A CHRISTMAS surprise, a tale of bravery and a story about noises in the night proved to be a winning combination for three promising writers.

The Hummingbird Centre, a cancer support centre near Bicester, threw down the gauntlet to Bicester’s budding writers to come up with original prose - and dozens responded to the challenge.

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Judges were given the difficult task to choose three winners after more than 60 people entered the Hummingbird Centre’s inaugural creative writing competition.

Sophie Barnett, 10, won in the 15 and under category sponsored by Nicholsons with her piece titled 'The Christmas Surprise'.

She wrote a magical story for Christmas about going on a great adventure with the 'amazing, well-rounded' character Tilly.

Francesca McMahon won the 16-35 category sponsored by Norbar Torque Tools Ltd with her piece called ‘You are still you’, a story that captures the bravery that it requires to be oneself.

Melanie Peak won the 36 and over category sponsored by Bicester Chamber of Commerce with her story ‘Noises in the Night’, described as 'a real original story that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat'.

Each of the winning authors received a personal recorded message from the sponsor of their respective category.

The Hummingbird Centre organiser Diane Mbangwa said: “We knew many people had taken up new hobbies or reignited old ones during lockdown, and for many that was writing.

“So launching a creative writing competition for people to have an outlet for their work and a chance to lift people’s spirits seemed the obvious thing to do.

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“We were absolutely thrilled with the overwhelming response and high standard of submissions.

“We had more than 60 entries and across a wide variety of creative stories, poems, articles and diary entries.

“The judges said they were very impressed with all of the entries and that the high calibre of entries made it very difficult to choose the winners.”

The judging panel included Dave Cassar, a creative writer and author of his own book of poetry; Mark Hanna, a successful multiple nonfiction and fiction book author; and Jodie Brooks, a librarian and Chairman of the Oxfordshire School Library Association.

Each of the winners received a kindle thanks to the competition sponsors.

The Hummingbird Centre based in Launton is a support centre for people with cancer and their families and offers counselling, friendship, advice and a host of therapies and pampering.

It opened its doors in 2014 after a promise Hummingbird founder Mechelle Harris made to her late father Raymond Hurcombe to create something good out of their loss as a family.

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So far, the centre has supported more than 16,500 people and has become part of the community.

It plans to run the creative writing competition again this year.

For more information about the centre go to thehummingbirdcentre.org.uk.

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