Andrew’s Essay Winner

S2 pupil Andrew impressed a panel of judges with his essay entitled “Imagine a Country” and last week he collected his prize at a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival from author Val McDermid.

In 2022 the celebrated Scottish crime writer and geographer Jo Sharp edited a book called Imagine a Country, which contained nearly 100 ideas for Scotland’s future from people across the country, and challenged readers to start imagining their future.

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS)  asked secondary school pupils to take up this challenge and write down their own ideas about what they think needs to be changed. The society received entries from all over the country.

Val McDermid read out Andrew’s winning entry to an audience of 750 people at the event last week with many taking the time to congratulate Andrew on his success. His essay will be published in the Royal Geographic Society Magazine in December and the National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library Scotland has asked if she could display the essay in the National Library in Edinburgh.

As part of a cross-curricular project last term the Geography and English departments spent time teaching and delivering lessons to help the pupils craft their Utopias. They were encouraged to submit their entries to the RSGS competition and Andrew’s essay not only impressed his teachers, it caught the attention of the judging panel.

Head of Geography, Mrs Prentice said: “The Geography department is ever so proud of Andrew’s achievement. His essay was brilliantly written and showed a great awareness and sense of place in his local environment.”

Imagine a Country – Essay

“Where Am I?”

As I felt the light pressure my eyes into opening, I awoke to see a crowd staring down at me as well as a glaring light from the sun standing tall in the cloudless, royal blue sky. Where am I? I asked myself.

I rose and pushed through the flock of strangers, it was my hometown but not quite the same, so my previous question continued to sit unanswered. The old, neglected community centre was now replaced by a bright welcoming building far different from the one I was used too. Everything seemed alien to what I had once called my home, the local Tesco’s windows were un-smashed, the stench of cigarette smoke and rubbish had evaporated, the heaps of litter that was typically scattered across the roads, streets and bushes was no more, all kinds of people from all sorts of places were smiling, chatting, laughing, socialising. This was not what I had come to know as my town, so I had to ask myself again. Where am I?

The community that I had settled, if you could call it a community, appeared to have been flipped on its head entirely. The park I had once enjoyed as a young child only for it to be vandalised by its newer arrivals was intact and had children the same age as I once was enjoying it once more. Parts of streets initially coated in cracked concrete now blossomed with trees with a variety of barks and leaves. A pond that had once sat as an oily brown colour riddled with litter and all sorts of thrown away items was now clear with ducks floating gracefully along its calm surface, with the occasional rebel leaf gently touching down onto the aqua blue water’s brim. I continued my stroll through the streets taking in my surroundings of tasteful modern and eccentric architecture as I went, awkwardly being lost for words when greeted joyfully by the usually grumpy faces of my past hometown. Yet still, I couldn’t fathom an answer to that question. Where am I?

I could feel people’s eyes turn their gaze to me not judgingly but curiously as I gawked at every detail of the town like I had just been whipped straight from the 19th Century, I couldn’t help myself.  This town was somewhere I could have been happy, somewhere where everyone could try and live, not just survive. Granted I had not travelled the world and seen every town but from what I had witnessed it was rare to find a flourishing community not just a settled for what you’ve been given one, a united community not one with the unspoken but very much thought of idea of every man for themselves, a proud community not a shameful neglectful one. But eventually my old friend of a question came calling again, the same shameful question that I had no recognisable answer for, crawled back into view. Where am I?

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