This year’s theme ‘If Only’ resulted in some highly imaginative and thought provoking entries across all categories.  We were delighted to include a new category this year for women at HMP Foston Hall.   We hope to continue our partnership with them in future years.

The winners and runners up of the other three categories were all invited to our Festival launch event, Derby Reads on Thursday 12 April.  Shelley Davies attended from HMP Foston Hall and told the audience how much the women had enjoyed taking part in the competition and how thrilled Jenson was to be the winner.  Poet Helen Mort will visit the prison in May to present the prizes to the winner and runners-up.

This year’s entries for the Illustration competition for students at the University of Derby produced some beautiful artwork, some of which was on display at QUAD on Thursday evening.  The worthy winner is Richard Ivens, who was presented with his framed illustrations at the QUAD event.

We are extremely grateful to Lead Volunteer, Helen Osler, for all her hard work, enthusiasm and commitment in organising this year’s competitions.

Here are this year’s winning stories:

18 years and over:
Sprayed in bright red on her front door were two words: go home.
Hasinah turned her back to it, pushing the pram down the street. For a moment, she travelled to a place of mango trees, tinkling bangles, calling vendors, honking rickshaws all pieced together under a cloudless blue sky.
Habiba Rana

12 – 17 years:
A Year Younger

If only I was a year younger, I wouldn’t be here, bound to this mud clogged trench waiting to die. I wouldn’t be cursed to lie looking at the shells arcing above, will one hit me today? or will my heart be pierced by their cold steel bayonets, if only…
Bobby Derbyshire

11 years and under:
This way or that way…

Freddie the Frog decided to move ponds, off he hopped. Finding one that looked perfect, he hopped in… SPLASH! Nah, too weedy, so on he hopped. Finding another, it looked even better than the first. In he jumped… Aaah perfect! However, Freddie then realised he was back where he started.
Gwen Severn

HMP Foston Hall:
If Only

If only I could go back and say,
hey Vincent don’t end your life today.
For not right now but one day soon,
your works of art will make people swoon.
So dry your tears,
put down that gun,
because in the future you have won.
If only I could.

The runners up are:

Over 18s:
Man Eater 
Photoshoot over, Natasha stalked towards her dressing room, shadowed by her cat, the perfect accessory.  She arranged herself exquisitely on the chaise longue, wreathed in throbbing feline.  ‘Heaven’, whispered Natasha as she delectably succumbed to sleep, oblivious to the panther’s growing disquiet.  If only she had remembered to feed her.
Julie James

Last week of Jean
It was the last week of Jean.   Cards, flowers, presents.  Her computer sighed its last.  She stared at her blank reflection on the empty screen.  Her eyes frightened her.  Her body made her sick.  5pm Friday but she couldn’t move from her desk, into a thousand years of retirement, alone.
Ashley Lloyd Smith

12 – 17 years:
From here to Afghanistan
For him she would wait forever. Her heart, a knot; a puzzle unable to be resolved. She was his only safe place to land. One thing she was certain of was the infinite love she had for him. If only he could hear her heart crying, from 3554 miles away.
Isabella Harvey

If only I could surface the turbulent ocean that suffocates me every day. Waves that force me under. Pressure that crushes my lungs with its fist. If I could just scream before I’m slowly swallowed again. Maybe someone will hear me and realise that not everybody’s stood on dry land.
Hannah Zaki (read more of Hannah’s stories on her blog)

11 years and under:
If only
The man lay motionless on the pavement. His helmet had rolled away. People began to gather round. The driver came out of his car anxiously. Panic in his eyes. Everyone on their phones to the emergency services. The man said to himself if only I’d left earlier. Please be okay.
Isabelle Sarosi

My dog
If only I could go back to the days when our dog, Rascal, was alive. I would go trampling through the luscious green fields, splashing in the slithering streams, hiding in the tall grasses, dancing in meadows and slipping in the snow. Imagine the fun. I miss my old friend.
Yasmin Bentley

HMP Foston Hall:
If Only
I was a tree,
You could live in me,
I would protect you,
From the wind and rain,
Look after you, from dawn till dusk.
But one day, I know you will go.
And leave me with the winter snow
But spring, will soon come around again,
See you soon.

If Only
If I had the key to your heart I’d happily steal it away. Love like a lover has never done before. Another desire has taken you from me. Drugs and lies are your game. They take you places I cannot reach. Searching the universe but you always avoid. Goodbye love.

Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

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Derby Book Festival is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales Number 1159763