Never Such Innocence

The Awards Ceremony for the Never Such Innocence 2017/18 Poetry, Art and Song competition took place on the afternoon of Thursday 24th May 2018 at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks.  This was our largest ceremony since the competition began.  After receiving more than 7,000 entries to the poetry, art, and song competition we awarded more prize positions than ever before and were delighted to welcome some very special guests indeed.

Children travelled to the event from all over the world – winners attended the ceremony from all four corners of the United Kingdom and also from Greece, Malaysia, France, the USA, Canada, and Romania.

The children and guests were greeted by members of the Lord Lieutenant’s Army Cadets, the Sea Cadets, and the Air Cadets, before the Royal Marines Drum Corps processed into the Chapel and Reverend Stephen Dunwoody, Chaplain to the Household Division, began proceedings.  Our President, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, spoke about Never Such Innocence and congratulated the children and young people on their hard work.  Our Founder and Chief Executive Lady Lucy French gave a short speech of congratulations before inviting the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Gordon Messenger, to award the children their prizes.

All of the winning poems and artwork can be viewed online here, as can the songs.

We began by awarding the ages 9-11 art and poetry prizes, including special commendations to pupils from Sunnyfields Primary School who had each created a ‘sweetheart brooch’ and to 130 students from Monmouthshire who had all collaborated together on a quilt depicting the First World War.  Although Third Place art winner Kacper Machnik was unfortunately not able to be at the ceremony, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Seema Kennedy MP very kindly accepted the award on his behalf.  Second place winner Sonja Csik was also not able to be present, but Lieutenant Colonel Tressa Home from the Canadian High Commission very kindly accepted this award.  Following the prizegiving for this age group, first place poetry winner Marat Bilalov read his poem The Poppy for the guests.  Winner of the Gaelic poetry competition Hamish Scott also read his poem Misneachd na Pioba (‘Inspiration of the Bagpipes’).

We then heard from Managing Partner of Dave Steward Entertainment Jono Hart, who spoke about the power of song and the importance of using music to commemorate.  First Place Song winners for ages 9-11, Hasting Hill Academy, then performed their winning song This Girl Can with NSI Artist in Residence Marty Longstaff.  The group wrote their song inspired by the formation of the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1918, in a free songwriting workshop facilitated by Marty.

During the awarding of the age 11-14 art category Third Place winner Lou Gesse was unable to accept her award in person but Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic Advisor to the Military of Defence, very kindly accepted this on her behalf.   After Lady Lucy and General Messenger had awarded the poetry prizes, First Place winner Jasleen Singh read out her beautiful poem The Indian Solder in front of all of the guests.

Welsh poetry winner Gwawr Griffiths also read her poem Rhyfel yn yr Awyr (‘War in the Sky’), and we then heard the winning song for ages 11-14, The Sky is the Limit, performed by Lossiemouth High School.  After this beautiful and moving performance Lady Lucy and General Messenger awarded the ages 14-16 art and poetry categories.  Poetry runner-up Lucy Ozich from New Zealand wasn’t able to be present on the day so Wing Commander Lisa D’Oliveira of the New Zealand High Commission accepted this award on Lucy’s behalf.  First Place Poetry winner Molly Meleady-Hanley then read her poem Me Brother Dan for the guests.  Following this moving poem the ages 14-16 Songs winner Lydia Grigg performed her song, Remember.  Lydia rose to the occasion and sang beautifully.

We then awarded the first of two bonus categories of this year’s competition.  To mark the anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918 we have encouraged children and young people to think about the ‘War in the Skies’ and RAF100 in their entries.  We have been overwhelmed by the response to this theme and all of the winning entries can be found here.  These certificates were awarded by Air Vice Marshal Mike Wigston, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff.

First place poetry winners Georgia Green and Freiya Elton read their poems brilliantly for the guests, and as ages 14-16 winner Kutloogh Qureshi was unable to be there due to an exam the Lord Lieutenant of London Sir Ken Olisa read her poem, The Guardian, and accepted her certificate.

We then moved on to our second bonus category – The Royal British Legion’s 2018 Thank You Competition.  Gary Ryan from the Legion spoke about the Thank You movement, encouraging people to express gratitude to the First World War generation for the sacrifices, and for the things we now enjoy, before awarding these prizes.  All of the winning work can be viewed here.

The first place poem for ages 9-11 was by Amy Massey, Connor Birks and Layla Shaw, who read their lovely poem together with great confidence.  Winners of the two older poetry categories Joel Brassington and Freddie Hawkins also read their poems incredibly well.  The final performance was the winning ‘Thank You’ song, Colourful World by Ysgol y Tywyn.  Having travelled all the way from Anglesey for the ceremony the class performed absolutely brilliantly.

Reverend Stephen Dunwoody then led everyone in an Act of Remembrance to close the event, before the Royal Marines Drum Corps led the winners outside.  Here they were formed up into ranks by the Scots Guards, and marched across Parade Square to watch a drill display by the Queen’s Colour Squadron.

Once the Queen’s Colour Squadron were clear of the Square, a Royal Air Force Helicopter landed before the children to congratulate them.  The winners learned that the helicopter was one used for transporting VIPs, and as the VIPs of the day they were able to sit inside.

There was then an opportunity to relax in the Officers Mess, and winners and guests enjoyed refreshments together.  This allowed our judging panel to meet the winners they had selected, and congratulate them once again.  Morrigan Atherton Forshaw, First Place Art Winner from Chorley, also met her local MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle who arrived to congratulate her.

All winners and guests took away a copy of the 2017/18 Winners’ Booklet, which showcases the winning work, and can also be downloaded here.

We are incredibly grateful to everyone who made the 2017/18 Awards Ceremony so special, and most especially to our wonderful winners for their extraordinary contributions to the competition, and to the Centenary.