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Creative Writing Celebrated at the Launch of the Anthology

Creative Writing Celebrated at the Launch of the Anthology

Last week pupils, parents and staff gathered at Topping & Co Booksellers in Bath for the launch of the 10th edition of the Anthology. Amidst the splendid surroundings of the new bookshop, creative writing in all its forms was celebrated, as pupils shared their published poems and short stories. Claudia Williams (Year 12), whose short story, ‘Whilst I Was Playing’ features in the new edition, reviews the evening’s proceedings for us, whilst Mrs Bruton bids a heartfelt ‘adieu’ as she lays down her editing pen after thirteen years of stewardship.


A wonderful night was had by all those who attended the Anthology launch, celebrating its tenth edition on Friday 4th November. This was the first time that the event was held in the beautiful new Topping bookshop, packed with proud parents and eager students willing to read out their winning short stories and poems. It was fantastic to see so many young and inspired writers enthused to see their work in print. The annual Anthology is a great way to showcase the talents of KES students across the year groups, as well as the stunning accompanying work from the Art department. However, none of this would have been possible without the amazing Mrs Bruton, a published author herself, who conducted the event and made sure the Anthology was as perfect as always. She has encouraged many young pupils to take an interest in writing, as I’ve witnessed in Creating Writing Society, which is now busier than it has ever been. Sadly, the launch was a bittersweet affair, as it marked the final year that Mrs Bruton will be in charge of the Anthology. Thank you, Mrs Bruton, for all of your hard work and inspiration!

Claudia Williams, Year 12


As the annual KES Anthology approaches double figures and the time comes for me to hang up my ‘editing cap’, I find myself looking back on the publishing history of this little illustrious little tome.

Anthology came into being back in 2013, by popular demand of KES young writers who wanted their voices heard. The Short Story and Poetry Competitions were already established school traditions by then. ‘But we don’t just write for the trophies and certificates,’ one young scribbler told me. ‘We write in order to be heard,’ another KES writer declared. Of course, it’s always nice to win plaudits and accolades, but our young poets and storytellers told me – and continue to tell me – that they write because they have something to say:  a story to tell; a poem or a song in their hearts; a voice that needs to be heard. Whether they want to entertain or shock; to provoke heated discussion or to move their readers to tears; to make us laugh or gasp or just take us out of this world into realms of the imagination, KES young writers don’t just want to write - they want to be read.

So, I started compiling the winners of our annual writing competitions into a flimsy photocopied booklet which we distributed throughout the School. We hung it on bits of string in strategic locations. ‘Read me!’ the signs read – à la Lewis Carroll - but it felt as though nobody did. The pamphlets grew dusty and tatty and very few readers enjoyed the literary gems hidden therein.

Decisive action was required and only the Headmaster could help. We prepared our pitch, ‘Dragon’s Den’ style.  ‘We need to give our young writers a platform,’ we told him. ‘We need to ensure their stories are read; their voices heard. We need you to invest in writing at KES!’  If we expected a battle, we were disappointed. ‘Sure,’ said Mr Boden. ‘How can I help?’

Next came the Art and Photography Department. ‘We need illustrations,’ we told our wonderful Art teachers. ‘Paintings, drawings, photographs which can throw new light on our stories, engage in conversation with the words, hold a mirror up to our verse.’ Of course, our Art and Photography department were only too happy to help, and over the years, first Mr Pell and now Mr Hume-Smith have patiently put up with my weird and wonderful requests: ‘Do you have a picture of a sad cow that might pass for a minotaur?... I don’t suppose there’s a painting of Michael Jackson ‘The Thriller Years’?..... I need something like Hockney but not Hockney…. Blue, fingers, moon – can you help?’ The Art department have rummaged through drawers and folders, pored over student portfolios and flicked through sketchbooks, unstintingly helpful, unfailingly turning up just the very illustration I was looking for.

Did I mention the judges? Not gonna lie, I’ve called in a lot of favours (I suspect I hold unpaid IOUs to half the literary community of Bath and beyond!) ‘Can you come and judge a few stories?’ I asked (disingenuously underplaying how many entries we usually get!) ‘It won’t take long!’ (a lie!) ‘But it will be fun’ (that bit was the truth, as every judge will attest). We’ve had Costa Prize winners and Carnegie Medal winners, debut novelists and seasoned local writers, critically acclaimed poets and BAFTA winning screenwriters, literary agents and renowned literary critics. Each has brought something different to the selection process; each has picked winners the others might not. Because that’s the thing with writing – and publishing for that matter: different editors have different tastes and thus each edition of Anthology has a slightly different flavour to it. Which means young writers of different styles and genres have all had their moment in the spotlight.

The pandemic years were a challenge, though not for the reasons I expected. In terms of creativity, lockdown unlocked wells of untapped creativity in our young writers, and the entries poured in in unprecedented numbers. The logistics of going to press were a little more tricky. I recall selecting illustrations in plastic gloves; editorial meetings sitting on opposite sides of the staffroom, my glasses steaming up over my face mask and shield; I remember madly proofreading the 2021 Anthology whilst in bed with a soaring Covid temperature (the nasty Boardmasters’ Festival Strain definitely let a few rogue apostrophes through the net!) Launches were missed, then doubled up; in 2021 it was glorious to see two years’ worth of audience back in the library - adorned in face masks which made it annoyingly hard to eat the snacks,but listening to stories that grappled with the new normal in unprecedented times, I felt joyous to be back in the business of publishing young people’s work once more.

And this year. Well, this year has been tricky in its own way, and I am thus perhaps more proud of this, my final edition, than any of its predecessors. For this year’s young writers are to be congratulated on keeping the flame of creativity alive in a time of post-pandemic weariness. When many creatives across the globe are reporting imagination burn-out, KES poets and storytellers managed to keep on dreaming up tales and spinning words into gold.

And yet, in truth, this is the first year in over thirteen years of running the Short Story Competition when I wondered (albeit briefly) whether I would even have enough entries. Of course, in true KES fashion, dozens of last-minute entries poured into my inbox just before (or slightly after!) the (ahem - twice extended!) deadline. So perhaps I needn’t have worried. 

But perhaps there is something important to be noted here. In our desire to return to the ‘old normal’, let’s make sure there’s still time and space in our lives for creativity, for self-expression, for getting words on pages that are not for homework or assessment or exams; not for winning prizes or accolades; but just for the love of writing. Writing for its own stake. For the joy of a story well told. For the thrill that comes when characters come alive and tales unfold themselves in our heads. For the empowerment that comes of making our voices heard. Because now more than ever is the time to listen to the stories our young people have to tell, to pay heed to their words, pay attention to their voices - as they begin to write the next chapter of our world.

And so after thirteen years, I lay down my red editing pen with a sense of pride and excitement. I have loved helping to bring so many incredible stories to the page, launching cantos of glorious verse into the world, giving young writers their first platform, their first taste of publication. But most of all I have loved reading your stories and poems – yes, even the badly punctuated ones! It has been a privilege and a joy - and now I look forward to watching the next chapter in the tale of the wonderful KES Anthology unfold!


Catherine Bruton, English and Drama Teacher


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Creative Writing Celebrated at the Launch of the Anthology