The Sunday Times publishes our National Writing Competition winning piece by Mukahang Limbu!

The overall winning poem in our First Story National Writing Competition has been published in The Sunday Times paper and online, celebrating the achievements of the winner Mukahang Limbu from Oxford Spires Academy.

The article can be read here at The Sunday Times online and below, along with Mukahang’s winning poem.

From Nepal to Oxford, there’s no place like home

A pupil has won a Sunday Times-backed writing contest with a poem about the shock of life in Britain, writes Sian Griffiths

13-year-old schoolboy who moved to England after spending his early childhood in Nepal has become the first winner of national writing competition sponsored by The Sunday Times.

Mukahang Limbu’s poem, about the shock of adapting to life in Britain, was one of more than 3,000 poems and stories on the theme of “home” submitted by state school pupils. The contest was organised by the charity First Story and judged by a panel including the writers William Fiennes and Laura Dockrill. Mukahang’s prize was presented by the Duchess of Cornwall.

First Story was set up seven years ago to bring writers into state schools to work with underprivileged children and encourage their creative writing.

Every year a writer-in-residence runs after-school workshops encouraging pupils to write about their experiences. The charity is working in almost 50 schools in the East Midlands, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, London, Oxfordshire and West Yorkshire.

The year culminates in the publication of an anthology and a book launch at which the pupils read their writing to peers, friends, family and teachers. The winners gain a place on a residential Arvon creative writing course and the overall winning entry is published here.

Mukahang, who goes to Oxford Spires Academy in Oxford, says: “First Story is a place where test grades, maths and scientific logic are long forgotten, and is where the juice of your creativity can be squeezed out of the mundane classrooms of school and all things confining.”

Kate Clanchy, First Story’s writer-in-residence at Oxford Spires, says Mukahang wrote many poems and stories as part of the school’s First Story group but adds: “This winning poem wasn’t one of them — he wrote it on his own over a couple of weeks — but it reflects how much he had read and thought that year, and how much confidence he had gained in his own, delicate, Nepalese-inflected idiom.

“It’s a very mature poem, but Mukahang is very mature: he is also very funny, very confident and gossipy, very good at street dance, and very cherished by his extraordinary mixture of peers.”

When I came from Nepal

By Mukahang Limbu, Oxford Spires Academy, Age 13

As I clutched my suitcase …
thick hot sweat
built in the slits
of my palms, which
shook holding its cool
metal brace. We walked
into day-winds, thick
as dried out paint
on unwashed canvas.
The sky was painted
daffodil yellow. The ground
was a dirty grey.
There was a metal bird:
an array of fearful,


Missing the feeling of home
I smell the iron rust
of the Municipal Gardens.
The sour tang of home still
sits on the tip of my tongue
like the zest of sweet citrus


I did not know
of grey, gravel roads,
or the bright buzzing,
of scarlet cars.
I did not know
of lonely red-bricked houses,
gazing strangers,
standing next to next,
military officers, in endless rows.
I did not know,
of silence in the streets,
or the secret whispers on the buses,
or the sly gestures of restaurants.


I know now
In this place,
where I did not know,
the things I did not know
embrace me in ways
I didn’t know.


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