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28 Nov 2017

Cheshire’s best children’s writing celebrated with the creative team behind Biff, Chip and Kipper.

 The award-winning author and illustrator team responsible for bringing the treasured characters Biff, Chip and Kipper to life has revealed the winner of this year’s Cheshire Prize for Literature.

Cheshire Prize winners.jpg
Caption: Left to right - Sue Rowe and Ann Williams (judges); High Sheriff of Cheshire Sarah Callander–Beckett; Eric Twist; Elizabeth Harris; Laura Bridge; Alex Brychta MBE; Sharon Forsdyke; Rod Hunt MBE and Si Poole.

Rod Hunt MBE and Alex Brychta MBE were the special guests at this year's High Sheriff's Cheshire Prize for Literature 2017 awards evening, which took place at the University of Chester’s Riverside Campus. They gave the audience of children, parents and entrants to the competition an insight into how to create their much-loved and world-famous stories.

Rod and Alex are the team behind The Oxford Reading Tree series, which is arguably the most widely used reading scheme in the world (and celebrated its 30th birthday last year).
It is enjoyed by children in 85% of UK schools, and in over 130 countries worldwide. Since its launch, it is estimated that more than 30 million children have learnt to read with The Oxford Reading Tree. The stories have been translated into over 15 languages including Welsh, Spanish, Afrikaans, German, Turkish and Norwegian and there are Chinese and Far-East editions for ESL (English Second Language) teaching.
Rod is also an alumnus of the former Chester College and received an honorary degree from the University of Chester last November.
This year’s competition was for Children’s Literature, with approximately 140 entries covering a wide range of themes received from the length and breadth of the country, as well as internationally.
The first prize of £2,000 was presented to Laura Bridge for her story, The Crate. Laura, who lives in Bath city centre, but is originally from Knutsford, said: “As a Primary School teacher I was excited to hear how Rod and Alex create their stories. I was overwhelmed to win and it was such an honour to have an extract of my story read out by Rod!”
Eric Twist, from Great Sankey, Warrington, who wrote The Exploding Artichoke and Elizabeth Iddon, also from Great Sankey, Warrington, who wrote The Fall of the Sycamore were both Highly Commended and received £250 each.
Both Sharon Forsdyke, a University of Chester graduate, for her story Saved by the Elephant and Elizabeth Harris, for her story The Spy Left Out in the Cold,  both from Chester, were Commended and received £125 each.
As well as cash prizes, the winning entries and a selection of other submissions will be included in an anthology produced by the University of Chester Press next spring.
Fiona Roberts, Alumni and Development Manager, also attended the event. She said: "It was an insightful evening, learning how Rod and Alex collaborate to produce the books. Rod described how he visualised everything about the stories and when he saw the style Alex used to sketch characters, he felt that he had found precisely the illustrator he was looking for, so contacted him. The pair outlined that this is unusual, and generally, a publisher would find an illustrator, rather than the author.
"It was incredible to see the characters appear so quickly on a page, as Alex deftly sketched them on a flip board, in front of the audience! He explained that he has drawn the characters so many times he can create them with ease.It was incredible to see the characters appear so quickly on a page, as Alex deftly sketched them on a flip board, in front of the audience! He explained that he has drawn the characters so many times he can create them with ease.
"It was very clear how Rod’s 20 year teaching career had influenced his approach to helping children learning to read. Rod had completed the Teacher Training Certificate in 1958-59, making many friends during his time at the then Chester College. He is still in touch with many from his college days, and has organised reunions over the years. Rod was presented with an Honorary Degree by the University of Chester in 2016, for his outstanding contribution to the development of literacy in education."
The Cheshire Prize for Literature competition is supported by the University’s Faculty of Education and Children’s Services. The intended readership for entries was seven to 14-year-old children. The competition is always open to residents of Cheshire, Warrington, Wirral and Halton, including those who have ever lived, worked or studied in the area.
Head judge Simon Poole, who is the Programme Leader for the MA in Creative Practices in Education at the University and Senior Lead for Cultural Education and Research at Storyhouse, said: “"It was a great pleasure to read all of the entrants to the Prize. We had an astonishing amount of entrants this year too, and a very high calibre of writing was evident. This is a testament to the flourishing creativity of the county and perhaps an indication of a growing love of stories in our small part of the world!"
The High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature has been running for 14 years, having been set up in 2003 by the then High Sheriff of Cheshire, John Richards OBE, DL.
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