Proceeds from this year's competitions will be going to
Age UK Bedfordshire

Everybody is affected in one way or another by covid-19 but the elderly are especially vulnerable. Please help to alleviate the difficulties they are experiencing by entering one of our competitions.

The Bedford Competition

"This is precisely the time artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." - Toni Morrison.

The 2020 Short Story and Poetry Competitions are now open for entries. The closing date is 31st October 2020, but if your story or poem is ready now, send it in and start on your next one. There is no limit on the number of entries you can send in.

Stories may be up to 3000 words on any theme. The entry fee for a single story is £6, but enter three at the same time and it will cost £12. Any number of stories may be entered by a single entrant.

Poems must be no more than 40 lines long and the entry fee is £6 for one or £12 if three are entered at the same time. An entrant can enter any number of poems.

Full time students pay a reduced entry fee of £4 for one story or poem and £8 for three.

For both competitions the prizes are first place, £500, second place £150 and third place £100. In addition all shortliated stories and poems plus other prizewinners are published in an anthology which is produced in paperback and electronic book format.

The Bedford Competition wants to play a part in helping to cope by providing a diversion from the Covid-19 crisis and will be introducing a special award in 2020 which we are calling the Rainbow Short Story Prize. This will be for the best short stories from persons aged 70 or over. All entrants in the short story competition who fall into that age group will automatically be eligible for the Rainbow Short Story Prize. People of this age are, not only the most affected by this deadly pandemic, but are having to forego their usual social activities and interaction with their children and grandchildren. Competing for this award will be an opportunity to combat isolation blues and write that winning story to share with others.

We will be awarding prizes of first place £500, second place £150 and third place £100. This will be in addition to the prizes being awarded in the main short story competition. Because the consequences of coronavirus are so far-reaching, the money that we will be donating to charity will go towards alleviating the suffering it is causing and will continue to cause. By entering, you will be playing your part too.

At the other end of the age spectrum there are prizes for young short story writers and poets aged 17-25 Years.

2020 Competition

2020 Competition – Judges

Short Story Competition Judge

Jordan Lees

After graduating with an MA in Literature, Jordan joined The Blair Partnership, literary agents for many renowned authors including J.K. Rowling, in 2016 and was made an Associate Agent in 2020. His reading tastes are wide-ranging and as an agent predominantly represents literary fiction, reading group fiction and crime and thrillers, as well as some non-fiction.

Poetry Competition Judge

Lesley Saunders

Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry, most recently Nominy-Dominy (Two Rivers Press 2018) - 'a feature of this collection is its sheer ease with and celebration of language itself' (Martin Malone, The Interpreter's House). Lesley was joint winner of the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize and one of the winners of the 2017 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. In 2016, Lesley won the Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation with her English version of a poem by the acclaimed Portuguese poet Maria Teresa Horta; Lesley's latest book, Point of Honour (Two Rivers Press 2019), pays homage to the radical and erotic work of Horta - who celebrated her 82nd birthday in May 2019 - with nearly 100 translated poems. Lesley leads writing workshops and undertakes poetry mentoring; she has performed her work at festivals and on the radio, and worked on collaborative projects and productions with visual artists, musicians, composers and dancers as well as other poets - most recently with Philip Gross in A Part of the Main (Mulfran Press 2018)

Bedford Short Story Prize Judge

Neil Beardmore

In the Nineties Neil won the Sussex Playwrights Award and The Richard Burton Poetry Competition, going on later to take an MA in Creative Writing specialising in Poetry and Novel writing. Two plays Pristine in Blue and A View Of Glass Mountains were professionally performed recently and in 2017 his novel Lemon Seas was published. Neil's poems have appeared in The Cannon's Mouth, Erbacce, Dreamcatcher, The French Literary Review and many other magazines. Having had poetry published in Orbis, he has recently had a short story, Key Notes published in the magazine.

Bedford Poetry Prize Judge

Steve Kendall

Steve Kendall is a graduate of the Newcastle University / Poetry School MA in Writing Poetry. He is a co-host of the Bedford reading series 'Ouse Muse' and convenor of the North Beds and Milton Keynes Stanza. His work has most recently appeared in Strix and Magma.

Young Writers' Short Story Award Judge

Stephen Bywater

Stephen Bywater joined the merchant navy at sixteen before going on to study English at university. After graduating he taught in South and Central America for three years, returning to the UK to complete an MLitt at St Andrews. For the past twenty years he has taught English in Bedford, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is the author of two novels, The Devil's Ark and Night of the Damned (published by Headline/Hachette), and is currently working on his third.

Young Writers' Poetry Award Judge

Cameron Stuart

Cameron Stuart is a poet originally from, and now back residing in, Bedford. He attended the Poetry MFA at Saint Mary's College of California, and has taught writing at SMC and Berkeley. He is the recipient of Judith Butler and Community of Writers scholarships.

Rainbow Short Story Prize Judge

Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell is the author of twenty-one crime novels, including the Geraldine Steel series which has sold over a million books. Shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award, long listed for the CWA Dagger in the Library, she is Chair of the CWA Debut Dagger Judges and Co-ordinator for the CWA Critiques. She was a Finalist for the People's Book Prize, and is a Royal Literary Fellow. Find out more about Leigh from her website.


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