Brushstrokes and Bookworms: Youth Festival Celebrates Budding Artists & Authors

Henley’s talented young artists, writers, and filmmakers have all been celebrated over the past fortnight, with two weekends’ worth of prize-giving ceremonies. On Sunday, (10 March), the Henley Youth Festival Art & Film Competition awards ceremony at the Town Hall honoured budding artists and filmmakers alike. Meanwhile, just a week prior, on Saturday, 2 March, the the Festival’s writing competition concluded with a prize-giving at the Bell Bookshop, showcasing the literary prowess of the town’s youngest writers.

Art & Film Prizegiving

The Henley Youth Festival Art Competition invited children aged 3-18 to participate, offering prizes for both 2D and 3D artwork. The theme for this year’s festival, ‘My favourite things’, provided children in Henley with an opportunity to share their passions through art.

Local artist Michelle Pratt had the challenging task of judging the art contest for a fourth time this year. She shared that the judging process was particularly tough due to the high standard of entries, compounded by the unexpected flooding of competition organiser Charlene Brown’s house, where the artwork was stored. Michelle had to wear waders to reach Charlene’s front door to view the artwork – all for the love of art!

Michelle said, “Having taught art to children for many years before becoming a full time artist, I have a real love for this art festival, and thoroughly enjoy seeing how young artists represent and respond to the theme that each year throws at them. Children respond in the most extraordinary ways possible, and this year we had some real talented winners.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton presented chocolate Easter eggs and certificates to all prize winners and runners up, with the top three winners in each category receiving trophies for their work.

Among the winners was 8-year-old Jolie James from Badgemore School, who claimed first place in the 3D 7-8 category with her piece, ‘Theatre Land’. The artwork showcased Jolie’s favourite West End shows – Wicked, Newsies, and Frozen – which were revealed by pulling down a big star. Jolie said, “I feel happy. It took me a few days to make. It was very hard to make the outline and stuff, because the kind of paint brushes we used made it hard to do it, but whilst I did it I found it really fun.”

Michelle said, “Jolie really got me on this one. It’s such an honest and genuine representation of what Jolie clearly loves: the theatre. This is a wonderful, interactive piece of art, Jolie, where you have shown a love of the theatre by carefully drawing characters from the shows you love. Using a great three dimensional idea, creating a stage with an audience and really well drawn characters.”

The winners of the Henley ArtSpark Competition, organised by the Henley Arts Trail, were also recognized during the ceremony. Wendy Penrose, who helped to organise this new competition, explained, “We wanted to try and give something back to the community. It was open to 16 to 18 year old kids in the area who are interested and talented in art. We wanted it to be more than just a commendation for their skills, we wanted it to be something practical, with the winners getting to choose one of the very specialist skills that they would be taught by a professional artist from the arts trail.”

Freddie Hodges and Anjali Shanker were selected as the winners, earning themselves specialised tuition in their chosen areas of interest. Freddie will receive instruction in oil painting from professional artist Sue Tilbury, while Anjali will learn silver jewellery making from award-winning designer Janet Richardson. Their work is anticipated to be showcased at the Henley Arts Trail in 2025.

While judge Jo Southwell was unable to attend the ceremony, the film competition winners were announced and celebrated, marking the culmination of a successful event.

After the prize-giving, Mayor Kellie Hinton said, “I wanted to say a huge thank you to the Henley Youth Festival team – Charlene and all the judges that organise and run this competition. Every year it’s probably my favourite part of the Youth Festival; I really love seeing all the work that is created. This is obviously the culmination of all of that work, and it’s lovely to have the Easter eggs in the prizegiving, but the work that goes into it is phenomenal. It’s a fantastic display of the art and the artists in our town. You’re all absolutely wonderful and thank you for sharing your Sunday afternoon with us.”

For a full list of winners, please see below.

4 – 6 2D

1st: Evie Wilson, Badgemore

2nd: Otto Sheldon, Valley Road

3rd: Christabel O’Hanlon, Trinity

Highly Commended: Louise Carey, Trinity

Highly Commended: Tansie Ross, Badgemore

7 – 8 2D

1st: Azra Asel Caglar, Badgemore

2nd: Bojta Majoros, Valley Road

3rd: Maisie Lamb, Rupert House

Highly Commended: Alice O’ Brien, Trinity

Highly Commended: Joseph Peiris, Shiplake Primary

Highly Commended: Rosina Westwood, Badgemore

9 – 11 2D

1st: Melia Drummond, Valley Road

Joint 2nd: Clementine Wason & Aoife South, Rupert House

Joint 2nd: Charlotte Guyan & Annabelle Klepping, Rupert House

3rd: Raffi Barcella, Badgemore

Highly Commended: Naomi Osborne, Trinity

Highly Commended: Shanaya Yasin, Valley Road

Highly Commended: Dakota Stevens, Badgemore

12 – 18 2D

1st: Mo Britton, Shiplake College

2nd: Abigail Palmer, Gillotts

3rd: Evan Greenway, Shiplake College

Highly Commended: Dhruvika Kundes, Gillotts

Highly Commended: Rory Stewart, Shiplake College

Highly Commended: Polina Brown, Shiplake College

3D 4-6

1st: Roxanna Savage, Badgemore

2nd: Luna Bird, Badgemore

3rd: Elsie Pratt, St Mary’s

Highly Commended: Matilda Meadows, Badgemore

3D 7-8

1st: Jolie James, Badgemore

2nd: Eva Floyd, Valley Road

3rd: Evie Cowan, Badgemore

3D 9-11

Joint 1st: Orla Maher, Kidmore End

Joint 1st: Phoebe Carey, Trinity

2nd: Matilda Groh, Rupert House

3rd: Max Pitt, Badgemore

Highly Commended: Alice Roskelly, Rupert House

Highly Commended: Ivan Hornsby, Badgemore

Highly Commended: Tekle Cazier, Jemima Judge & Clarissa Jones, Rupert House


Start Art – After School Club (Age 7-11), Trinity

Writing Competition Prizegiving

The competition was judged by author Amanda Jennings and organiser Sarah Bell. The award ceremony, saw each winner receive a book courtesy of the Bell Bookshop.

In the Group 1 (Infants) category, 7-year-old Clemmie O’Hanlan stole the spotlight with her story, ‘My Favourite Sunday Walk’. In the story, Clemmie goes for a walk and is saved by a superhero when she falls in some cowpats! Judge Amanda lauded Clemmie’s narrative as “laugh out loud” funny, saying, “You had a lot of fun in your story – it really did sound like the best Sunday walk ever!”

Clemmie said that the story was inspired by a real life walk. She explained, “Some of the story was true – I actually saw a rabbit when we were on holiday! We go on the same walk and there’s a really big field and there’s cows in it. Sometimes we have to go in it but we have to walk down the side because there’s too many cows!”

Meanwhile, 7-year-old Callie Barcella captured hearts with her joyful poem, ‘My Favourite Things’, earning the runner-up spot in the Infants category. Amanda commended Callie’s seamless rhyming and natural rhythm, adding, “The favourite things that you included gave such a lovely picture of you; I really wanted to be one of your friends.”

In Group 2 (Junior), 8-year-old Daisy Holden claimed the top prize with her evocative poem, ‘My Favourite Dream.’ Judge Amanda praised Daisy’s atmospheric imagery and thoughtful composition, noting the poem’s captivating opening line and poignant conclusion.

Rounding out the Junior category, 9-year-old Isobella de Savoye captivated audiences with her enchanting story, ‘The Goblin Kingdom’, which earned her the runner up spot. Isobella said, “When I was at school, we were doing literacy, and thinking about what we could smell, hear, taste, and see, and I put all the things I wrote in literacy into my book.”

Amanda revealed that, in an ideal world, the competition would have had separate poem and story categories so that she could have awarded Isobella first prize story! She said, “Isobella managed to give us a very long but interesting story that gripped from start to finish, which is what you want – you always want people to be turning the pages!”

The event celebrated not only the winners but also the boundless creativity and imagination of all participants, underscoring the importance of nurturing young talent in the literary arts.


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