Football poem is a striking success

FOOTBALL and poetry may not sound like a match made in heaven, but it did not stop one Essex student from penning an award-winning verse.

James Hore

FOOTBALL and poetry may not sound like a match made in heaven, but it did not stop one Essex student from penning an award-winning verse.

Ashley McMullin , 17, a student at Colchester Sixth Form College, was among the top prize winners of the 2008 Christopher Tower Poetry Prize announced at a reception at Christ Church College, Oxford.

Ashley was awarded second place, won £1,000, and was one of seven finalists from 600 entrants in the national event.

The theme of the competition was “Change” and the teenager's poem, Journey to Hilly Country, linked to his passion for Colchester United.

Journey to Hilly Country recreates a trip on a chilly December day to support The U's in a Championship match against Cardiff City.

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Ashley said: “There was something very special in the air that day - I felt it as I walked to get the coach with my dad. I knew I had to write something about it.”

The 17-year-old is currently in the first of a two year International Baccalaureate Diploma course and wants to study English at either Oxford or Cambridge universities.

“Going to Christ Church College was quite an experience. There was a very special atmosphere in the traditional old chamber where the winners were announced.

“I was quite anxious but delighted when I realised I had been placed second, knowing that I had been selected from so many entrants,” he said.

Dave Charleston, the creative writing teacher who encouraged Ashley to enter, said: “We are particularly thrilled with Ashley's success.

“Last year we were pleased to have student in the final 20 but to come second is fantastic. Ashley is a gifted student with a natural facility for expressing his ideas in poetry. He thoroughly deserves this recognition and we are very proud of him.”

Competition judges included poet Simon Armitage, whose memoir Gig was published earlier this month, Alan Jenkins, poet and deputy editor of The Times Literary Supplement, and poet and lecturer Peter McDonald, director of Tower Poetry.

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