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15th Christopher Tower Poetry Prize Competition

This year’s theme of cells for the 15th Christopher Tower Poetry competition attracted entries ranging from biological cells to prison cells; monastery cells to computer cells. The 727 entrants (all born between 1996 and 1999) represented 425 schools, with many schools encouraging entrants for the first time.  

At a lunchtime reception in Christ Church, Oxford on Monday 20 April, sixteen year-old Isla Anderson, from Woldingham School, Surrey, was awarded the £3,000 first prize for her poem ‘The Forensics of Salt-Licking’.  The judges were the poets, Helen Mort (a Tower Poetry winner herself in 2004), Ian McMillan and Peter McDonald.
The winner of the second (£1,000) prize is Max Thomas (Hampton School, Middlesex) with ‘Fusion’ and the third prizewinner, Lewis Harrington (Wilson’s School, Surrey) – who was also longlisted in 2014 – won £500 with ‘Firewood!’. Their schools receive £150 each.

The other short-listed winners, who each received £250, were: Jeremiah Ovenden (Torquay Academy), Matt Ward (The Gryphon School, Dorset), Andrew Wells (Howard of Effingham School, Surrey).

'From a very strong field Helen and I chose a set of worthy winners. The future of literature is in good hands with poets like these around!
' Ian McMillan
‘The winning poems demonstrate the diversity of the entries, in both form and content. For these poets, 'cells' didn't mean confinement but linguistic possibility.’ Helen Mort

Now in its fifteenth year, the Christopher Tower poetry competition is one of the most prestigious poetry competitions in the UK, with a reputation for discovering fresh and exciting poetry talent. Previous prizewinners such as Caroline Bird, Richard O’Brien, Anna Lewis and Annie Katchinska, apart from Helen Mort herself, are now gaining further acclaim in other competitions or within the publishing/ writing world. The competition is just one of the initiatives developed by Tower Poetry at Christ Church to encourage the writing and reading of poetry by young adults. Other projects include summer schools (to which the first three winners are invited as part of their prize), poetry readings, conferences, an ongoing publication programme and website, which is used as an educational resource in schools.

You can see the winning entries for yourself on the Tower Poetry website where our talented young authors read their own poems (, and further information on the competition and other Tower projects from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on 01865 286591. Follow us on Twitter @TowerPoetry; on our Facebook page or on YouTube at

View photos of the event