Shropshire’s Young Thinkers celebrated at Darwin Festival

The imagination and creative writing skills of young people in Shropshire sparkled at a lively event to start the 2019 Darwin Shrewsbury Festival in style.

Their talents were celebrated at the finals of the 2019 Shropshire Young Thinkers’ Competition organised by us with University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) on the theme ‘Dear Darwin.’

Entrants aged seven to 16 were asked to write a letter to Charles Darwin inviting him to travel with them to a real or imaginary place in the past, present or future. Inspiring, thoughtful and fanciful ideas abounded – from introducing Darwin to the internet and the wonders of modern science, to showing him how plastic pollution is destroying the planet.

Winners were chosen in three age categories with prizes including day tickets to Legoland for four, a helicopter flight experience for two, and OCULUS Go virtual reality goggles.

Tristan Dennis, aged nine, won the 7-10 age group with Genevieve Weir and Katie Jones as runners-up. Tristan wanted to travel to the future to see how children evolve to settle a debate with his father.

Charlotte Tench, aged 13, won the 11-13 category by inviting Darwin to the present day to get acquainted with modern technology and then to take it back to his past to speed up the rate of progress. Francia Besterman and George Rink were runners-up.

McKenna Wood, aged 16, wanted to discuss how the faulty gene which causes cystic fibrosis fitted in with Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Zoe Tse and Oscar Rink were runners-up.

A Darwin lookalike welcomed finalists to the evening at UCS and picked his favourite letter, by Isabella Jones, aged nine, who wanted Darwin’s help to find a Yeti. This was brought to life by storyteller Jake Evans, a former National Young Storyteller of the Year winner and one of the judges.

Fellow judge Joanna Morris said: “This is a special year for our fifth- generation family business as we are celebrating our 150th anniversary.  Championing young people is one of our anniversary themes and this was a delightful occasion to allow us to do that.”

The Young Thinkers competition, now in its second year, attracted 496 entries.

Professor Anna Sutton, Provost of UCS and a member of the judging panel, said: “With so many inspired and well-written entries it was very difficult to choose just three winners. It demonstrated the breadth of creative talent in the county which we want to harness and develop to help young people reach their full potential.”

The annual Darwin Shrewsbury Festival celebrates the town’s most famous son with a host of events which continue until 24 February.

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Shropshire’s Young Thinkers celebrated at Darwin Festival

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