The CityLife Prize for Fiction

The prizewinner has now been decided by the panel, and we are announcing their name at our yearly writing event, Write Now, on Thursday 18th May 2017. Here is our event page, please join us! The winning piece can be found here, we hope you all enjoy it as much as we did.


The CityLife team and the University of East London are extremely excited to announce the launch of a brand new literary prize, the CityLife Prize for Fiction by Young Writers. It is open to all London-based writers aged 16 to 19.

The theme for this year’s competition is ‘The City’. We are looking for fiction that engages in questions about what or who London is, and how Londoners live. There are no restrictions in topic or genre. We are looking for excellence in writing and stories that will bring a fresh literary view of London by young voices.

The winner will receive £500, publication of their story on a dedicated page on this website, and will also be offered a place on the (BA) Hons Creative & Professional Writing degree at UEL (subject to interview). Ten shortlisted writers will be announced in April 2017, and the winner will be announced in May, at our annual writing festival, WRITE NOW.

Submissions open on November 1, 2016 and close on March 15, 2017. We are offering two open access and free of charge workshops (December 3, 2016 and February 18, 2017) for applicants who wish to seek editing advice before submitting their piece.

Background for the Prize: The CityLife Project

The question of the future of our cities is recognized as one of the most urgent of our time. By 2030 there will be ten million people living in London. How sustainable will this future London be, economically, environmentally, and socially? Policy and planning agendas have long identified the challenges of urbanization, population increase and climate change, and fierce debates are emerging about the possible direction to be taken by local, state and transnational policy makers. The notion of the ‘smart’ city already seems old hat: a fantasy of better living made possible by ‘big data’ collected by sensor networks and wearable technologies that became sinister after the revelations of Edward Snowden. A more radical agenda for the Future City is emerging out of a burgeoning awareness of the extent to which political promises of economic growth and a prosperous, consumerist culture, rest on fundamental ideological commitments to widening inequalities and increasing alienation and fragmentation, both locally and globally. So, will the city of the future be ‘our’ city? Will it be sustainable, emotionally, as well as economically? How will it be run? How will future technologies help govern future cities, and will this governance make cities more human places, with an empowered and responsive citizenry?

The future of our cities should be decided by our younger generations, the people expected to live in them for the longest; not by policy-makers, politicians, corporate chains or transnationals. Those of us working in London’s East, at the most socially diverse higher education institution in Europe, recognize that we have a critical role to play in helping decide the future uses of the cities we inhabit, and utilising the voices and experiences of our young people and students to help shape this conversation.

The Prize

The CityLife Prize for Fiction by Young Writers is important, innovative and relevant because it offers a new way of harnessing the creative skills of young London-based writers to liberate the perspectives and stories of our cities. Statistics are fine; but how relatable are they? Do they speak to us in a way that is tangible and easy to connect back to our existences within the metropolis, or do stories do that better? We need stories. Stories of discovery, diversity, adversity and adventure. We need to know how the cities work for our young people; how they affect us, what it means to live in one, how they make us view life, and how they might look in the future.

Help us to see your vision of the city.

Competition Entry Rules

  • We only accept submissions of fiction; no journalism, poetry, or creative non-fiction.
  • The word limit is 5,000 words – there is no lower limit.
  • Send your entry as a DOUBLE-SPACED WORD document to, after 1 November 2016 and before 15 March 2017.
  • Include “Submission – ‘your full name’ – ‘your date of birth'” in the subject line.
  • Include your school name and postcode in the body of your email.
  • Please give your piece a title.

If you do not follow these requirements, we will not be able to process your submission.

Terms & Conditions

  • We are looking for the finest fiction, with no restriction on topic or genre.
  • You must be aged between 16 and 19 at the time of submission, and live or go to school in any one of the thirty-two London boroughs.
  • There is no entry fee.
  • The winner will receive £500, publication of their story on a dedicated page on this website, and will also be offered a place on the (BA) Hons Creative & Professional Writing degree at the University of East London (subject to interview).
  • The remaining nine shortlisted writers will receive a summer Masterclass in Fiction Writing.

The Judging Panel

  • Our Guest Judge will be celebrated author and performer Salena Godden, whose dazzling poetry and prose have been performed on the BBC, published in an array of influential anthologies, and most recently in the best-selling The Good Immigrant. A ground-breaking spoken-word performer, Salena brings her astute ear and eclectic writing experience to our judging panel.
  • Tessa McWatt – internationally published author of eight novels, a librettist and essayist, Co-Director of the Writing Centre, and Professor of Creative Writing at UEL.
  • Stephen Maddison – Director of Research, Co-Director of the Writing Centre, and Co-Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at UEL.
  • Tim Atkins – internationally acclaimed author and poet of several collections, and Reader of Creative Writing at UEL.
  • Helena Blakemore – Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader of the Creative & Professional Writing (BA) Hons degree.
  • Sam Dodd – Creative & Professional Writing (BA) Hons UEL graduate, editor of CityLife, Executive Assistant at First Story, co-founder of Mouths Wide Shut Poetry and UEL English PEN, and HMP Wandsworth reading group volunteer.

The CityLife Prize for Fiction by Young Writers is an initiative of CityLife, UEL’s pioneering Civic Engagement research project, and the Writing Centre, UEL’s centre for writing-led research.

To read more about the Creative & Professional Writing degree, as well as staff profiles and what you would learn during your time on the degree should you accept your place on the course, click here.