A Kent village primary school pupil has been chosen for the final of Chris Evans’ short story competition, which will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 from the Tower of London on Friday. Andrew Tong met the eager young wordsmith…

EIGHT-year-old Emily Holgate from Fordcombe has reached the final of BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words storytelling competition.
The winners will be decided at a ceremony held in the Tower of London on Friday [June 16], which will be broadcast live by the Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans on his morning show from 7am along with a concert featuring Olly Murs and Niall Horan.
Emily’s story, The Legend of the Monkey, the Crocodile and the Mango Tree, set in Africa, was chosen as one of the final 50 on the shortlist.
The scale of her achievement can be gauged by the fact that 131,798 children aged five to 13 entered the competition this year.
Since 500 Words was launched in 2011 there has been a total of 686,530 entries – and the scheme has been credited with inspiring children across the country to pick up their pens and write.
The Duchess of Cornwall, a passionate advocate of children’s literacy, is on a judging panel that also includes Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon.
There are two age groups, five to nine and ten to 13, and there will be gold, silver and bronze winners in each category.
Emily, who attends Fordcombe Primary School, entered on her own rather than through her classwork but she has inspired her fellow pupils.

BEARING FRUIT Emily Holgate with Coconut at Fordcombe Primary School PHOTOS: Rose Bainbridge

Her mother Lorna says: “It’s wonderful because she comes from such a tiny school with less than 100 children – and now her friends are so enthusiastic about writing.
“She has always eaten books up. We spend all our time trying to get her off the loo, which is her favourite place to read.
Lorna adds: “Before she went to school she was always writing down little notes. And she’s been writing her stories for the last couple of years.
“The hardest thing she found was restricting herself to 500 words, she just keeps on going.”

‘The hardest thing she found was restricting herself to 500 words,
she just keeps on going’

While we talk, Emily comes running up to her mother with another tale she has penned, called The Titanic. Lorna laughs: “She writes quickly.”
She also likes to include drawings with her words, and when she grows up she wants to be ‘an author and an illustrator’.
So what was the inspiration behind her story of the Moroccan monkey who tries to stop a crocodile from eating of the fruit on his tree?
Clutching her favourite toy, a monkey called Coconut, Emily explains: “Monkeys are my favourite animal, mangoes are my favourite fruit – and I often put crocodiles in my stories.”
She adds: “I write about adventures because I really like Enid Blyton – especially her
St Clare’s books [about a girl’s boarding school].”
She is currently working on another story. “It’s about some girls called the Thunderous Three. There’s a maid at their school who keeps setting things on fire, and they work out who did it.”
To listen to Emily’s 500 Words story in full, visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p051d8z7

Excerpt from an african fable

“For the last month the crocodile had been trying his hardest to find a way to eat a mango, but he could not climb the tree, and the monkey would not throw any mangoes down to him.

He had tried everything, even standing on his own tail, and propelling himself upwards like a torpedo from a submarine. Nothing worked, and he was left empty-stomached.

He was tired of watching the monkey tease him by munching on the juicy mangoes and then dropping the stones on his head when he walked by. He had to come up with a better plan. Suddenly he had a lightbulb moment and it went ting, ting……and then boom, boom.”