We're here again. After a year and a ton of entries we are delighted to announce the winners of the three categories of our Love Sheffield, Luv competition. A huge thanks to everyone who entered - and for your patience while we navigated our way through lockdowns and not being able to access entries!
Whittling down to one winner in each category was exceptionally difficult - there were just so many amazing stories and poems celebrating, based in, or inspired by our city.
- Nik Perring (Sheffield Year of Reading Writer in Residence)
The winners are...
CHILDREN - Lockdown is Breaking Me Up Inside by Eva Simms
Nik Perring – "I love how much this feels like so many people have been feeling over lockdown. It’s beautiful and sad and reminds us of all the things there are to love about our city."
Lockdown is breaking me up inside, piece by piece, slowly but surely. Stuck inside all day; the outside world so tempting. So close, yet so far away. Not being with the people I hold dearest in the places I love dearest is … very frustrating. I tell myself I can do this but I cannot. I am forever on the sofa thinking about what life would be like right now if we weren't in lockdown. Maybe I’d be strolling through Endcliffe Park throwing bread to the ducks or walking through those ancient trees. Or maybe I’d have a day out at CineWorld, watch the latest superhero movie with my friends then go bowling followed by pizza. What could be better?
My mouth breaks into a huge smile as my eyes see not my living room with its matching sofas and off-white walls but the sparking waters of Ladybower Reservoir. I am running along the bank next to the shimmering water, my shoes kicking up mud and grass, then my view shifts and I'm seated on a soft leather seat with the aroma of chicken all around me. I'm in Nandos being served heaps of fries and a massive roasted platter of food. I laugh gently to myself, never wanting this magical dream reality to ever end.
I suddenly find myself in the lush green grass of the Botanical Gardens looking at the plants, the trees and the people. Turning my face to the sun, I feel its warm hands envelop my face and the light fills my eyes I am standing in town facing the Town Hall listening to all the pigeons take flight with the shopping bags of my recent spree cutting into my wrists and in the blink of an eye I feel weightless. I'm bouncing high, high, higher, surely I could touch the sky if I wanted to – I am in Jumping!
As I am bouncing I begin to feel heavier and heavier until I am back to the reality of unwashed dishes and rooms in serious need of a tidy. I am sitting as before on one of the matching sofas staring at the off white wall. The realisation my visions have evaporated makes me feel hollow inside like a chocolate egg without the toy surprise. They were my anchor in the murky sea of Covid 19.
I am strong. Imagination is never silly.
TEENS - Hive New Writers' Prize - Wizened by Sharmin
Nik Perring - "A piece with delightful maturity. A beautifully poignant look at life and with a warming feeling of hope. This story felt real. Most importantly, it made me feel."
Wizened by hope, the old man sits in the waiting room. His mind dives from the cliffs of cancer. It twirls through fear, spins at the thought of nothing; of nothing waiting beyond the dark, of emptiness, and summersaults towards hope, spread before him like a sunlit lake. Perhaps they have caught him in time.
He chuckles optimistically to himself, fingers curled in a ball upon his walking stick, his back stooped by the blows of time, the blasts of age, rounded, like a ball. He thinks, “I ought to be easy to catch!”
To his right, his daughter’s turmoil of thoughts strafe at her worried mind- the thought of never seeing her dad again were a salvo to her asphyxiated heart. Silently, she sat as still as a cement, her mind hardening with the reality of final goodbyes, of last of times, of end of lives…
“I’ll be alright, don’t worry,” he stated. The more he reassures her -or himself- the more the daughter realises his optimism and her pessimism were like repelling magnets: same awareness of the ending, but one magnet tries to paint it, the other one accept it.
Her father’s vision has been blanketed by dreams, like a paradox of a pair of glasses. Tempting him into hallucinating of chances. Blurring the line between the possible and the unlikely with its lenses. Increasing the resolution of its trickery to make sure he does not go back to his reasonable self. To make sure he gives himself false hopes. To make sure he kills himself with disappointment before something else kills him... She begs silently that this doesn’t happen.
But nothing changes.
Suddenly, the silent shriek of a door catapults her back to the not-so-distant reality. The catapult thrusts her face-first to the situation that was about to occur: they were about to know whether there was a chance of living or not. Though, she does not believe in hope. The chance of survival was like the chance of a little seed reaching the outside world, whilst growing through dry, hard mud.
Briefly, she glances at the doctor’s medical badge. She knew what was going to happen all along, but she never prepared for this situation. It’s like a pair of glasses, reminding her of actual reality. Distinguishing between a dreamy life and inevitable death. Increasing the resolution of the desperate scenery to make sure she sees it, to make sure she wants to close her eyes, to make sure she wants to quickly run back to the catapult, so it can propel her away from what was about to occur. She wants to
But nothing happens.
She helps her father get up with struggle and they trudge to the doctor’s office.
And he tells them the news.
He will live.
At that very moment did the daughter realise that pessimism was an ocean in which she has drowned in. Her vision melted with the obscure layers of the sea; diminishing her ability to see any hope. Her hearing melted with the muffled, dark echoes of the ocean; diminishing her ability to hear any possibilities. Yet, a fine line of light swam down through the surface of the sea, to her. It was like a vulnerable little plant: slowly growing through dry, hard mud- until finally reaching the vast outside world. With trembling hands, she reaches out for the light; deciding she was going to swim. She could not let herself drown anymore.
Their minds dived from the cliffs of happiness, twirling through robustness, and summersaulting towards hope, spread before them like a sunlit lake. Of course, life isn’t eternal. But both of them learned a lesson: live in the present. If you enjoy the present, it will seem like an eternal dream.
ADULT CATEGORY - The Low Wall Beat of Love and Loss by Ellen Uttley
Nik Perring - "This is a story that makes all of me smile because it reminds me that stories are everywhere. Beautifully written and a great idea so well realised. Congratulations!"
I stood outside the university building at Arundel, the creative swirling of the writing class I’d just left already settling in my mind. The ideas, so clear just minutes before, now fragmented and brushed to the dust of faint memories and half formed ideas of thoughts unwritten.
The beat of their voices reached me before their words did; the rhythmic tick of the t’s and the hisses of s’s reaching above their words to find me in my procrastination. Rain misted my face as I walked through the grey air towards them, two men, rapping at the edge of my hearing.
They stood beside a speaker that was rested on the short wall that made the entrance of the university building into a squat kind of courtyard. Leaning in over it, they seemed to be aware only of each other, as if they thought the sound of their voices and the beat of the speaker wouldn’t move past the bubble of space and concentration that they had created. They rapped for each other, at each other, and no one else.
I reached them at the same moment that their words reached clarity. The one to the left, a squat man of strong build and sharp shirt, moving with shoulders and knee to the flow of his counterpart. His eyes rapt; competitive and entertained, he took in the words of the longer man. The right man, in his baggy stained shirt and his tight jeans, chin wagging to the beat of his story.
“..she was maybe eighteen, yeah
her collar pristine.
Her daddy was furious that she wasn’t Miss Thing.
She spoke with her gumption, yeah
and she spoke from her heart.
Her mummy would have train her
but there was nowhere to start.
She was her own to the core, yeah
her dreams made her soar, yeah
Her sisters screamed and cried and scratched
and yeah they called her a whore, whore...”
Rapt, I took in the words as he threw them. About a girl thrown out into the world with nothing but her wits and her dreams. How he had scooped her up and placed her down in a place of security and serenity. He tapered off as she reached him through the computer screens that had connected them to the real world of the life that they had pledged to build together. Two beats later, the squat man pulled down first one starched cuff and then the other and took up the beat.
“...yeah, I hear what you’re saying, man
my own love was tight.
I kept her warm and loved her and she
treated me right.
But she died from the train tracks, man
she died in her sleep.
She died from her mind
calling her weak, weak.
I know what you’re saying, man
how love can change everything.
But she died and worse
she died on the day that I bought a ring...”
He wove his grief in the air between them like silk, thread of his own recovery and the redemption and hope and the cleansing fire that he found in a loss so certain and so destroying that he had nothing left of himself but a handful of dust.
Lost in the words of his counterpart, the tall man swayed, and as the sharp shirted rapper lifted a hand to wipe his eye, he grabbed the beat from the air and continued his story.
“...It was perfect for a time, man
the woman was sweet.
She hoped and cooked
and wrote and sang
and we just went click.
But things start to slip, yeah
then it just went quick, yeah.
She has been gone and month now
and my minds like a crypt, yeah...”
The arms of both of them, swaying in time, reached over to form a bridge. Hand to shoulder they rocked with the music that swirled around them. Suit jacket stretched taught and rocking softly to the beat of his soft sobs. His counterpart looked down at him into the safe space created by the loop of their arms.
“...Yeah man, this life will throw stuff at you
and grief will go hard.
But your life is your own, man
and you hold the cards.
We have to pick up the tatters, man
we have to tie up the shreds.
We have to pick up our feet
we have to pick up our heads.
We have to pick up our hope
we have to find what we can
we have to stitch this together
as we clutch at the sand.
We might lose some moments, man
we might lose some years.
we might lose some parts of us and
we might lose some tears.
But after it all
when we come out of the dust
we will still be there waiting
we’ll be whole
we’ll be us...”
Their heads raised up to face each other, and they lowered their hands. The shorter one reached out and clicked off the speaker with a numbing silence. I turned before they could notice me standing there, and moved off down the hill, towards the train station.
Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who submitted amazing writing to the competition. Watch this space for more Sheffield Year of Reading creativity …
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