The event was part of the regional championship for the national ‘Poetry by Heart’ competition, designed to encourage young people to get passionate about poetry.
The seven contestants, all aged between 14 and 18, had been selected from hundreds of students competing for a place to represent Dorset in the finals in London later this year.
Each of them had to recite three poems from ‘The Poetry By Heart’ anthology, one published before 1914, one published after 1914 and one from the World War 1 Showcase. The audience was treated to favourite poems including ‘Stretcher Bearer’ by Tommy Crawford and ‘Second Coming’ by W.B. Yeats.
Ellie MacDonald from Bournemouth School for Girls, impressed the judges enough to win the coveted first prize, and will now go on to represent Dorset in the finals in March which will be held at The National Portrait Gallery in London.
The other competitors included: Freya Hester from Beaminster School, Charlotte McDonald from Bournemouth School for Girls, Helen Selby, Ferndown Upper School, Weronika Mlodzikowska and Sarah Warham from Leweston School, and Michelle Ezigbo from Shaftesbury School.
The regional final was hosted by Dorset Library Service and the judges included Katherine Locke, winner of the Brit Writers Award for non-fiction in 2010, Rosie Jackson, a Somerset-based writer and poet, Louisa Parker, a poet, writer and Arts Project co-ordinator from Dorset, Nick Capaldi, who works for Dorset Library Service and is also a singer/songwritter who has performed live on BBC Radio 2, and Lyn Gaudreau, an education improvement advisor with Dorset County Council.
Dr Sally Flint who lectures in creative writing at Exeter University enthralled the audience by reading from her latest poetry collection Pieces of Us.
Sharon Kirkpatrick, Senior Manager at Dorset County Council Library Service, said: “The students all recited their poems to a very high standard and it was an enjoyable afternoon.”
“They were all worthy winners and the judges did not have an easy task selecting just one to represent Dorset at the national finals in London.
“We were also honoured to have local poet Sally Flint reading her poems to us on the day, and we also want to thank the judges for their tremendous input on the day.”
Cllr Peter Finney, Cabinet member for community services at Dorset County Council, thanked library service staff and the teachers for making the event such a success before he announced the winner. He said: “I am very impressed by the creative talent all the contestants have shown today. They made the poems come alive in their own individual ways.
“As well as promoting poetry as an art form, the competition also encourage students to develop self-confidence, and I am delighted that so many young people from schools across Dorset took part.
“We all wish Ellie the best of luck in the national competition later this year.”