon caught up with Sam to ask what he’s up to now and what impact the Rockhaq community had on him from 2012 through to 2016. Hopefully this and seeing Sam’s latest reviews on the Rockhaq community will give you all some inspiration to start writing your own music reviews. Good luck!

The ArtBeat 2016 writing competition entries are now open!

Enter the ArtBeat Writing Competition Today!

Great news scribblers: entries are now open for the Gareth Carnall Short Story Competition and Rockhaq Music Review Writing Competition.

Writing Competition Prizes

Thanks to our very generous sponsors, we have some fantastic prizes for you this year.

The Rockhaq Music Review Writing Competition has a £255 prize pot (donated by Michelle Dhillon of to be divided up between the winners of each category. The three categories are:

  • Best music review (min. 350 words)
  • Best live review (min. 350 words)
  • Best opinion column (min. 350 words)

You can enter whatever categories you want – but only two entries in total per writer, please.

The ArtBeat Short Story competition has cash prizes for the winners in each category.

Runners-up in the under 11 and 11-18 categories will receive a book voucher kindly donated by Penny Luithlen of Luithlen Agency.

How to Enter our Writing Competitions

If you’re keen as mustard to get writing, then head over to our writing competitions page. Here you’ll find out the entry categories, competition rules and how to submit your lovingly crafted music review or short story.

Writing Inspiration

If you need a little something to stimulate and inspire, click over to the Rockhaq website or read our interviews with 2015 Short Story Writing Competition winners, Alison Duthie and Martha Yeoman.

Alison Duthie story-writing thrills and spills

Story-writing Thrills, Spills and Knicker Elastic

Pop the kettle on and get ready to read more from our 2015 short story competition winners. Today we put Alison Duthie, winner in the 2015 adult category, on the spot to let us in on her story-writing thrills.

Alison’s Story-writing Thrills

Why did you decide to enter the ArtBeat short story competition?

I decided to enter the ArtBeat competition as I felt a naughty thrill at the idea of writing something about my own local community. The specific remit set within a small area of named streets made it more appealing and real to write about…plus I thought my chances of winning were greater!

What was the inspiration for your story?

My inspiration for the story began by thinking about what a stranger wandering our streets might notice. This made me picture all the ‘I ♥ Clarendon Park’ posters I had seen in the front windows of so many terraced houses of people I didn’t know.

How did you feel when you found out you’d won?

I was shocked and delighted to win. Announcements of names of winners and runners up were made amongst unexpectedly generous and encouraging feedback to participants. I was lulled into a warm fuzzy feeling of group bonhomie so that I almost forgot to anticipate rejection.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for about ten years. My pencil is getting short.

How do you go about starting to write a story?

When I’m thinking about beginning a story I carefully consider the remit, if there is one. I need to feel some kind of spark from a prompt like an image, a memory or a piece of dialogue. I use this energy to follow the ‘what if?’ paths of potential stories.

Can you give 3 tips for other would-be writers?

My three top tips for would-be writers are:

  1. Prioritise your own enjoyment of writing and reading.
  2. Find a way to support you to keep going, such as going to workshops, entering competitions or being part of a writers’ group.
  3. Ask yourself if it feels right when you read back your own work.

And finally, what are your future writing ambitions?

My future writing ambitions are to follow my own advice and enjoy my most recent novel idea.

“I ♥ TESCO” by Alison Duthie

‘Welcome to the in-aug-yural meeting of the I Heart Tesco campaign’, Shirley announces.

Ted glances round her front room at the empty armchairs, the gold trolley with its embroidered tray-cloth and plate of value biscuits.  He strains a glance at the front door. Is it possible that a Ninja anarchist has crept in? No. There is no Milk Tray man but there is Shirley in her loud flowered frock and best trainers.

She’s managed to cram two extra emergency chairs into her tiny terrace. They’ve not seen daylight since her mum died. Fetching them from the dank cellar was Ted’s least favourite chore of the day. He sinks lower into the brown dralon settee. His embarrassment for her rises with the hum of the stark ceiling strip-light.

‘Put your speech down, Shirl. It’s only us.’ He glances at his wrist watch, a retirement gift of shiny gilt. ‘It’s gone seven, no-one else is coming now.’

Shirley takes a last twitch at the nets then slumps into the armchair by the window.

‘I did my best, Ted.’

‘I know, Shirl. You always do. How many posters did you put up?’

‘I put one in Ethel’s window.’

‘Oh? I never saw it.’

‘Her daughter took it down. Said it wasn’t fair to take advantage of an old lady with Alzheimer’s. Went and stuck one of them Say No to Tesco posters up. Well, I Heart Clarendon Park too, but I know better than her what Ethel would have wanted!’

‘What’s that, Shirl?’ Ted mutters. ‘Cheap custard creams and free carrier bags?’

‘And what’s wrong with that! You always thought you were better than me, Ted, don’t think I don’t know.’ She fixes him with a bullish stare. He jams himself tighter into the corner of the settee, squashing down the bowel-twisting irritation. It’s a habit he’s perfected over fifty years, since his adored mum first asked him to be nice to the awkward daughter of her best friend. Childhood teatimes were spent with Shirley at the formica-topped table that’s still in the back room, cold to the touch. Ted used to long for his own mum to pick him up on her way back from work. She was an overlocker at Kemptons. They were called strippers and Shirley never tired of the joke throughout every long school holiday. Ted had often tried but mostly failed to lose her in Vic Park. It was hard not to admire Shirley’s persistence.

‘None of the shops on Queens Road would let me put up a poster.’

‘They’ve got their businesses to protect,’ Ted sighs, remembering his horoscope in the morning paper: April 2014 sees Neptune cast a fog over friendship.

‘There’s loads of us who would love another supermarket.’

‘Has anyone actually said that to you, Shirl?’

‘Well, no but they’re too scared, aren’t they! Might get a brick through the window.’

Or a handmade artisan loaf, Ted silently muses.

‘I put posters on lampposts and the café notice boards, the one in Sainsburys too but they all got torn down.’ Shirley folds her solid arms. ‘I was disappointed in Malcolm,’ she adds darkly, shaking her head. Ted recalls Malcolm’s nervous confession. He’d whispered that the club committee was on the verge of ‘taking things further’ if Shirley didn’t stop pushing past smokers in the doorway, demanding to see him. ‘I only wanted to put up a poster. Aren’t I allowed to say what I think like other people?’

How much should he protect her and how much should he let her go? Ted watches the stubborn furrows between her eyes deepen as she ploughs on.

‘What do I want with posh cafés and delicawotsits! I don’t want none of that wholemeal nonsense, gives me wind. And if I want to buy a birthday card, I don’t want to have to save up for it.’ Ted remembers the last one she gave him with its yellowed edges and picture of boats in a harbour, probably bought at the market years ago. She’s scared to use the bus now but won’t admit it. Ted leans forward and touches her arm.

‘Maybe you’re taking things a bit too far, Shirl. Going against the grain won’t make life easier for you. People take offense.’ Or ridicule her. Only last week he heard a woman in the paper shop sniggering about Shirley to a man clutching his three-crème-eggs-for-a-pound.

‘I’ve lived here all my life. The only way I’m leaving is in a box.’ Ted peers past the nets, above terrace rooftops to catch the last evening brightness between slow grey clouds. His gaze returns to Shirley, plate of biscuits resting on her lap and he watches her brush pink wafer biscuit dust from her bosom. It scatters onto the patterned carpet and Ted snaps,

‘What is it that’s so bloody wonderful about Tesco?’

Shirley shrugs. ‘In Tesco they won’t mind me because they won’t care. I can go in four times a day if I want. There’ll be lots of staff, not just one or two who get fed up of me.’ She fixes him with her dark eyes. ‘I’m not stupid.’

Ted deflates. He’s got his blood pressure to think of. ‘But there’s Sainsburys and the Co-op,’ he ventures.

‘I know but what’s wrong with wanting somewhere else to pop in, see a bit of life? I can’t go to fancy bars or restaurants or sit in cafés on my own. I tried it once. Cost me two pounds for a frothy coffee and I could feel them all looking down their noses at me, waiting for me to leave so important folk could have the table.’ Shirley pauses to wrinkle her nose in disgust. ‘If we get Tesco, it’ll stop places like that taking over.’

‘But why Tesco?’ Ted wonders if a proposal for a branch of Waitrose might have made his life easier.

‘Well I wouldn’t mind a Wilko but there’s only so many oven trays you can buy,’ Shirley replies. ‘Food shops are best. I like seeing young people and what’s in their baskets. Besides, Tesco would stay put, for the rest of my life anyway.’

Her mother’s carriage clock ticks on the tiled mantelpiece. Ted gets up to draw the curtains, stands by the cold gas fire and gulps down the dregs of his tea.

‘So what’s your plan now, Shirl?’

‘Embroidery.’ Ted feels his eyes widen. ‘I’m going back to Thursday afternoon classes in the church rooms,’ she informs him through a mouthful of chocolate bourbon. ‘No-one hardly spoke to me last time but I won’t let that stop me.’

Ted feels a weak smile break out and a lightness rise in his chest.

‘A hobby,’ he says. ‘Smashing idea, something to take your mind off Tesco.’ He stands a little taller. ‘And it’ll do you good to mix with other people.’  Should he be the only one to take some responsibility for her? Shirley rolls her eyes but Ted doesn’t see.

He’s picturing future Thursdays. Maybe he’ll join the bowls club like sweet, sensible Kathleen had advised. She’d told him to keep busy when she was gone, said that even if they’d had children, no-one can rely on them to fill up retirement. Kathleen had predicted, too, that Shirley would never let up once he’d collected his wife’s ashes from Gilroes.

‘I’ll get off now.’ Ted announces. He grabs his jacket, fights rising claustrophobia and the stiff front door to make his escape. Shirley stands on the threshold, a dark silhouette watching him on the pavement. He adjusts his cap and looks down at a cracked slab as he imparts the news he’s avoided sharing. ‘I’m going to stay with my cousin in Lincoln for a week or two, Shirl. Maybe longer. He’s taken a turn for the worse and his wife could do with a break.’ Ted shoots a glance at Shirley but she is silent and inscrutable. ‘So could I,’ he adds, turning up his collar against the chill as he sets off. It seems a long journey back to his two-up-two-down, three streets away.

A month later, Ted sees Shirley walking up Queens Road towards him and a loosened knot tightens in his gut. He arrived home from Lincoln last night but his postcard to her said he’d be back tomorrow. He should have stayed indoors, should have known she’d be patrolling the streets with her shopping trolley. He thought he’d be safe on a Thursday afternoon but can’t avoid her now. Shirley’s heading full-steam towards him. Through his varifocals, she seems benign but he prepares himself for all eventualities with a rictus grin and stands and waits by the grubby window of the abandoned Co-op Travel.

‘Ayup, Shirl. I came home a day early.’ She’s standoffish but calm. ‘How are you?’

‘Keeping busy.’

Ted nods, wondering what on earth could be keeping her busy.

‘I thought you went to embroidery class on Thursdays?’

A ripple of shame shifts him from one foot to the other. Shirley looks him up and down.

‘I left early and I’m not going back. They’re a snooty lot but it’s got me started. I’ve got plenty to carry on with at home.’

‘Oh?’ Ted replies, resisting a bony beckoning finger of worry. Perhaps she’s been kicked out of the church rooms and her world has shrunk a little more. ‘Well it’s good you’re keeping yourself occupied.’ She gives him a withering glance and he tries to change the subject.

‘What’s in your trolley, Shirl? It looks jam-packed.’

‘Never you mind.’ She taps the side of her nose. ‘Something I’ve been working on whilst you’ve been away.’ Ted resists the bait.

‘It looks heavy,’ he says, peering at the bulging sides and strained seams of the worn fabric. ‘Do you need a hand?’ he asks, not knowing how else to end the conversation but praying she won’t accept his offer. His heart lurches with a fear of being shut inside her shabby house, the last sound he hears being the creaking resentment of the black front door, but Shirley announces,

‘No, I can manage fine without you,’ and briskly resumes her journey. No arrangements have been made for him to go round and fix something or hack down the overgrown buddleia. She’s not handed him a list of things to fetch from town nor asked if he’ll come round to play cards and watch telly in the evening. Ted feels light-headed, like a man standing outside the thick wooden door of Welford Road prison, wondering what’s next. She never said goodbye.

Ted shields his eyes from the May sunshine and admires the gentle curve of Queens Road. It’s dotted with vibrant colours of fruits and flowers laid out neatly on the pavement, the purple and green bay windows above the bar and bistro, and hanging baskets prettily pointing the way to Victoria Park. He makes a radical decision to treat himself to a cappuccino and a sumptuous cake. He might even sit outside, watch the world and feel it turn.

Early on the June morning of the Clarendon Park street fair, Ted’s scooping loose leaves into his old brown teapot when he hears an odd news story on BBC Leicester. Someone has been caught, in the early hours, trying to hang an unauthorised banner across Queens Road. Police were called, caught the culprit and removed the offending item. A spokesman said it was a health and safety risk and appropriate permissions had not been sought by the local resident. However, no further action would be taken and the police wished everyone a pleasant day at the fair. Ted hasn’t seen Shirley much lately but recalls her recent request to borrow his long stepladders.

Mid-morning, he takes a stroll out to peruse the stalls, admiring crocheted flower brooches and skull-and-crossbones bunting. By the time he approaches the bank on the corner, his mouth is watering at the waft from the wild boar burger van. He is about to turn and head back towards hot food when he catches sight of Shirley’s head, obscured by a bobbing throng of women around a stall that seems to be hers. It’s laid out with some kind of handicrafts that could be cushion covers. Ted’s curious and decides to approach from the back to say hello.

He edges past stallholders nursing mugs of coffee and stands behind Shirley like a ghost. He stares, dumbstruck, at piles of women’s pants emblazoned with ‘I ♥ Tesco’ in clumsy cross-stitch.

‘They’re bespoke,’ she proudly tells him, grasping a fiver from a smartly dressed woman in exchange for a pair of full-sized briefs. Ted catches a glint of diamante and doesn’t know what to think.

‘Ironic knickers, lol!’ a woman laughs to her friend and leans across the stall to brazenly announce, ‘I’ll take five.’ He notices some kids sent by more circumspect parents to wait in the queue, warm ten pound notes in hand. Perhaps the anonymous brown paper bags have helped sales. Tesco tension is still thick in the air. Big business hasn’t won but it hasn’t lost either. Three of its proposals for alterations to the old Barclays bank have been refused by the city council and an appeal is expected any time. Fresh posters are popping up daily in the front rooms of terraces in the surrounding streets, declaring We Still Say No to Tesco and We ♥ Clarendon Park.

‘I got bundles of cheap knickers from Pricebusters, a nice cotton mix for summer,’ Shirley informs Ted over the street noise. ‘Some students tried to haggle the price down but I sent them packing. Took a lot of work, y’know. I’m a craftswoman and these are individually em-bellished.’ She holds a pair up for him to inspect at nose-level. ‘None of your mass-production or worker-exploitation here.’ Ted wonders if she’s forgotten who made the knickers and tries to picture the people she’s been talking to lately. Maybe she’s ventured into the health food shop after collecting her copy of the Daily Mail, evolved into a political maverick, careless of her contradictions.

‘The police took my banner down,’ she shoots him a glance over the pants whilst testing the elastic of the generous waistband. ‘But they can’t stop me doing this, can they?’ She grins with fat-cat satisfaction. I told you there were others like me. From now on, Ted, there’s going to be literally hundreds of women walking around Clarendon Park wearing my knickers.’ Ted opens his mouth to voice his brewing questions but she has the last word. ‘It’s a silent protest.’

Ted smiles and can’t help but give her a gentle pat on the back as he breaks away, wondering if he might stitch a two-fingered salute on his tired Y-fronts.

Creative writing inspiration from 2015 competition winner Martha Yeoman

Creative writing inspiration from Martha Yeoman

Looking for creative writing inspiration? Thinking of entering our 2016 Gareth Carnall Short Story Competition? Then you’ve come to the right place. We quizzed 2015 ArtBeat Short Story Competition winner Martha Yeoman (14) about her motivations, ideas and influences.

Grab yourself a cuppa, get comfortable and read on to find out more about Martha and to enjoy her winning story entry.

Martha’s Creative Writing Inspiration

Why did you decide to enter the ArtBeat short story competition?

I decided to enter for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my English teacher mentioned the competition to us in a lesson, which was great because I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise! A lot of people in my class decided not to go for it, but I did and I’m glad I did. Writing stories has always been something I loved, since I was about seven or eight, (although they weren’t exactly masterpieces back then…) and I figured it would be good experience to enter a competition – I love seeing what other people think about the things I write, and I love writing them!

What was the inspiration for your story?

Well, we were told that the theme of the story was ‘neighbourhood’, and our teacher said to try and expand on it rather than writing something boring. She suggested to us that we should consider all five of the senses when we write it, which got me thinking – what would it be like if one of those senses was taken away? I’ve lived here all my life, so i know the neighbourhood very well, but it was really interesting to try imagining the impression I would get of it if I only had four of my senses. I chose sight to take away, because a) I don’t think people realise how much they rely on what they can see, and b) it’s really fascinating to discover what you can still sense even if you can’t see.

How did you feel when you found out you’d won?

I was so happy! It’s kind of funny actually – I absolutely was not expecting to win, and I almost didn’t even turn up. I had all but forgotten that the winner was being announced, but then we were walking along Queen’s Road and I remembered, so my mum and I went into Fingerprints – and then it turned out that I had won! I’m really glad I did decide to go, because it would have been kind of awkward if I hadn’t…

How long have you been writing?

Like I said, I’ve been writing for a really long time – since I was probably seven or eight. Mind you, what I wrote back then was not great literature, to say the least. Although, I did once write a 118-page story about dragons, which I remember being super proud of. I still have it, so it’s sort of a reminder that you can always improve! It’s also quite funny to read, I illustrated it and everything!

How do you go about starting to write a story?

Normally I really struggle to write anything if I don’t have a theme to write about. This often comes from what mood I’m in, how I’m feeling, or something that has happened to me in the day. So I will usually make sure I have an idea in my head, sit down in an atmosphere that reflects the theme – home, the park, wherever – and just write! I’ve never been a fan of detailed plans, so I often have to write a first draft and then go back and improve it.

Can you give 3 tips for other would-be writers?

That’s hard! Probably… don’t be afraid to write something, even if at the time you don’t think it’s that great, because chances are one day you’ll look back on it and either really enjoy it or know exactly how to improve it. Don’t be shy to let other people read what you’ve written, whether it’s a teacher or a parent or a friend. Other people can always give you advice, and will have different opinions as someone who hasn’t written the piece, which is really helpful! Thirdly… always write! If you aren’t in the mood or don’t have the time to write a story, write a poem, even a haiku! Writing something keeps you inspired, and I frequently take inspiration from a poem or even a sentence that I wrote down when it came to me, and turn it into something even cooler.

And finally, what are your future writing ambitions?

I don’t really know what my ambitions are at the minute. I’m choosing GCSEs, so I haven’t had much time to write properly recently, but I still try to write poems whenever I can. I don’t really know where writing will take me, and I’m pretty happy to just go with it! Who knows what might happen, so I’ll just keep writing and reading and hope for the best!

“Neighbourhood” by Martha Yeoman

I tip my head back to the sky as warm fingers of sun stroke my face. The air is cool around me, and rustles softly in my hair, whispering around my ears. The noise of the summer fête buzzes in the back of my brain. Faint traces of music sing in the distance, the remnants of a melody that I know but can’t place. I keep catching the ends of people’s conversations as they walk past, my subconscious piecing together their lives as I listen – a family, discussing holiday plans; a group of teenage girls, chattering about boys and camping trips. A dog runs past, barking and squealing, with a small boy in tow. The smell of candy floss lingers in the air, and I can still taste the memory of ice cream on my lips. This street comes alive in the summer time. Children play out in the middle of the road, while their parents take the time to catch up with friends and colleagues. The whole community can join in with one huge game of football, even the elderly laughing like they’re young again. We’re all a family.

“Jones! How’ve you been?” the familiar voice breaks through the low drone of the crowd. A voice I know well. Soft and warm, happy and welcoming. The voice of someone who laughs a lot, and who you know is going to be beautiful just by hearing it. As for the name Jones – only one person would call me that. The name has stuck since primary school – a teacher who had been in the army, or so he claimed. A teacher who let you talk in lessons, who joined in with the kids playing cricket at break times. A teacher who, despite the headmaster disapproving, always read us a story in assembly. A teacher who only taught me for a year, but never – ever – forgot about me. I throw a thumbs up into the air, feeling a grin spreading across my face. This wins a distant chuckle, and laughter from some nearby kids, but I don’t mind.

“Good to hear! I’d stay and catch up, but the wife’s expecting sausages for the barbecue – see you around, soldier!” the voice called. I grin even more, and waggle my fingers in a gesture of farewell. I sit back against the wooden bench. A soldier, that’s what I am. And I have a lot to fight for.

A sweet sound dances towards my ears – someone is playing the guitar, soft and slow, singing a simple tune alongside it. The words tickle my mind, calming my excited thoughts. She is too far away to catch what she is singing about – she’s probably on the stage a bit further down the road – but I can hear a few words dotted here and there. Something about sun, and then something about smiles, and then something about whispering. It’s beautiful, whatever it is. I smile, then, drinking in the afternoon warmth. I’ve always had a strange love of sitting in the sun, ever since I was a little boy. Surely, everyone does – particularly mums, it seems. But, no, I have something different. I feel something special, sitting out in the sunlight. I feel special.

My thoughts are derailed by a small noise from my wrist. A soft beeping, quiet but persistent. I sigh – I know what that means. I take in one last breath through my nose, tasting the last traces of summer laughter in the air. I can still hear voices, but they’re beginning to grow distant. I get the feeling that most of the people who attended the fair have gone, and those who put on the shows, who decorated the stalls, who baked the cakes, are beginning to pack up and leave. That means it’s time for me to leave, too. I sit up, fumbling at my side. The wood of the bench is warm to the touch, still holding on to the thinning rays of sun. My fingers finally clasp around the cool metal of my stick. I slide my hands down it until I feel the soft leather grip, and lean on it as I stand up. I let it graze across the ground in front of me, and adjust myself as I feel it thud against the lamppost. I should really name that lamppost – I sit here almost every day, and it’s there every day, too. There to remind me which way is home. I tap the stick along the ground, feeling for the edge of the pavement. I turn my face briefly into the sun, into the fading joy of the fair that still hangs there. I’ll be back, I told the sun. I’ll be back when you are, back on my bench, back listening to the hundreds of familiar voices that make up this neighbourhood. Listening to the voices, feeling the warmth, loving every second of it. Because I don’t need to see it. It’ll always be here. Always be mine. I smile slightly as I turn back, and start my walk down the now quiet road home.

Summer in Clarendon Park - Short Story Writing Competition

It’s Writing Competition Time!

We received some fantastic entries for the Gareth Carnall Short Story Writing Competition last year, so we’re planning to do it all again for 2016 – only bigger, and better!

Rockhaq Student Music Journalism CommunityAs well as the opportunity to flex your fiction-writing muscles, we also have a brand new writing challenge: the Rockhaq music review writing competition. Huge thanks to our partners Rockhaq, the online student music journalism community, for arranging the competition and to journalist and founder Michelle Dhillon for donating a £255 cash prize pot.

Think you might like to enter? Need some inspiration to get started? Then read on.

Short Story Writing Competition

The theme for this year’s competition is “Summer in Clarendon Park“. Whether your characters spend a day in the shops and cafes on Queen’s Road, exploring the allotments or enjoying the Clarendon Park Summer Fair, there’s inspiration wherever you go.

The short story writing competition has three categories this year:

  • Young people aged under 11 on the closing date. A story of any length up to 1500 words.
  • Young people aged 11-18 on the closing date. A story of any length up to 1500 words.
  • Adults aged 18 and over on the closing date. A story of any length up to 2500 words.

Rockhaq Music Review Writing Competition

Michelle Dhillon, journalist and founder of the Rockhaq student music journalism community, hails from Clarendon Park and is on the lookout for young Leicestershire music journalists to award cash prizes of up to £255. The Rockhaq music review writing competition has three categories:

  • Best music review (minimum 350 words)
  • Best live review  (minimum 350 words)
  • Best opinion column  (minimum 350 words)

This competition is open to anyone aged between 10-20 who attends school or college in Leicestershire. Just write about any music you like, make sure your work is at least 350 words in length and published on the Rockhaq community. You will need to register to join the community  to get started. Full rules are coming soon on the Rockhaq ArtBeat competition page.

For a flavour of other reviews, head over to the Rockhaq website.

Competition Entries

Both our competitions are open for entries from Tuesday 1st March 2016. Entries must be submitted on or before the closing date of midnight on Monday 6th June 2016.

Full competition rules, the entry form for the Short Story Competition and details of how to enter the Rockhaq Music Review Writing Competition will be published on Tuesday 1st March 2016. Until then, get scribbling.

Short Story Competition entrants at ArtBeat 2015

Short Story Writing Talent

This year for the first time ArtBeat has organised a short story writing competition, one for adults and one for children and young people. We were not sure how this would go down, with regard to both the amount of interest and take-up and to the quality of the entries. Entrants were asked to write a short story that said something about their neighbourhood.

Not surprisingly for a first-ever competition, there was not a great number of entries but those that were entered were of a very high standard – in both categories. This is very encouraging. Not only does it reinforce the view that Clarendon Park has talent. But it means that we will have a reservoir of talent for the future – as long as these young writers choose to stay in the area.

Penny Luithlen, is a literary agent and she was one of the three judges that helped to choose the winners. She told me that the standard of writing was very high. The initial reading of scripts is very telling and she says that immediately it became clear that it was going to be hard to discount any at all. The stories felt local and there were some interesting ways in which entrants chose to interpret the brief.

The three judges (the other two are writers) found there was much for them to agree about, in particular what they liked. The children’s stories were wide-ranging and it made them think that perhaps next time there should be a category for even younger writers to differentiate them from the older children and not disadvantage them.

The judges considered who best answered the brief, who had the best variety of ‘telling’ techniques, and who told a story that surprised and delighted them and took them on a special journey. Ultimately it all comes down to personal taste. There was plenty to both agree and disagree about. In the adult category, there was a split decision in selecting the winner. In the children’s category the dilemma was that there were not enough prizes because so many of the entrants were potential winners.

Penny is adamant that those who entered must carry on writing, regardless of whether or not they are prize-winners this year. The responsibility of selecting a winner has weighed heavily on the judges but they have enjoyed the experience. They commend all those who entered for having the courage to do so. It is brave to show your work to someone else to judge. So all those who took part have taken a huge step and are commended for their talent and their bravery.

So if you want to know who won and what they wrote about, the winners are to be announced in the middle of the festival at 11 am on Sunday 21 June at Fingerprints on Queens Road. You will be able to meet those who entered and hear a little of what has been written. I can’t wait!