THE winners of a children’s lockdown short story competition launched by Julia’s House have been announced.

Best-selling author Minette Walters, who has been a patron of the Dorset and Wiltshire children’s hospice charity for more than 20 years, was part of the judging panel for its Summer Shorties competition.

Young writers aged between five and 16 were encouraged to allow their imaginations to run wild in creating a story with the title A Different Summer.

The winner in each age category receives £100, with the runners-up each receiving £25. The prizes were donated by the Addo Food Group.

Ms Walters said: “The judges were impressed by all the stories, but particularly those where the writers allowed their imaginations to fly. To view lockdown through the eyes of a fox, a worm, a fairy or even the virus itself brought colour, life and humour to 'a different summer', and those were the stories we chose as our winners.

"Nevertheless, the decisions weren't easy and we commend every child who entered.”

The winner of the age five to nine category was Josiah Massey, eight, from Salisbury with Corey Hartley, seven, from Trowbridge, as runner-up. Swindon seven-year-old Hugo Mansi was highly commended, as was Reuben Massey, 8, from Salisbury.

“The judges loved Josiah’s story about coronavirus attacking humans, which is written with verve, fun and colour,” said Ms Walters.

“Although Corey has chosen to write his story in rhyme, it is still a story.

"The judges were impressed by his imagination, his rhyming and his handwriting.”

Josiah said: "I brainstormed lots of ideas about what makes this summer different and the idea of writing about a virus stuck in my head. I enjoy learning about the human body and I want to be a doctor when I grow up."

"My favourite part of the story is when Victor says ‘It's a legend come true’ as it sounds mysterious. I was really excited when I found out I had won, I didn't expect to win at all so it was a big exciting shock. It makes me feel proud that I am a good writer and helps me believe I can write in the future.”

The 10-16 years category was won by Deya Piperkova, 11, from Calne and runner-up was Riley Hayes, 13, from Devizes. Thomas Baker-Onuyancha, 11, of Coombe Bissett was highly commended.

Ms Walters said: “The judges thought Deya brought wonderful imagination, life and colour to this story about lockdown through the eyes of a worm. Riley's imagination was both vivid and funny in his attempt to kill a coronavirus blob, and we loved the mention of Joe Wicks in his story.”

Deya said: “I feel super-thrilled and overjoyed to have my story chosen as the winner. I wanted to compete in the competition, as I love writing and thought it was for an amazing cause. I decided to write my story based on our changed lives during lockdown. My family and I use the garden so much more now and thought this could affect creature’s lives. I haven’t decided what I would do with the prize money, as I recently had my birthday, but I might use it to go to Harry Potter World as I am reading them a lot recently and thoroughly enjoying them.”

The winning stories can be read or listened to in full on the Julia’s House website

Julia’s House provides support to the families of children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions in Dorset and Wiltshire.

Its two hospices in Corfe Mullen and Devizes are currently on standby for use by the NHS in the event of hospital services becoming overwhelmed during the COVID situation. Julia’s House nurses and carers continue to visit families in their homes, wearing full PPE and adhering to strict hygiene protocol.

This lifeline of support helps many of the most vulnerable children to stay home and well. The care provided by the charity extends not just to the child, but to the entire family, providing emotional support to anxious, worried parents and enabling them to have some much-needed respite time.

In normal circumstances the charity receives just 5 per cent government funding for its Dorset service and none at all in Wiltshire. It relies on public donations, fundraising and legacies for the majority of the money needed to run its vital service.