On Sunday 6th November, 22 hopeful poets and various notable literary names gathered at the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park for the Poems in the Park 2011 awards presentation, as part of the Friends of Richmond Park society’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

The competition, a first for Richmond Park, invited aspiring poets in the three age ranges of 12 and under, 13-18 and 19+ to submit poems relating to Richmond Park. Over 650 entries were received, a staggering amount for a first time venture on this scale, and had to be whittled down to just the 22 shortlisted finalists by five distinguished judges, including famed children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson and the renowned journalist and newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald. Other judges included film-maker Paddy Hughes, editor of the Richmond magazine Richard Nye and journalist Fiona Adams, editor of the Kingston magazine.

The presentation opened with words from Ron Crompton, the head of the Friends, who stated that the 50th anniversary year had been tremendous for them and that the ceremony was the last of three celebratory events.

Next, the establisher of Poems in the Park, Richard Gray, spoke about the commitment and dedication put in by both entrants and judges for the competition. He described the seasonal nature of the competition, how it got off to a slow winter start, and after the blossoming of entries in the spring and summer: “We’re in the autumn, and we’ve got the fruits of your labours”. He explained how he and a handful of volunteers had to wade through the 650 entries until a long list of 53 were left. These were subject to the final judging process involving the five main judges on 27 September at Pembroke Lodge.

Following a short speech from Richard Nye, Jacqueline Wilson took to the stage to speak about her relationship with Richmond Park. She described it as “such a magical place”, having visited it since her childhood. She also explained how Richmond Park has cropped up in some of her works, most prominently in a recently made poetry anthology entitled Green Glass Beads, and Lily Alone, a novel release earlier this year. Then, she spoke on the sheer quality of entries, stating: “I’m a veteran of judging children’s poetry competitions, but these entries were truly outstanding. It’s maybe a combination of the talent of our local children and the inspiring beauty of Richmond Park".

It was then time for the winners to be revealed. For every age group, the poems were read out by three actors and the runners up and winners were announced. Ancient trees, deer, the Isabella Plantation and the democratisation of the Park were among the broad variety of themes influencing the poems, and most poetic styles were represented. The dulcet tones of the actors granted an extra depth and dimension to the poems, immersing the audience and providing a true feel for the poems. The winners were: 12 years and under: Lost in the Park - Edward Pearson, 8 13 – 18 years: The Fern – Louis Sutcliffe, 14 18 years + (Joint winners): Kingfisher, Beverly Brook – Chris Rice September – Patricia Moore The poems submitted for Poems in the Park have proven that Richmond Park is not only an area of natural beauty and historical significance, but also a mine for literary gold. Hopefully the competition will continue for years to come based on its popularity, and cement Richmond Park as the place of wonder it deserves to be.