There are few things more nourishing for the heart and soul than celebrating the achievements of the children and young people who will one day be at the forefront of the next generation.
Arriving at the pre-ceremony reception of the Young Muslim Writers Awards 2015, I could feel the room buzzing with positive energy. Young and old from all walks of life were mingling over fruit juices and a delicious hot fork buffet.
Louis de Bernières; author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and one of the prize givers, was surrounded by MH staff eager to talk to him about passages from his books. Children and proud parents took pictures in the YMWA Instagram corner and still the guests kept pouring in.
We eventually managed to tear ourselves away from the mini samosas and paneer vol-au-vents and found a seat in time for the ceremony to begin. It was all kicked off by a cheerful introduction from the bubbly host, Shemiza Rashid and a hilarious sketch about writing from the brilliant Corner Shop Show comedy team. Then it was time for the prize giving to begin.
A host of well-known literary figures including award-winning author, Louis de Bernières, critically acclaimed teen fiction writer, Tim Bowler, novelist and creative writing teacher at Oxford University, Roopa Farooki, popular children’s author Caryl Hart, successful radio presenter and playwright, Yasmeen Khan and Tim Robertson from the prestigious The Royal Society of Literature, were on hand to award the Key Stage 1,2,3 and 4 Poetry and Short Story winners.
As each writer talked about the entries and the importance of young people engaging with literature and the arts I couldn’t help, but be moved by the way in which the writers of today had so much hope in those who will hopefully lead the way tomorrow. When each speaker handed a young writer their award it was as if they were passing the mantle of hundreds of years of written tradition to those who would continue on that great path.
As Tim Bowler said in his speech, ‘Our ancient ancestors didn’t need to go down into the caves and draw paintings on the wall…they didn’t need to write poetry or stories…to survive…They did those things to express the miracle…of being human…What you are doing here is part of that. You are akin to a stream of wondrous creativity that goes way back…and you’re throwing your own echoes into the future for those who will come after you’.
Inspiring speeches and exciting entertainment continued throughout the ceremony including a wonderful rendition of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling by lyric soprano and storyteller, Danae Eleni who had adults and children alike quacking along.
Ziauddin and Toor Pekai Yousafzai accepted the Special Recognition Award for Championing Children’s Right to Education on behalf of their daughter Malala. Ziauddin’s speech, which touched on reading in the Qur’an, the difference between education and indoctrination and creativity being the spirit of Islam, moved all of us in the audience. His daughter had risked her life to go to school and her father’s speech was a reminder of just what a powerful tool education and knowledge is.
This is why projects like the Young Muslim Writers Awards are so important. Young writers need to be nurtured and education needs to be celebrated so today’s children can forge a path to a better future and a better world for us all. As Ziauddin Yousafzai declared at the end of his speech, ‘The children here are not only the future of the Muslim community. They are the future of the UK. They are the future of humanity and they are the leaders of tomorrow’.
By Tijen Horoz, Senior Communications Editor
The Young Muslim Writers Awards is a Muslim Hands UK project presented in association with the Yusuf Islam Foundation.
Images: Rooful Ali / rooful.com