This year's Competition attracted nearly 13,000 entries on the theme: Climate Action and the Commonwealth. 130 volunteer judges, drawn from 40 different countries across the Commonwealth, assessed the entries with the final judging decision taken by an expert panel of authors, journalists and poets, which included the writer Anthony Horowitz; written word poet Suli Breaks; journalist Matthew Parris; novelist Wendy Holden; award-winning YA author Zalika Reid-Benta; and the Commonwealth Writer's Prize winner and poet, Sia Figiel. 

The 2020 Winners and Runners-up were drawn from across the Commonwealth (Singapore, India, Canada and Ghana) and wrote inspiring poems, essays and narratives on the topic 'Climate Action and the Commonwealth'. 

In 2020 we were also delighted to host our first virtual Awards Ceremony. The virtual ceremony revealed the winners and featured readings of their award-winning pieces. The ceremony included notable literary figures, actors, and humanitarians from across the Commonwealth.

Ambassadors of the Royal Commonwealth Society, David Walliams and Alexandra Burke, were joined by British actor and writer, Stephen Fry, and Bollywood actress, Kareena Kapoor, to read extracts from the winning pieces during the ceremony.

The ceremony also featured highlights of workshops that the Winners and Runners-up had with the Society’s Ambassadors, Geri Horner (née Halliwell) and Lewis Pugh, to discuss their pieces on the theme of ‘Climate Action the Commonwealth.’

Meet the 2020 winners and runners-up

Senior Winner: Aditya Choudhury, Singapore, 'Voices from the Blue World'

Aditya Choudhury is a 14-year-old from Singapore. A ninth-grade student of GIIS, Singapore, Aditya is a fan of Star Wars, Marvel comics, Harry Potter, manga and graphic novels (not necessarily in that order!). He enjoys soccer, swimming and basketball, and credits the island’s National Parks for fostering his interest in the natural environment and wildlife welfare.

In his essay titled ‘Voices from the Blue World’, he imagined an underwater Commonwealth Conference of sea creatures in which the keynote speaker, a grouper, which is a native fish of Singapore, assures all the marine creatures of the Blue World that they have a bright future of coexistence with the human world – the Green World. Learning about the work done by Commonwealth nations to protect the oceans and browsing the Commonwealth Blue Charter website has been a hugely inspiring experience, which strengthened his belief that the Blue World of marine creatures and the Green World of humans can live like a wonderful brotherhood. The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition on ‘Climate Action’ has made him value the power of words to unleash change and shape our future!

Senior Runner-up: Ananya Mukerji, India, 'The Waters Rise'

Ananya is a student of Grade 11 doing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) at Dhirubhai Ambani International School. She has been writing creatively since she was 9 years old. Besides being passionate about writing, particularly poetry, she expresses herself through art and theatre.  She lives in Mumbai with her parents and her 2-year-old cocker spaniel, Tessa.

Junior Winner: Cassandra Nguyen, Canada, 'Actions Speak Louder'

Cassandra is Nguyen is 13 years old and lives in Ontario, Canada. She is in Grade 8 and currently attends Ashton Meadows Public School in Ontario, Canada.

She has enjoyed both reading and writing stories since she was very young and literature has always been important to her because when she reads a poem or a book, it almost feels like you are being taken to the world that the author created.

Junior Runner-up: Eleni Bazikamwe, Ghana, 'The Little Prince comes back to Earth'

Eleni was born on 5 January 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya, and is the daughter of a Belgian mother and a Greek-Burundese father. She has spent the first years of her childhood in Kenya and moved to Accra at the age of 5 where her father is currently working for the EU Delegation to Ghana.

Eleni joined the Ghana International School where she has made lots of friends and got a wonderful academic education, especially last year with Mrs Amponsah-Tawiah who taught her a lot about how to write great stories.

Throughout her travels across the Kenyan savannahs and the beautiful Ghanaian coast, Eleni has had the opportunity to see how wonderful the environment is, but also how vulnerable it is, which is why she was so happy to participate in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. She’s very much inspired by Greta Thunberg, but also enjoys playing the piano, reading Jaqueline Wilson books, playing tennis and baking all sorts of goodies.

The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 2019 Winners

From more than 11,000 entries, five pieces were selected as the Winners and Runners up of The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 2019.

The 2019 Winners and Runners-up were drawn from across the Commonwealth and wrote inspiring poems, stories and narratives on the topic 'A Connected Commonwealth'.

Senior Winner: Catherine Wang, Canada

Catherine’s haunting poem ‘Beached’ follows the heart-breaking experience of three passers-by as they find a whale washed up on a beach. Through vivid, lyrical descriptions, she highlights the importance of working together to resolve the problems of environmental damage. She is a student of the University Transition Program at the University of British Colombia. On being told of her success she said, “It was an emotional rollercoaster, with the cart slowly climbing in disbelief, only to suddenly become pure excitement upon the descent’’.

Read Catherine's entry. 


Senior Runner-up: Nnemdi Ozoemena, Nigeria

Nnemdi's story ‘Hello’ is the tale of two young people struggling with issues in their society and who do not feel truly appreciated for whom they are, but who find common ground and become friends, told through direct messages on Twitter. One Final Panel Judge described the piece as ‘a shop window of how youth are speaking to each other today’. On being named Senior Runner-up, she said ‘‘It feels really good to know that my portrayal of issues that I view as important was able to come through to people and hopefully make them feel something.’’

Read Nnemdi's entry.

Junior Winner: Veronica Shen, Singapore

Veronica’s poem ‘Lost’ follows the story of a girl growing up in China as it explores a complicated relationship with the country’s past. She entered the competition as a student of Raffles Girls' School (Secondary). Veronica chose to write on the topic ‘My Cultural Connections’ because she ‘’wished to express my own feelings…and present an issue while developing the art of writing.’’  When informed of her success in the competition, Veronica felt ‘Surprise, elation’.

Read Veronica's entry.

Junior Runner-up: Elise Jensen, Ghana

Elise’s poem ‘A place you feel connected to’ is a vibrant, vivid celebration of her favourite elements of Ghanaian culture; a welcoming tale of food, dancing, clothing and the ties she feels to the country.  Dr Diana Owen OBE, Director General of the Royal Over-Seas League and Chair of the Junior Final Panel, said of Elise’s poem, ‘A heartfelt hymn to Ghana, lively, bright, optimistic, playful and confident.’ Upon learning she had won, Elise felt ‘very excited, surprised and very happy!’

Read Elise's entry.

Junior Runner-up: Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, Sri Lanka 

Kieran's beautifully vivid narrative describing his move from the United States of America to Sri Lanka wonderfully captures the sights and sounds of his daily life in Colombo. Drawing on his 'diverse cultural connections', Kieran explores the beauty of his Commonwealth heritage. Tragically, Kieran was killed in the suicide bomb that exploded in the Cinnamon Grand hotel, Colombo, on Easter Sunday 2019. He was so proud of this piece having obtained the top mark in his class - and his mum was very keen that it be submitted posthumously.

Read Kieran's entry.