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The Woodmead Halls in Lyme Regis is preparing to roll out a length of virtual red carpet on Saturday 26th March. Talented international writers and poets will be arriving to hear who has won a share of the £3,000 prize money in this year’s Magic Oxygen Literary Prize.
Magic Oxygen is a small green publishing house in Lyme Regis run by Tracey and Simon West and their global search for the best short stories and poems took place during the latter part of 2015. The contest, now in it’s second year, attracted almost 1,000 entries from 34 countries on 5 continents. It remains the only competition in the world to plant a tree for every single entry received. On Saturday, the winners will be announced and the event will be live streamed around the world on YouTube.
Tracey explains, “We’re both passionate environmentalists and we wanted to tie MOLP in with a vital reforestation project. After consulting with forestry expert Ru Hartwell, a remote community called Bore in Kenya was chosen as the perfect place for the Word Forest. It had suffered devastating damage from deforestation, primarily to build hotel accommodation along the coastal regions. The loss of natural habitat for wildlife was calamitous but the villagers also lost a vital source of food, medicines, water purifiers and protection from the elements. The competition trees are planted by the villagers and children of Bore and the benefits of good forestry management and sustainability are now palpable in their community.”
Simon comments, “Trees planted close to the equator are the most efficient at capturing carbon from the atmosphere and keeping the planet a bit cooler. MOLP1 and 2 have created a win-win situation, the entrants feel the same way about it too. Whether they make it through to the shortlist or not, everyone is sent the GPS coordinates of their tree, the data for which has been collected on an electronic logger by Alex Katana, the project manager in Bore. This has transformed our humble writing contest into a legacy project.”
Additionally, MOLP is funding the building of an urgently needed new classroom at Kundeni Primary School in Bore. Around 300 children attend the school – many of whom sleep on the premises because it’s too far to walk home – and they only have one decent classroom to study in, the other buildings are entirely ramshackle. The walls of the new class are almost complete, then it’s just the roof to go. MOLP will fund the desks, chairs and other essential educational materials as soon as it is weatherproof.
James Kithi is the headmaster at Kundeni Primary School. He adds, “The classroom shall for a long time act as a motivation to children, as they will understand that their effort in planting and taking care of the trees is being recognised (sic).”
Last year, MOLP1 created a leafy footprint twice the size of Wembley Stadium and in the past few weeks, an additional 1,000 neem and aborea trees have been planted for MOLP2, right alongside Kundeni Primary School.
Recently, the reforestation company Tree Nation were so impressed by what had been achieved by MOLP, they pledged 2,000 euros to boost the inspirational project.
Ru Hartwell, the Word Forest Coordinator concludes, “The kids at Kundeni are watching a brand new classroom being built for them and thousands of trees being added to their Word Forest. They know in a very tangible way that their education is being supported by writers from all over the world. Many of these children don’t even own shoes or exercise books, things we take for granted, so this is a very big deal. MOLP is an incredible project, talented creative writers get exposure, Kenyan youngsters get an educational boost and tropical Africa gets reforested. It begs the question, why isn’t the whole world doing this?”
The doors of Woodmead Halls will open at midday and all are welcome to attend the free event and meet some of the Magic Oxygen authors who will be launching new books, including the prolific children’s author Sue Hampton (loved by Michael Morpurgo) and local authors Heather Godfrey and Tony Lambert. There will also be a handful of literary talks given on various topics.
As if that weren’t enough to tempt you to attend this fabulous family event, there will also be delicious food and drinks available from Helen Roberts of The Flour Pot in Chard.
To book your tickets and to find out more about the project, visit MagicOxygen.co.uk.