Young people across Lancashire are being challenged to use their experiences of lockdown to spark a career in creative writing.

Future U, which works to increase career aspirations for young people in the county, has launched ‘The Lockdown Diaries’, a writing competition for 14-18 year olds to create a range of short stories, poems or journal entries inspired by the pandemic and resulting lockdown.

The challenge is designed to make young people think about future careers in creative writing, from becoming an author all the way through to script writers, copywriters and even English teachers.

Young people are being encouraged to write either a fiction or non-fiction piece, with the top 10 submissions to be published in a special anthology and the overall winner claiming a free Amazon Kindle to continue their love of reading.

Entries need to be longer than 500 words and can be submitted either on the Future U website or via pupils’ schools. All entries should be submitted before the deadline of Saturday 15 August.

All entries will be judged by international author Philippa Holloway. Philippa has had her short stories and travel writing published across the world, in addition to teaching English Literature and Creative Writing at Edge Hill University.

Philippa said: “The pandemic lockdown has affected everyone in so many different ways, and I believe it is vital that we take time to think about, and process, its impact. Writing about the situation can help us understand it, and ourselves, more clearly.

“I can’t wait to read stories by the young people of Lancashire and to hear what it means to them.”

Dr Emma Deeks, Senior Coordinator at Future U, added: “We know that for many young people, having to stay home and miss out on normal life like school and seeing friends has been difficult, but it has also provided an opportunity to experience different things and have more time to spend thinking and creating.

“We wanted to design a project that allowed young people to express this creativity and potentially inspire them to pursue a career within the creative industries.”

Since launching in 2017, Future U has held more than 800 events and activities to support over 16,000 young people to think about applying for university. The programme works alongside the county’s four universities and 10 colleges throughout Lancashire and has continued to deliver activities online during the lockdown.

In addition to promoting the benefits of university to prospective students, the programme also supports young people to understand student finance, living away from home and raising career ambitions to develop the next set of skilled workers for the county.

Future U is part of the national Uni Connect Programme, funded by the Office for Students, and continues to support school pupils across Lancashire to encourage more young people to think about higher education and future careers. The project involves institutions and organisations across the county including the University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, Edge Hill University and the University of Cumbria.

Lancashire’s Future U works with a network of schools, in addition to colleges, higher education providers and local agencies to create tailored activities to meet the needs of students for now and the future.

Its list of partners includes: Blackburn College, Blackpool Sixth Form College, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Burnley College, Edge Hill University, Inspira, Kendal College, Lancaster University, Myerscough College, Nelson and Colne College, Preston’s College, STEMFirst, Runshaw College, The Lancashire Colleges, University of Central Lancashire, University of Cumbria, West Lancashire College.