Let your talent flow and compete with authors from the world! Anyone 17 years or over can submit stories up to 3000 words and poems up to 40 lines.

1st Prize


2nd Prize


3rd Prize

Welcome to...

The Bedford Competition

Open for entries until 31 October

This is a competition that reaches out to help you achieve the recognition you deserve

We are an International Competition, open to everybody from around the world aged 17 or over, with prizes totalling £4,600 including special awards for young writers and Bedford writers (Please see Rules). All winning and shortlisted entries are published by our partners, Ostrich Books. We donate proceeds to charities that support literary and literacy skills.

The short story competition is for stories up to 3,000 words. The poetry competition is for poems up to 40 lines.

Entrants can write on any theme.


Latest News

A big thank you to everybody who entered either the short story or poetry competitions this year. We have had a massive number of entries and will now be busy going through the judging process. If you missed out on entering this year, please note that the 2024 competitions will start in May next year.

As the long list, shortlist and winners are decided they will be published on the website.

2023 Competition – Judges

Tim Jarvis

Short Story

Timothy J. Jarvis is a writer of supernatural fiction. He grew up in north Bedfordshire, and now lives back in Bedford. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University. His 'last man' novel, The Wanderer, was first published in 2014 (Perfect Edge) and was reprinted in a new edition in 2022 (Zagava). Short-fiction has appeared in Harvard Review, Infra Noir, Bitter Distillations, An Invite to Eternity,The Far Tower: Stories for W.B. Yeats, The Shadow Booth Vol. 1, 3:AM Magazine, Leviathan 4: Cities, and New Writing 13, among other places. He is a member of the committee of the Friends of Arthur Machen, a society dedicated to the life and works of the Welsh author of the fantastic, and co-edits the Friends' journal, Faunus.

Kirsten Norrie


MacGillivray is the matrilineal pen and performance name of poet, musician and artist Kirsten Norrie. The author of four collections of poetry published by Bloodaxe in the UK and Red Hen in the US, she has made nine records, working with producer and musician James Young (Nico, John Cale) and her music features in the soundtracks of three films by avant-garde British director Andrew Kötting. She makes a literary appearance as a cameo in Iain Sinclair's writing and worked with cinematographer Anonymous Bosch to write and direct a Gaelic short film, returning to the Isle of Skye to shoot on location with funding from Creative Scotland. Trained at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, she writes, performs and composes using Scots, Gaelic and English with French for her 2022 album derived from the poetry of Mary Queen of Scots, released on Antigen Records. In 2018, she raised funds to visit the great grandson of Sitting Bull to make the recording The Last Wolf of Scotland. In November 2023, Bloodaxe will publish her fourth collection based on Norwegian-Shetlandic poet Kristján Norge who vanished from Eilean a' Bhàis in 1961. She has taught at Oxford, the ECA and the Royal College of Art and directs the Oxford School of Poetry. See more on her website.

J S Watts

Cygnature Story Prize Judge

J.S.Watts is a British poet and novelist who weaves the fantastical and the literary with other vibrant strands to create glowing, multi-faceted writing. Originally from London, she now lives in Cambridgeshire.

Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the States and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. She has edited various magazines and anthologies and performed her poetry across England, Scotland and Wales, but not yet in Ireland (should anyone from Ireland be reading this). Along the way, she has won various awards and had honourable mentions in others, but nothing so outstanding that she wants to make a big thing out of it. .

J.S.'s three poetry collections, Cats and Other Myths, Years Ago You Coloured Me and Underword, are published by Lapwing Publications, as is her multi-award nominated SF poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her poetry pamphlet, The Submerged Sea, was published by Dempsey & Windle. Her novels, A Darker Moon- dark fiction, Witchlight, Old Light and Elderlight - an urban fantasy trilogy, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press

For further details see her website:

Sarah Davies

Cygnature Poetry Prize Judge

Sarah Davies is from Merseyside via Edinburgh and London, but has lived in Bedford for over 20 years.

She has always written poetry and is a firm believer in its ability to communicate and give access to all voices.

Sarah has helped run Bedford poetry night Ouse Muse for several years.

Sarah has been published in a wide range of poetry publications, been shortlisted for poetry prizes and is working on a collection.

Paul Barnes

Bedford Story Prize Judge

Paul Barnes retired from teaching secondary school English Language and Literature in Bedford in 2019. He has been a keen attender of poetry and cultural events in north Beds, and chairs Poetry Café monthly, in succession to the late Richard Hancock. The group has seen four compilation volumes edited by Paul in 2021-22. He writes occasional poetry and prose, co-runs the monthly Read Poets Society, helps in two local bookshops, and is a fanatic for cricket umpiring and Shakespeare, The Place Theatre, the Rothsay Education Centre, and the Campaign for Real Ale.

Liam Coles

Bedford Poetry Prize Judge

Liam Coles is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge. His project focuses on sound and religiosity in twentieth-century US poetry. He researches how poetic sound forms can interrelate with cognitive understandings of consciousness, and traces an historic lineage from pulpit to lectern heard in the voicings of American poets during performance. He secured a scholarship for his master's degree at the University of Oxford (2017-18), where he wrote mainly on nineteenth-century religious poetry, including the work of the Rossetti siblings and Keats. He has a first-class BA in English Literature from the University of Bristol (2013-16), and his undergraduate dissertation concerned the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Born and raised in Bedford, Liam now lives in London and enjoys cooking and nature, but poetry is his real joy, and outside of his academic work he loves to discover writers he has not yet heard of!