The Canterbury Tales Writing Competition 2021/22: Prejudice and Difference – The Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered The Canterbury Tales Writing Competition 2021/22: Prejudice and Difference. We were really impressed by the quality of the writing and are very grateful to everyone who entered. We hope that you enjoyed writing your poems and stories as much as we enjoyed reading them. Here are the winners.

AGE 5-10

1st Place (A poem or story about prejudice)

The Tale of the Butcher and the Baker

By Aoibhe Aged 10

The Baker said, “My cakes are best;

My bread makes critics smile.

My signature bake is cookies though;

I have a special style.

The bakery at the end of town

Belongs to me alone.

My customers come everyday,

To buy pastries or a scone.

The Butcher, though, I do not like.

His meat makes me feel sick.

The sausages are full of spice

And his steak is far too thick.

A Baker is just so much better

Than a Butcher, don’t ‘cha think?

Why, he chops up raw meat! Oh god!

I’m certain he must stink!

The Butcher said, “Do you love a chop?

Isn’t casserole just the best?

Or do you prefer bangers and mash?

Perhaps delicious chicken breast?

For I am the Butcher on Clements’ street!

Everybody knows of me.

I have mince and ham and racks of lamb,

Why don’t you come and see?

My burgers are superb!

My sirloin steaks are beyond belief.

Let me sell you something for Sunday lunch:

A shepherd’s pie or shoulder of beef.

But that Baker is a nuisance.

Her silly pastries taste like bile!”

The Baker said “I hate the Butcher!

His hot dogs taste so vile!”

The argument goes on and on,

You don’t want to hear the rest.

So silly, these pathetic squabbles.

Everyone became quite stressed.

The villagers knew they’d had enough,

But what on earth could they do?

Get them together! They could be friends!

And then they can start anew.

So, the Butcher and the Baker

Met each other at last.

But things got ugly pretty quick,

And the villagers got out fast!

“Your biscuits are stale

Your cakes are too sweet!”

“Your rashers aren’t smoky

I’ll never buy your meat!”

Soon cakes and buns were being flung,

Sausages were flying through the air.

They landed in the Baker’s pastry

And nobody knew that they were there.

Until the following morning,

When a boy turned up around one,

To buy a little pastry treat,

To have with lunch later on.

And, wow, did the boy get a big surprise,

When he bit into the treat.

Was that sausage inside the roll?

A pastry roll with meat?

Well, he thought it was delicious.

A sausage wrapped in pastry!

And soon everybody wanted one

For it was really very tasty.

Word spread about the sausage rolls

But the Baker was confused.

“A what, you say? I don’t understand!”

And security cameras were used.

This is how it was discovered

How the sausage roll had been invented

And the Butcher and Baker became best friends,

Just as the villagers intended.

And so the Baker and the Butcher

Found the answer to their prayers,

Because, by making tasty sausage rolls,

They became multi-millionaires!

So, don’t judge those you haven’t met

Because they seem a bit strange or funny.

Be nice and kind and say hello,

You could make a friend – or lots of money!

2nd Place (A poem or story about prejudice)

Who is she?

By Sienna Aged 9

She works sixty hours a week,

She studies on top of her work,

She cries, she laughs and wipes away my tears.

She casts away all of my irrational fears.

She sweeps, she cleans, she runs and screams.

She has body dismorphia and yet she’s the most beautiful woman to walk the earth with charm and dreams.

Strong she never gives up on the turning tides of life.

Alone appeals are nothing, tribunals are nothing, leading is nothing and knowing the difference when to be submissive; even no longer as a wife.

In charge of staff, in charge of patients, in charge of paths of future directions and places.

When a nervous member of staff in the street tried to greet her by shaking her hand instead she hugged them, no airs or graces.         Who is she?

Never looses faith, trusts and never utters the word ‘No’.

They all wonder as her piercing eyes appear, not knowing her lips are peeling behind her mask, droplets of perspiration tricle down her back, her hands are cracked underneath her gloves and yet she still manages to just know.           Who is she?

Discretion, unspoken words, ancient customs, bedside manner, ensuring dignity as people depart and singing to enable a smile on a patients face for the last breath.

Her presence a supercharged elixir even in death.                          Who is she?

Elderly neighbours always cared for, friends knock trying to repay debts of love that she never did equate, because out of love she does not charge but would rather spend her last penny on fuel to pick up a broken person on the road side beside a gate.   Who is she?

Helping the homeless is her passion and desire.

I ask which layer of our existence do we allow our great British values to penetrate, look beyond the mirror I beg you to please enquire.

Once a month she tip toes into the foodbank tears held back not uttering a word accept ‘thank you’ to the staff from above.

No entitlements, but instead outgoings and a broken heart because our twelve year old labrador did depart from this world.

The only unconditional physical presence of love.

Three pieces of kibble left on the floor and tail curled.

She’s delicate and fragile inside and I’m not sure anyone will ever hold her fractured heart in their hand.

We will soon leave the nest.

She will no longer be looked down on and,

the sun will continue to shine on her radiance, the world will continue to wonder and wonder by.

Who is she?

My single mother.

3rd Place (A poem or story about difference)

A story about difference:  Abdul’s Taliban Story

By Benedict Aged 10

“Oi! Why kick that in my face, you thug? I have no intention of humiliating myself by attempting to speak your language, so I’ll just speak mine.”

“Can’t understand you mate. Why can’t you catch it then?”

“Funny, now I come to think of it, I was once similar to you. The reason I couldn’t catch it is because my hand, or lack of it – look!”

“Jeez, man! What happened there?”

“There is absolutely no point to this because you can’t understand me, but here it comes, my story.”

“For many a year, I lived under the rule of the Taliban. Before then, I was the cool one, who everyone followed – like you. But then THEY came into my story. They closed the school one day and took us to their base. They whipped us, hit us with sticks and th…”

“Wha’ you even saying, Thicko? What’s was wrong with using English?”

He kicks the ball at me again

“Oh, so you think I’m thick, then?  In my country I could settle this with IQ but here it comes”

I show him my skills – I used to be part of my school football team. Now I don’t play anymore and I don’t have a team anymore.

“Wow – some keepy uppy skills!”

“Thank you. Felt good to kick a ball again. Anyway – back to the point. Inside the camp that day, one of the soldiers snatched my baby brother from the rest of us and put a knife to his wrist. I threw myself in front of him, pleading with him to stop. He just laughed and grabbed me instead, saying “you’ll do.” And I think you can guess what happened next.”

“Still don’t understand you, Bruv. Come on boys, let’s get back to the game. You can join in if you want with those skills.”

Highly Commended (A poem or story about difference)


By Riya Aged 9

I hear the roar of the sea,

As we journey, finally free,

On our little, orange boat,

From Syria to England, afloat.

My life was always fine,

Till one day I woke to find,

The sky clouded with smoke,

So heavy, I thought I would choke.

All those days of travel,

My bare feet on the gravel,

Against the scorching heat,

The tar burning my feet.

Till at last, here we are!

From the war, far,

In the United Kingdom,

Finally finding Freedom.

You may think I am not the same,

Cos of my country, my skin or my name,

But all I want is to be like you,

Be accepted in life and in school.

Age 11-14

1st Place (A poem or story about difference)


By Ashira Aged 11

Like Medusa there is power in my hair,

People feel compelled to stop and stare.

Don’t touch my hair without permission!

This fiery mane is my tradition.

You see…

Every coil speaks my history,

Of ancestors who are part of me.

From the roots it grows up and high

Like the baobab tree kisses the sky.

I can style it a hundred ways,

In twists, knots, locks and braids,

Or a tsunami of curls that roll freely:

These strands express how I’m feeling.

I don’t take this journey alone.

With gels, sprays, creams and comb,

My head rests in my mother’s lap

As she carefully paints an intricate map.

She spends hours threading my hair under and over,

Whilst our bond gets stronger and closer.

Braiding and twisting has lasted for generations,

A legacy of ancient African civilisations.

Long ago, mothers would sit and chat about what they may

As they combed, brushed and styled away for days.

This hair was also beauty to explorers of old,

To the sailors of the sea looking for gold.

What really left them in wonder and awe

Were the hairstyles they saw on the African shores.

But it wasn’t long before racism began to unfold,

Invaders started to cart people away and sold

Them, told them to be ashamed of their identity

Even long after they were freed.

This textured hair still comes under attack,

For people at work and even in class,

Children have been sent home from school

For having hair that’s thought to bend the rules.

Sometimes seen as messy or untidy,

But why is this hair another’s enquiry?

Flattening and concealing these natural tresses

Fails to honour the natural beauty it possesses.

Why do I take pride hair in my hair?

Because of the many others who were previously there.

The ones who possessed courage and resilience

And showcased this hair’s pure brilliance.

From the Panthers and their afro crowning glory

To Ruby Williams and her inspiring story.

There’s a lot of things about my hair heritage I have learned.

But the one main thing is, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

2nd Place (A poem or story about prejudice)

The Traveller’s Tale

By Pascale Aged 12

From a train; blurred fields, a chalk horse on a hillside,

An old woman watched as a young girl cried.

“I’m a white horse too. This hair, you see –

And in Hindi, ‘white horse’ is ‘Kalki’ – that’s me!

Now tell me, my dear, why all the tears?

Tell Granny Kalki all of your fears.”

The girl looked up, a sad smile on her face;

“I’m moving to Penzance, a completely new place.

Leaving my friends, my house, my cat Fred –

He’s too old to move now, that’s what Mum said.”

“Too old to travel, yes, I see.

You’ll never believe some have said that to me!”

Then she took from a box, with a finger and thumb,

A syrupy donut the size of a plum.

“Here girl, try my Gulab jamun;

Fingers are fine, you don’t need a spoon.

They’re sticky outside and sweet in the middle.

But first, you have to answer my riddle:

I won’t touch your cake, but I’ll make it shrink.

How will I do it? What do you think?

What’s this? A cake that’s larger still?

Will yours feel smaller? Yes it will!”

The girl grinned broadly and took a bite;

“Yummy,” she murmured, “This one’s just right!”

“Well then, a story while you eat,

Of a man called Aabid and a woman called Preet.

From their names you can see where this story goes –

Preet is Hindi for ‘love’ as everyone knows,

And Aabid means Muslim, and in Gujarat

There are people who won’t put up with that.

Interfaith marriage – that is forbidden,

So Aabid and Preet had to keep their love hidden.

The sad pair had to leave all they knew.

So in some ways, they were rather like you.

Aabid too wept, for all they’d left behind

So Preet told him a story to soothe his mind:

The tale of a farmer who owned a white mare

As precious to her as her son and heir.

One day the horse fled, and the neighbours cried:

“What awful luck!” The farmer sighed:

“Maybe…” she said.

And soon the mare returned, and what did she bring?

A wild black mare, can you believe such a thing?

And the neighbours said, “God dotes on you!

“What good fortune! One horse becomes two!”

And the farmer smiled:

“Maybe…” she said.

The following day, the farmer’s son

rode the untamed horse,

And fell off, of course.

“A broken arm? What terrible karma!”

The neighbours said to the smiling farmer.

“Maybe…” she said.

And the following day, the army came

To draft young men for their fighting game.

Seeing the son’s broken arm,

they left him alone –

Keeping him safe from harm.

“What terrific luck!” the neighbours cried.

Well, how do you think the farmer replied?”

Kalki winked and took a large bite

Of the bun that was bigger, but wasn’t cooked right.

“Yours was smallest, but also the best.

What do you say? Do you think that you’re blessed?

The girl laughed:


3rd Place (A description of an outcast)

A Tropical Paradise

By Marcus Aged 12

                The Sun rose over the open sea, glittering off of the ocean waves. An island lay, alone, surrounded by the depths. Around the northern face of this island, bathed in tropical sunlight and surrounded by palms, a fortress had been built. A dark keep of stone. It sat atop a bluff, overlooking the cove below. In the cove, a trade sloop was moored near a larger vessel, flying the flag of Spain. The larger ship was docked at a pier that was near degradation, exposed to the elements for a long while. Figures were being escorted out from the ship, chained together with shackles of steel. They were herded like cattle off of the pier, herded by men on horseback, adorned with studded wips. The men on horseback were pale as the winter sky, and looked different to the people shackled together. A path wound from the pier through the palms to a small town. A town hall was built in a colonial style, the rest of the town were small wooden houses. The sun was unrelenting, flooding the jungle landscape with light. A wide, paved road twisted up to a low hilltop. The road led to another colonial building, a manor, with a gate hosting two guards bearing rifles. The shackled people were being led up the wide road, the men on horseback were topped with wide brimmed hats to shield them from the midday sun, but no such luxury was provided to those on the ground. They reached the wrought iron gate, and were waved through by the two guards, one older man who was chained fell behind, and was whipped by the horsemen to get him moving. The gate closed behind the last person, with a deathly clang.

Back down by the docks, two pale men shielded by wide hats talked in hushed tones. The man closest to the sea was handed a bag full of a heavy material, his eyes lit up as he took it from the other man, and with that he walked up the gangway onto his ship. Soon enough the ship was slowly drifting back out to sea, peacefully floating back out across the sunlit waves. And life continued on the island, a life of beautiful dawn skies to blistering heat, to a cooler evening, dominated by the sounds of crickets.

                Back inside the metallic fencing of the manor, the people from earlier were hard at work in the fields. It was laborious work, day after day they worked the fields, harvesting the canes and hauling them back to the storage building. From dawn until dusk, they work themselves to death.

 This is life in a tropical paradise.

Highly Commended (A poem or story about difference)

By Lucy Aged 12


I stared down at my shoes and walked on past the girls. As usual, they didn’t notice me. 

Finally, I made it to the blocked off corner of the playground where I went at lunch. It was behind a holly bush that cut it off from the rest of the play area, and it created a perfect little corner for me.

 A large thud caught my attention, and I looked up through the gap between the leaves. It was a ball hitting the ground a few metres away, which meant that heads were beginning to turn towards the holly bush. Quickly, I shuffled away from the gap and pushed myself against the fence hoping no one would see me. I hated being spotted by the students in my school, they were so homophobic. 

But one person had seen me. A short girl, my age, was walking towards me. I scrambled around putting things back in my bag and moved towards my exit. But then something caught my eye, on her blazer was a little rainbow badge – the pride flag. I stopped, stunned, she must be new. 

She arrived at the entrance to my corner and said a simple, “Hello.”

Nervously I replied, “Hello. Who are you?”

“Anya. I’m new around here and no one seems to like me. I spotted you hiding here, and… I was curious.”

“Oh… I’m Daisy. How are you so happy? Don’t they all just insult you? They always do that to me. That’s why I stopped wearing my badge, it was like yours.” I clapped my hand to mouth, knowing I said too much.

She looked at me, surprised at my abrupt stop. But then she did something I had never seen at this school. She smiled. I knew at that moment that school would never be so lonely.

Age 15-18

1st Place (A poem or story about difference)

Please note this poem includes adult language.

A Pilgrimage to Disneyland

By Megan Aged 16

It were with my school that I did go,

By bus and boat and buffalo

A whirling shouting mass of kids

We did take this pilgrimage

Yes as all true gen-z-ers must

We did go, by boat and bus

To that shiny serotonin gland-

Yes, we did go to Disneyland.

My the colours! My the sights!

Land of the brave! Land of the knights!

Princesses faint in heavenly blue,

We all dash up to join the queue.

We sweat in sugar-fractious lines

Tickets crumpling in hot little hands

Lucy’s kissing David, or was it Troy?

I’d never dreamed of kissing a boy

At last we make it through the gates,

And oh my god, we are already late

We have but a few hours to burn into our vision

This glorious shrine to capitalism

Big thunder mountain! Yes! We scream,

Names and places out of our dreams

We join another bovine rollercoaster,

Shuffling forwards one after the other

Until eventually, we reach the prize

Twenty seconds where we might fly

And it spits us silly and sick

Onto the floor, back into the light

So many sights! So many places!

Back and forth my poor heart races

So many scents! So many sounds!

And all we do is stand around

The food! It’s bright and sweet and empty,

It leaves my tummy feeling funny

Why’s my forehead throbbing like a brand

You can’t have a headache, it’s Disneyland!

Desperate I join another queue,

Forty minutes left till the bus back to school

Panic begins to rise in my gut

Too many people, we’re totally stuck

Already I feel the hot shame of tears

People laughing in Mickey mouse ears

What on earth is wrong with me?

In heaven why am I not happy?

What sort of outsider am I

That longs for open mountain sky

For whom this bustling plastic palace

Is a candyfloss poisoned chalice

Maybe if Cinderella was snogging Rapunzel,

I would see myself in this counterfeit jungle

Perhaps if Prince Charming and Aladdin were bangin

I wouldn’t feel every wall close in

If Mickey was f*cking Goofy

Instead of just plain old silly

If Disney would just admit

That Elsa was into chicks

If- yeah, no, their waxwork faces stare

Down at me, with my tangled hair

Sweet smiles, heterosexual teeth

Stone smooth skin and what beneath?

Lost with sherbet-sticky tear tracks,

Wondering why my smile cracked

Flowing helpless to the exit,

Why was I so disappointed?

I joined a queue so I might know

A world where people saw no woe

I did not fit, it was not gay

Perfect place, perfect day.

2nd Place (A poem or story about prejudice)

By David Aged 16

He can tell that they are, in fact, nearly there yet from the various urban excrescences that drift past the window, spattering him with recollections:

the garden centre’s stench of poo

the corner shop with the big-nosed till-man and abundant stale biscuits

the concrete church and pirate-ship banner reading JESUS LOVES Y— (It passes before he can make out the rest.)

A SQUEAL FROM BESIDE HIM: Mummy, does Gran go to church?

(MUMMY keeps her eyes on the road. There follows a prolonged silence—such that a grown-up might require, what with a brain so large and sluggish.)

MUMMY: Gran won’t want to talk about silly things like church.

THE SQUEAL: Silly?—But—but don’t we go to church, Mummy?—

HE: —And we’re not silly! (quite assuredly, beginning to laugh himself silly)

The pulsing of the engine draws to a halt. Daylight gushes round him. He is unstrapped and snatched from his booster seat and sent scurrying beside his sister along the pavement towards a cardiganed figure with a broad, yellow smile.

Her house is as wide as she is tall, and he wonders, what with a belly like hers, how ever she fits through her front gate. But before he has given too much thought to the very grown-up question of the width of her front gate, he and his sister are plucked from the ground by two great big branches, feet hanging like fruit. He has never—not once—in his many days on Earth, been subject to an embrace so pleasantly humiliating.

(GRAN plucks at the fruits. THEY giggle acutely.)

MUMMY: That’s enough now.

GRAN: (To THEM) Ah’ve got pazties in the oven, me luvvers, but you can ‘ave what’s in the bizcuit tin while yer waitin.

So they scuttle past her, through the front door, into the gnat-whisker terrace, thinking What an adventure!—How I love Gran!—What’s a paztie?

And he leaves his sister scaling the stairs whilst he

scours shelves of strange magazines

reads of ‘spirits’ and ‘aliens’ and ‘apocalypse’ (all of which words require thorough sounding-out, letter by letter)

decides the magazines have no real allure after all

returns to the living room

mounts the settee

and revels in the existence of reclining seats.

And they

watch Aladdin from a big black brick wedged into the telly-box

devour the contents of the biscuit tin (though a great deal misses their mouths and forms heaps of crumbs around them)

and are lulled by the scent of corned beef pasties baking.

(MUMMY is left on the doorstep with GRAN, who bows at once to brush the soil from her knees, for she has been gardening.)

GRAN: Y’alrite luvv?

MUMMY: (In a polite, almost rehearsed, upright, Christian manner) Hello, Liz.

3rd Place (A description of an outcast)


By Iona Aged 15

Beyond the shade of the yew and the light of the moon, is a dim yellow square in a greying block of flats. In a room lit by a single naked bulb, a man readjusts his stance in the steely mirror he faces. Suit hanging loose on his frame, wrinkled script in hand, the weak gaze of a weakening heart. If you looked into his eyes, you would see the broken pieces of a snow globe – remnants of an Aleppo daydream. Olive trees, fritillary petals and honeycomb kisses, wild rue and pistachio glazes, dancing on an inner eyelid tapestry. But alas, he blinks – the memories are broken. His pockets yawn with the cavities of an unfulfilled fate; an aimless amble along life’s meanders, rubble littered suddenly in his path, making footsteps forced. Now, each footfall must equate to a stride, or else the quicksand of failure will catch hold.

“Good Morning…Mr Smith”

“It’s nice ….m-meeeting you”

“How you do … how are you on this fine morning?”

The broken accent dries his lips, as repeated platitudes sound less like words each time. Consonants jam up his airways, make him choke on their bladed edges. This tongue was made to recite Arabic poetry, speak the frilled iterations of guttural symphony, sing the words of oral hand-me-downs, passed down through generations. His tie hangs more to one side and his collar is already creased. Somehow his hair chooses not to stay flat; his trousers come down to his heels. Skin far too dry, voice on the verge of crack, head hunched over. “You have to look the part!” he hears, “Dress how you want to be perceived!”, says every fortnightly crash course. As if, they want him to act, shroud himself in a whitewashed facade of what he will never be, creeping in this petty pace, day to day, treating the globe as his stage. Somehow, acting has never been his forte. Scepticism clouds his mind.

It is getting late. Even the moon does not comply, twisted in a crescent grimace, as if downfall is guaranteed. Each second is like the loss of an eternity – erosion of time trying to acclimatise to an unfaithful land. The cavern of his stomach growls deeper with ongoing unease – the acid gnawing within, deepening the crater of collapse. Will he remember his words? Smile wide enough to look like this was something he wanted, not needed? Beguile the interviewer to succumb to his illusion of employability? With a final skim of the script, the inked serpents constricting his brain, he gives the paper a toss. Alas, the angle lacerates his skin, splitting open a gash of red. An omen, almost. Happy endings are nothing but a fallacy.

A shrill telephone ring pierces the air. Fumbling the receiver, he listens to the voice on another end. “Mr Abbas speaking? We regret to inform that your interview has been cancelled.”

He does not feel the surge of relief he should.

Highly Commended (A poem or story about prejudice)

By Lutecia Aged 15

The man who’s present is his past

He smokes on a cigarette as the gates close behind him

His face is grubby, his hair greasy, his expressions grim

The cold winter’s wind whips at the smoke sending it flying with the drops of morning’s dew,

He may be free, he may have changed, but he is still the captive of society’s view.

His lungs gulp at the freedom as he crosses that road in front of the prison

Which he had glimpsed between the bars whose mockery had arisen

But as he turned his back, he flicked the last page of the book

Only to realise that there was one more chapter written on his body like scars.

Sometimes he wishes to be back amongst his own

The bandits, the criminals, the outcast, the ones the society has left unknown.

Each time he meets a real estate agent, the question is asked

Leaving him vulnerable and helpless as the cycle repeats

And the answer that follows brings unknown terror to strike upon their faces

An inside terror conjured by the few words barely uttered and from their list he effaces

The next obstacle was writing his CV on that empty word document,

Enthusiastic at first, he writes up his name, starts to type then stops for a long moment

Patient, reliable, all those are worth nothing beside a degree and those three lines aren’t enough

A couple times he got lucky, he met the employer but things go wrong and he starts to bluff

And they moment they glance at his previous domicile,

He feels this anger within but he gulps it down and leaves before things get hostile,

For the thought of going back haunts him day and night

As he drowns in the empty document its colour pure-white

Or is it society drowning him in its obscureness?

The endless pain, the endless suffering pulls him down and though he paid his debt

That doesn’t seem enough for now is falling, falling through the society’s net.

Everything starts again, the hunger and the cold that bits away at him under the bridge

As he sits there waiting on society’s cliffside ridge,

And once again he becomes part of the street

We pretend we don’t see him as if he was the landscape’s pleat

For the following season this is where he lives and every day you pass him on this very pavement

But would you notice a man trapped in enslavement?

Then one day, everything becomes clear

He throws a stone at a window sits and waits as the alarm of the house screeching in his ears,

Six months of incarceration followed, of warmth, of food, of shelter

Prison had been something that terrified him but this time things had taken an alter

For in this palace-like world not once did he falter.

Six months later, he smokes on a cigarette as the gates close behind him

His face is grubby, his hair greasy his expressions grim

The cold winter’s wind whips at the smoke sending it flying with the drops of morning’s dew,

He may be free, he may have changed, but he is still the captive of society’s view.