Literature in lockdown competition celebrates teens’ talents


A new University of Cumbria competition launched to inspire young people during the coronavirus lockdown is celebrating the literary loves and talents of teenagers. 

English Literature senior lecturers, Dr Penny Bradshaw and Dr Paul Ferguson, developed ‘Reading During The Lockdown’, a competition for 16-18 year olds. 

Aimed at school and college students, the competition invited young people to submit a literary review of 1,000 words about a novel, short story, play, poem or collection of poems, exploring how and why their chosen text had a significant impact on them during lockdown. 

A judging panel of writing and literature tutors at the university recently selected Evan Carroll’s review of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace as the winning entry.  

Senior lecturer Dr Bradshaw revealed his success during a virtual visit to East Durham College’s Peterlee campus, where 18-year-old Evan is a sixth form student.  

Programme leader for the university’s BA English Literature degree, Dr Bradshaw said: “Since Lockdown began in March, it has been widely reported that there has been a rise in reading levels and of the beneficial effects of literature in supporting us through this difficult time. 

“We very much enjoyed reading the entries which demonstrated a breadth of talent. Evan’s review of Infinite Jest was thoughtful and well written. It really conveyed the potential of literature to speak to readers across time and place and delivered a compelling account of the powerful effects this particular novel had on him as a reader. 

“Congratulations to Evan. It was lovely to be able to reveal news of his win while I was delivering a virtual talk to students at East Durham College.” 

Evan Carroll said he felt ‘honoured’ winning the competition and thanked his English teacher and East Durham College for supporting him during lockdown and the competition. 

Evan said: “I put a great amount of effort and enjoyment into reading and writing about this book, so for my efforts to receive recognition from a great number of professionals is a great honour.  

“Literature is important to any society in that it diagnoses our problems and lays the foreground for us to solve them. That’s what makes a work of literature become such a large institution and become a cultural Zeitgeist.  

“The great works of literature must challenge you and provoke you as a reader to think about the world we live or once lived in and shatter all preconceived notions that you had, leaving in its wake an original, fresh perspective.” 

The English Literature degree is taught at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus, situated in the Lake District National Park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is among the arts and creative programmes offered by the University of Cumbria’s Institute of the Arts



  • Dr Penny Bradshaw, programme leader, BA English Literature, University of Cumbria 

  • Reading During The Lockdown competition winner Evan Carroll, a student at East Durham College