Never Such Innocence held the 2015/16 Awards Ceremony at the House of Lords on Monday 16th May to celebrate the winners of our national poetry and art competition.

We successfully engaged over 1,600 children from more than 100 schools in commemorating the First World War through poetry and art.

The 2015/16 competition was launched in autumn 2015 across the British Isles in which children were invited to submit poems or artwork inspired by the events of the Great War. We have been overwhelmed and utterly delighted by the response with entries submitted from as a far and wide as Orkney, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, New Zealand and Denver, USA!

The Awards Ceremony was kindly hosted by Baroness Jenkin and featured speeches from Lady Lucy French, Earl Howe (Minister of State for Defence), Captain Chris Smith (Royal Naval Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland), and a special video message from our Founding President, the Duke of Westminster.

The winning children were awarded their prizes by General Sir Gordon Messenger (Vice-Chief of Defence Staff), and Captain Chris Smith awarded the children that won a place in the official Royal Navy’s Battle of Jutland commemorations. One of our winners, Mia Nelson, is from Denver, USA, and sadly could not join us and so the American Defence Attaché, Brigadier-General Dieter Bareihs, kindly collected Mia’s prize on her behalf.

Mia deserved greater recognition for her winning poem and as a happy coincidence one of our close partners, CH2M, are based in Denver and kindly offered to present Mia with her prize and certificate. Patrick O'Keefe, SVP of CH2M, visited Mia's school, Denver School of Arts, along with Erin Kuhn who works with the UK Government Office, for the prize-giving on 7th October 2016.

We were very pleased that some of our talented poets read aloud their work for those assembled:

Hannah Mason, An Cogadh (The War) Gaelic Winner
Emily Dutson, What would they think? - School Year 5-6/Age 9-11
Robyn Beckett, Waking Nightmare - School Year 7-9/Age 11-14
Maeve Loney, No Poppies in the Sand - School Year 10-11/Age 14-16
Mia Nelson (via recording), A Farmer Buries the Dead - School Year 10-11/Age 14-16

All of the winning entries have been published in our Winners Booklet

One of our judges, Stanley Johnson, read the poem he was inspired to write during the judging process which was warmly greeted by the guests:

Bullet Points
I’m fed up with all these poems about the war
I can’t stand the gore any more.
I wish those kids would take a break
From all the pain and heartache
They hope to share with us.
Frankly, I’m sick of pus
And worms and bullets whizzing through
Those sad days.  If only they knew
How I long for a bit of joy and light!
And yet I know I’m wrong.  How right
Those kids were to take up their pen.
What happened once might happen again
If we forget the sounds
Of sorrow and those awful wounds.

Also during the presentation, Lady Lucy French announced two new partnerships. The first of which is with Royal warrant holder, Mappin & Webb. During the Great War Mappin & Webb produced a Campaign Watch, so sought after that for an extra shilling the watch could be delivered direct to the front! For the centenary, Mappin & Webb are paying homage to this heritage and are reintroducing the Campaign Watch, launching in June 2016.

Mappin & Webb very kindly brought the original Great War watches along to the House of Lords and displayed them for guests to view.

The second new partnership is with Dave Stewart Entertainment, run by Dave Stewart of the legendary Eurythmics and Jono Hart. Together we launched a music competition for 2016/17, Songs of the Centenary. Jono Hart flew over from Los Angeles specially to be at the awards ceremony and brought with him a message recorded by Dave Stewart.

The presentation was followed by a reception which allowed guests to mingle on the terrace overlooking the River Thames.

We would like to sincerely thank everyone who joined us for our special day celebrating the success of the winning children, particularly The Westminster Foundation for making the awards possible. 

All images above are © The Other Richard.