RPS Young Classical Writers Prize

In memory of Gerald Larner

Applications for the Young Classical Writers Prize are now closed, but the guidelines remain here for reference.

If you would like this information in a different format, for accessibility reasons, please call us on 020 7287 0019 or use our online contact form by clicking this link, and we will do our best to help.

Classical music is a doorway to new worlds. While you can plunge straight in and enjoy its wonders, sometimes a helping hand is useful to guide you on your journey. As long as people have been writing music, others have been writing words about it, illuminating how the music works, what it conjures, asking questions of it and revealing features you may not realise from listening alone. For audiences with little or no familiarity this can be vital, rousing their curiosity and urging them to listen with fresh ears.

To keep encouraging new generations to delve into classical music, we need a new generation of writers to keep giving them good reasons why. Annually, the RPS Young Classical Writers Prize encourages young people to write about classical music in fresh and engaging ways. It is presented in memory of the writer Gerald Larner who devoted his life to writing about music, in books, programme notes for ensembles and venues nationwide, and for many years as a newspaper and magazine critic.

As well as the insight and encouragement it gives others, writing about music can be hugely invigorating in itself. Young people are often only asked to write about music in essays at school, college or university, where certain formalities can limit their expression. With this prize, we invite you to unleash your imagination, and set out to capture in words what makes classical music so boundless, enlivening and timeless.

The Prize is open to anyone living in the UK aged between 16 and 25 on the closing date which is 11am on Thursday 18 April 2024. You may already enjoy writing about music or have no prior experience doing so. Even if you’ve never tried before, why not give it a go? You might like to start by listening to a favourite piece of music and jotting down the sentiments it stirs, and get online to start exploring some of its facets that you think would captivate an audience.

After the first year of the prize, the panel wanted to encourage all entrants to keep writing, so we specially created a set of tips and insights to help anyone who might like to apply. For further inspiration, we are pleased to share a filmed conversation here specially made to inspire you, all about writing about classical music. It features the first-ever winner Mark Rogers, 2021 panellist Katy Hamilton and 2022 panellist Kate Romano talking to RPS Chief Executive James Murphy, sharing what inspires them to write about music plus lots of tips and principles to fuel your own writing.

The prizes

First prize: £500

Second prize: £250

Third prize: £100

Each winner will receive a certificate. The first prize winner will also be invited to write a programme note or short article for a significant British classical music organisation which they will publish in a concert programme, promotional brochure or magazine, or on their website.

How do I apply?

Entrants are simply asked to write no more than 500 words about classical music.

Whatever you decide to write, your principal aim should be to engage your reader with the subject, prompting them to think further about it, inspiring them to want to listen to the music you may have talked about, or to find out more about any matters you have raised.

You can set about this in any way you wish. You may want to write a ‘programme note’ (by which we mean the notes you usually see in concert programmes about the music that’s to be performed) about a particular piece, or a short article touching on some facet of classical music in any regard. Don’t let the kind of writing you have already read about classical music affect your thinking: original approaches are very welcome! Your programme note may therefore not be like any others you have read before and equally, if you’re writing an article, it might reflect a view you haven’t heard elsewhere.

It should be written in prose (rather than poetry) and any hard facts it contains should be accurate.

When you have written your entry, we ask that you save it as a PDF. You should then complete our online entry form (using the button below) and upload your PDF where requested. The entry form also asks a few more simple things about your background and interest in music.

Only one entry may be made per person, and please do not submit multiple pieces of writing.

The closing date for applications is 11am on Thursday 18 April 2024.

What happens next?

All entries will be read and reviewed by our expert panel which this year includes two much-loved writers and broadcasters: Kate Molleson and Gavin Plumley.

Once the panel has read all the entries and discussed them together, we will notify all entrants of the outcome. We aim to let you know by mid-July. As we expect to receive a considerable number of entries, we cannot give individual feedback on your submissions but, if you are unsuccessful, you are welcome to enter again next year if you’re still eligible to do so.

We will then publicly announce the three prize winners, and their winning entries will be shared on our website and social media. Given this, please only submit writing that you are happy to put your name to publicly.

If you have any questions or queries, you are warmly welcome to contact the RPS team on 020 7287 0019 (weekdays from 09.30 – 17.30) or admin@philharmonicsociety.uk.

Last year's winners