Southern Schools Book Award 2017 Awards Ceremony

We were thrilled to hold the Southern Schools Book Award (SSBA) again last Friday in Roedean’s theatre. The evening, which was hosted by last year’s winner, Holly Bourne, was extremely busy with 250 enthusiastic Year 9 readers from 26 schools in Sussex and Kent attending the event. The visiting students had all read and voted for the five books on the shortlist and were eagerly waiting to hear whether their favourite book had won.

This year’s shortlisted novels were The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt, Margot and Me by Juno Dawson, The Trap by Alan Gibbons, Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield and Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray. Unfortunately Laurence Anholt was unable to join us owing to family commitments but he delighted the audience and authors with an excellent podcast about his book, which can be viewed by clicking here.

Our guest for the evening was Chris Riddell, who charmed all with his on-stage drawings of the authors and his impressions of the characters from their books. We were honoured to have Chris visit us again, especially as at the moment he is very busy collaborating with J K Rowling over a new illustrated copy of Tales of Beedle the Bard.

All the authors read an extract from their books and answered questions posed by the schools. The on-stage camaraderie between the authors was hugely enjoyable. Juno Dawson, when asked how much influence she had over her book covers, answered that she had very little, confessing that she hated the cover of Margot and Me. However, she admitted that it was her best-selling book to date. Chris responded to her answer by drawing an outraged cover designer saying “How dare you!” much to the amusement of the audience.

Laurence Anholt was asked “Have you ever been hypnotised?” prior to the evening and he sent this reply. “Yes, I have been hypnotised on many occasions. The first time was when I was a student at Art school – a tutor was looking for volunteers for some research on hypnosis as an aid to creativity. It was very interesting to paint and draw in a hypnotic state; but of course hypnosis only works when the subject is willing – I remember that some students were reluctant and nothing happened for them.”

When asked, “Was there a particular terrorist event that made you think of this storyline?” Alan Gibbons revealed that he had been a journalist in Northern Ireland many years ago which had influenced his writing. Hesaid that the reason why he writes about death and darkness is because he believes in peace and love.

After the students had received book tokens from Chris Riddell, Holly asked the audience to perform the traditional foot drum roll and revealed the winner to be Lisa Heathfield with Paper Butterflies. The highly commended award went to Juno Dawson for Margot and Me.

Following the presentation, students surged around Book Nook’s stall on the theatre stage to buy the authors’ books. The authors spent well over an hour signing books for the enthusiastic crowd and Lisa promised to return next year to

host the SSBA in 2019. After the event, Lisa said “It really is the most lovely event – so warm, welcoming and filled with such fantastic, enthusiastic readers. It means an awful lot to me that Paper Butterflies won and that the students took June to their hearts.”


The participating schools enjoyed the event enormously, praising the SSBA organisers, Roedean staff and girls.

“Thank you so very much for such a phenomenal evening. The girls on the way home were buzzing with excitement! Two of them were saying that they were “SO happy” that they couldn’t remember the last time they felt “SO” perfectly happy! Thank you again so very, very much.”
Alison Standen, Moira House

“Thank you so much for a lovely evening on Friday! All of us from Cavendish (six students, two staff) really enjoyed it. A highlight for me was Chris Riddell’s on-stage drawing – wonderful to watch!”
Jane Tilley, Cavendish School

“It was a brilliant evening, as always. I had 2 members of staff with me who were ‘blown away’ by the whole event – the enthusiasm of the students, the way it was organised and the fact that ‘real’ authors were present! The students didn’t stop talking about it all the way back to Eastbourne. Well done!”
Gina Pellett, Willingdon School

“It was a really super evening. I thought all the authors were brilliant and Holly was just right for the target audience. My students had a great time and we even got, “Three cheers for the librarians” when we got on the minibus. Thanks again, and do thank all involved.”
Abegail Morley, Benenden School