Pupil Power

Students from Mielec and Turek were announced as the winners of the annual PupilPower competition at the Roma Theatre, Warsaw on June 1. The prizes were awarded by top British novelist, Terry Pratchett. The event was part of the British Council's Imagine This season, dedicated to the promotion of British Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing.

The Roma Theatre, which at the moment is staging the Cats musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, was transformed, for one day only, into a world ruled not by felines, but by witches, orcs, elves and many people wearing very strange hats. All had gathered to find out who had won this year's PupilPower competition, sponsored by the British Council.

The competition, now in its third year, has two elements. First, students from schools across Poland are asked to design websites in English. This year's theme was Science Fiction and Fantasy. Web builders were asked to tell us about their school, about stereotypes of Poland and how to change them, their favourite fantasy novel or film, and what the school of the future will look like. The hundreds of entrants are then reduced down to a short list of six from secondary schools, and six from upper-secondary schools. The short listed teams are then invited to the Roma Theatre to present their websites to an expectant audience and jury.

Nerves twitched among the contestants as the event got underway at 11 o'clock sharp. The Director of the British Council, Susan Maingay (wearing a rather fetching, Eliza Doolittle type of hat) introduced proceedings, and then the presentations began. The Master of Ceremonies, British Council's Robin Rickard (silver dressing gown and night cap) introduced the No. 16 Gymnasium from Szczecin, who then launched into a lively presentation.

And the winner is.

By 2 o'clock all of the twelve presentations had finished, and the level of nervous excitement rose further still as Terry Pratchett took the stage to announce the winners and give out the prizes. The top school from the gymnasium section was the team from Gymnasium No. 2 in Mielec. The jurors thought that the presentation was brilliant - some of which was delivered while roller blading! The winner from the liceum section was the Tadeusz Koociuszko School from Turek. Their favourite fantasy novels are by JRR Tolkien, and, "Come to my town, my precious," was the most memorable, Golum inspired line from the presentation. Both teams won a computer system for their school.

Members of the jury included the Editor of Nowa Fantastyka magazine, Arkadiusz Nakoniecznik (large Stetson hat) and Editor-in-Chief of The World of EnglishR, Jerzy Bystrowski (pink top hat). All six members agreed with Susan Maingay, that the level of entries was the best ever this year. "We have noticed a rise in the standard of web design and presentation every year since we began the competition in 2001," said the Director of the British Council.

The PupilPower competition is part of the Imagine This season, which kicked off last year with the visit to Poland of British science fiction writer, Stephen Baxter. The season has included a short story competition, reading rooms, film shows and much more. "It's a multi-media project that incorporates the British Council's work in literature, language and art. We would like to promote the work of British writers generally. We chose to start with British fantasy writing because it connects so well with young people. Imagine This has been one of our most popular projects to date."

See for yourself the winning websites at:

See the latest on Pupilpower and much else besides at the British Studies Web Pages at http://elt.britishcouncil.pl