A FINAL year student is celebrating after winning an award set up in memory of a respected journalist and writer.

Julia Etherley, who is completing her studies in English literature at Durham University, was named winner in the the post-16 category of the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize.

The former editor-in-chief of Palatinate, the university newspaper, said: “I was delighted to hear that my poem, Blue Hydrangeas won a Terry Kelly poetry prize.

“It was a real surprise and it was lovely to be recognised along with so many great young poets from the North-East.

“After I leave Durham I’m planning to complete my NCTJ diploma, so it feels very special to have won this award, established in memory of former Shields Gazette journalist Terry Kelly."

There were over 100 entries from young people from across the region, with 47 poems were shortlisted, including three group entries, by a judging panel made up of playwright Tom Kelly, senior lecturer in journalism Alistair Robinson, Sheila Wakefield, from Red Squirrel Press and former prize winner Lauren Apery.

The winners were announced at a ceremony held as part of the Takeover Festival at The Customs House.

The other two category winners were Sophie Barnard, in the primary category with Don’t Put Plastic in the Sea and Brody Wotherspoon in the secondary category with Thinking Back.

Elizabeth Kane, Learning Officer at The Customs House, said: “Once again the judges had a hugely unenviable task. Tom, Alistair, Sheila and Lauren spent a considerable amount of time deliberating. We are grateful for the time they give this prize.”

Lauren, who acted as the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize co-ordinator as part of the Takeover Festival, added: “It has been a pleasure receiving so many wonderful entries from young people all the way from primary school up to university.

“This competition is a testament to the young artistic talent in the north east and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize, now in its fourth year, celebrates the life of its namesake and encourages young people in the north east to write poems. The Kelly family wanted to encourage young people from all backgrounds to enjoy writing and reading poetry.

Head judge Tom Kelly, Terry’s brother, said: “Terry was an avid reader and particularly loved the work of Bob Dylan and the poet Philip Larkin and wrote many articles and reviews on both."

“He enjoyed regular correspondence with poets including Hugo Williams, Barry MacSweeney, Tom Pickard and Brendan Cleary, among many others. Hugo Williams said Terry knew his poems better than he did!”

The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize 2019 was generously supported by Scottish Power Foundation, The High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, South Tyneside Council, Arts Council England and the Gillian Dickinson Trust.

Alexander Dickinson, a trustee of the Gillian Dickinson Trust, said: “For 15 years the Gillian Dickinson Trust has been supporting artistic excellence in the north east by focussing on a number of organisations which embody the highest standards.

“With this objective the Trust has agreed to support The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize in its aim to inspire children in the north east to develop a passion for poetry. The Trust considers that the exposure of children to high artistic standards at an early stage will encourage them to strive for high standards in all fields as they mature, and in their adult lives.”

Blue Hydrangeas

Looking back, I see the small obsessions – the deliberations

bordering on annoyance when you failed to find the thing

to fill the space.

The plastic greenhouses, oak sideboards, and

the china cockerel which we joked I would inherit when you were gone.

So, when I came across those Blue Hydrangeas, and carried them,

priest-like through the cul-de-sac to your door,

I linked our lives with more than Christmases.

Flowers that made me the golden granddaughter for a few dog walks.

Those Blue Hydrangeas picked out from life’s little day,

Earth’s joys, and a vicar telling me that December is a

Good Time To Die.

Blue Hydrangeas which you planted

in a water trough a little taller than you.