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Portsmouth Museum’s annual competition for young writers can go ahead despite lockdown thanks to a new virtual video tour.

The 500 Pompey Words creative writing contest gives senior school pupils (years 7 to 11) who live in Portsmouth the chance to win up to £75 in vouchers by writing about items on display in the museum.

This year’s short stories can be inspired by anything in the Portsmouth Revisited II exhibition which features more than 70 paintings, prints and photos from across the city.

Lockdown had threatened to scupper this year’s contest but now entrants can see the exhibition while following lockdown rules. From the safety of their own home youngsters can watch a new online video of the display, with a curator giving a virtual guided tour of the Portsmouth City Council owned museum.

Cllr Steve Pitt, the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Economic Development, said: “It’s great news that we’re able to run the 500 Pompey Words competition despite lockdown. Obviously we’d much rather be welcoming youngsters into the museum but at least this way they can still see what’s on offer and it’s a great thing to do while staying at home. Every year we have some fantastic entries, it’s amazing how creative they are, and I’m sure this year will be no different.”

The prizes are awarded in memory of John and Ivy Guy-Hawthorne, their son Bob Hawthorne said: “We are delighted and honoured the competition is being held in our parent’s memory. As teachers, they were always passionate about learning and education and after retirement, continued to inspire through their involvement and leadership of the Portsmouth Museums & Records Society. They raised much needed funds and influenced the museums’ development for future generations. They would have been very touched that they are being remembered in this way.”

Local writer Charlotte Comley is the competition’s judge and offered budding story tellers this advice: “Every picture and item on display tells a story if you have time to listen. I can’t help wondering which images or items you will pick, what stories will the items stir up inside you. Portsmouth is a city that has experienced so much change, and I would love to see stories that include a character dealing with change.”

Entries must be original work, not more than 500 words long and mention at least one of the items in the Portsmouth Revisited II exhibition. The closing date for entries is Thursday, 18 February.

Full details on entering and the see the virtual tour are available on the Portsmouth Museum website.