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Teacher turned writing student secures prestigious literary prize

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:28 02 May 2019

Former headteacher and now amateur writer, Jon Platten from Sheringham, has won the Orwell Prizes dystopian fiction prize, organised by the Orwell Society. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Former headteacher and now amateur writer, Jon Platten from Sheringham, has won the Orwell Prizes dystopian fiction prize, organised by the Orwell Society. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A headteacher turned author has had his creative talents recognised by a society commemorating one of his favourite writers.

Jon Platten whas been awarded a prize by the Orwell Society, which promotes the work of and interest in 20th century novelist and essayist George Orwell.

The 58-year-old, who is studying a biography and creative nonfiction masters course at the University of East Anglia (UEA), was awarded a special prize for dystopian fiction, held this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication or Orwell's seminal novel 1984.

Mr Platten – who was headteacher at Alderman Peel High School in Wells and Norfolk's first academy, Open Academy in Norwich, before retiring last year – said writing had always played a part in his life.

“Even when I was teaching I wrote articles for various magazines,” he said.

The prize for dystopian fiction asked for narratives of up to 3,000 words.

Mr Platten's short story imagines a world where language has been trimmed down to an “acceptable standard”. It was praised by the judges for its dystopian elements such as the Aspiration Compliance Centre and Communications Police and its witty critique of contemporary educational policy.

Fellow UEA student Mark Hankin, who is studying a masters in drama and creative writing, also entered and his entry was among five commended by the judges.

Mr Platten will travel to London on April 27 to receive the prize, which will be presented by Orwell's son Richard Blair.

“I have always been a huge fan of George Orwell. To receive the prize from his son is to me a huge honour,” he said.

“Former colleagues were very pleased, I had some nice comments from them and from UEA as well.”

Mr Platten is nearing the end of his masters course at UEA and is due to submit his dissertation in the coming months.

He said: “It is keeping me busy, so it has been quite a good transition from running a school to semi-retirement.

“There are some amazing people from around the world. It is a very enjoyable course and it is fantastic that it is right here in Norwich.”

The annual Orwell Prizes, which celebrate political writing in the UK, are awarded by charity the Orwell Foundation.

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