Ely Magistrates’ Court takes on a new lease of life on Saturday 4 July as it plays host to the presentation ceremony for Ely 501, the brand new creative writing challenge for East Cambridgeshire school children. Annabel Reddick from Burrows Bookshop, co-sponsor with Mr Simms Ely, thinks this is probably the first time the ancient courtroom has been used in this way.
‘The building dates back to 1821,’ she says, ‘but we reckon that apart from some filming for Toad of Toad Hall and the BBC’s Silent Witness we’re going to be the first usage of this brilliant space for an event like this.’ The stocks and pillory have long gone although the cells are still available for inspection and unsurprisingly many of the invited audience are delighted to have been offered the chance for a look round the historic site.
Sixteen young writers have had their stories – all less than 501 words long – accepted for publication into a specially commissioned book which will be available on the day and then at Burrows. ‘The judges had a hard job choosing from the entries,’ says Annabel. ‘The standard was incredibly high and both judges have highlighted the amazing response to the competition’s very first year.’
Celebrated children’s authors Pippa Goodhart and Julian Sedgwick are the judges and they’ll be at the event to congratulate the entrants and to award prizes to the best of the best.
‘Ely 501 has really fired children’s imaginations,’ says Annabel. ‘We fully expect the second year of the competition to make our judges’ choices of winners even harder. It’s been a fantastic journey and we’re so pleased to have had the support of East Cambridgeshire’s schools in making sure the event has been a triumphant success, and to help us take a vital role in the Isle of Ely Arts Festival.’