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Celebrating the launch of Unlocked: Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020.

The publication of Unlocked: Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020, by the University of Chester Press, was marked with a celebration at Storyhouse in Chester this month.

In contrast to the constraints of lockdown, county scribes showcased full creative freedom in the annual competition run by the University and Storyhouse, with a record number of submissions received in the fields of short stories, poetry, children’s literature and scriptwriting.

The event on Sunday, November 7 featured readings from some of the 32 winners, runners-up and shortlisted entrants, announced earlier this year and whose work is now in print in the anthology, as well as the launch of the 2021 competition.

With tackling climate change at the forefront of the world’s agenda, the theme for 2021 is sustainability, and submissions are invited for a children's competition, introduced for the first time ever, to run alongside the adult competition.

Simon Poole, Co-Editor; Judge; Associate Professor of Cultural Education; Programme Leader for the University’s Master’s in Creative Practice in Education and Senior Leader in Cultural Education and Research at Storyhouse said, of the 2020 competition: “Lockdowns across the country may have created all kinds of problems for different people, but one of the positives that seems to have been unlocked across our county, and very probably across the country, was our individual creative potential. These pages are just one example of those isolated endeavours coming together into a collective expression of individual experience.”

“This anthology is an incredibly unique publication, not only for how it documents this strange moment in time, but more importantly for how it reminds us of our need to explore, unravel, pose ‘what-ifs’, in order to make sense of the world: and the benefits of writing for our own wellbeing,” added Co-Editor, William Stephenson, Associate Professor and Programme Leader for BA English Literature at the University.

Renowned poet Daljit Nagra, who was the guest speaker at the Awards evening livestreamed from Storyhouse in July, also shared a recommendation: “Aside from the sheer variety of writing, immediate and alive as an ambulance at full speed, is the importance of the work which feels an essential historic document of wonders that we will return to after the pandemic is well and truly behind us. Impressive, exciting and memorable.”

The launch event was part of Chester Literature Festival, one of the longest-running annual literature events in the country, which took place at Storyhouse this month, with a packed programme of visiting poets, writers, broadcasters, wordsmiths and actors. The Festival’s Artist in Residence, Imtiaz Dharker, also created the pen and ink drawing featured on the cover of the book.

The cover of Unlocked - Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020.jpg

The cover of Unlocked: Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020, featuring artwork by Imtiaz Dharker.
The cover of Unlocked: Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020, featuring artwork by Imtiaz Dharker.

The 2020 competition category winners were: Leon Coleman, for the short story A Rock Called Pluto; Caitlin Norbury, for the script Home Sweet Home; Chris Nelson, for the children’s story New Background; and Paul Howarth, for the poem Residue.

Runners up were: Esther Amis-Hughes, for the short story Relative Humidity; Julie McKiernan, for the script I Am Stars; Janys Chambers, for the children’s story Lockdown 2041; and Maria Isakova-Bennett, for the poem Equinox 2020.

For more information on Unlocked: Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020 and to purchase a print copy, please visit:

The ebook version is also available through Google Play, Perlego and library collections including EBSCO, Ebook Central and Gardners.

The Cheshire Prize for Literature was founded in 2003 and is open to people with a connection to the historic Cheshire boundary (including the Wirral). It is one of the few free-to-enter literary competitions and offers not only a significant cash prize for the winner but also the rare opportunity for the best entries from the previous year to be published professionally by the University of Chester Press in an anthology edited by senior members of academic staff.

Further details on the 2021 Cheshire Prize for Literature competition are available at:

Storyhouse is one of the UK’s foremost cultural charities incorporating a library, theatres and a cinema at its home in Chester. For more information, please visit:

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