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Arrol Adam competition winners announced

Five winning writers have been awarded cash prizes for Fitzwilliam College's Arrol Adam competition.

Undergraduate Shaun Seah (History 2017), pictured below, won first prize for his short story set in Singapore and Cambridge I Remember Every Step.

Director of Studies in English Dr Hero Chalmers said: "Shaun's essay weaves seamlessly between contemporary lockdown Singapore, his own time as a student in Cambridge, and the memories of Singaporean life his grandmother shares with him, prompted by archival video-footage unearthed during his academic research. The result is a beautifully multi-layered meditation on memory, family and the postcolonial experience written with apparently effortless clarity."

Joint second prize was awarded to undergraduates Karolina Filova (Philosophy 2019) for her short story George, Who Heard Everything and Jessie Hodges (English 2019), for her short story There Are Things We Must Not Know.

Benedict Wiedemann, Research Fellow in Medieval History,said: "Karolina’s short story, in the format of an epistolary novel, asks a fundamental question: how would having perfect sensory abilities – hearing – affect us? How could we cope, if we could not ignore and be ignorant? Karolina invites us to ask such questions - as Borges made us ask what it is not to be able to forget. Karolina gives us an account of a man facing the terrible reality of the everyday and, in doing so, challenges us to confront it too."

Fellow Kourosh Saeb-Parsey said: "In her writing, Jessie is very effective in using descriptions of everyday 'mundane' events to anchor the story to the reader's reality and experiences. This creates an easy and welcoming connection that helps the reader feel part of the story and want to know more."

Joint third prizes were also given to undergraduates Lucy Wan (Natural Sciences 2016) for her poem Oral B and Daniel Gibson (Natural Sciences 2019) for his essay On Minds and Machines

Bye-Fellow James Womack, said: "The great virtue of Lucy's poem is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, and connects the physical and the emotional in a light-hearted - never heavy-handed - fashion. I like very much the way in which the human and the mechanical are subtly elided ('crying and other inefficiencies', the 'sentience' of the toothbrush). It made me smile, and worry about my smile."

Fellow Jonathan Cullen said: "Daniel’s essay explores the gradual impingement of artificial intelligence (AI) on humanity’s intellectual and creative territory. What is striking is the way he explains the historical development of AI and the underlying complex terms and concepts in an accessible and easily understandable way. I asked my 14-year-old daughter to read the essay and she came away enthralled with the contradicting viewpoints and future possibilities for this set of technologies. Her easy engagement with the text is proof that 'the use of plain and simple English' to explain complex subjects is of immense value."

A total of £500 was given to the winners for writing the best pieces of original fiction or non-fiction.

The competition is open to Fitzwilliam students who are either undergraduates, affiliated students or first year postgraduate students.

Master’s Assistant Alice Bevington, who helped to organise the competition, said: “Students really impressed the Arrol Adam Committee judges this year with their creativity and flair for writing. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work and well done to the winning entries - the competition was fierce this year.”

The Arrol Adam Fund supports both a lecture series and literary prizes for students.

The Arrol Adam Lectures were set up in memory of William Arrol Adam, who studied Chemistry at Fitzwilliam Hall in 1905 and died in 1939. It was the stated intention of the bequest, made in 1962 by his widow Jane Wylie Adam, to disseminate knowledge, promote discussion of issues of general interest and concern, and to foster the use of plain and simple English.

The next Arrol Adam lecture is taking place on 1 July 2020 at 5.30pm. Fellow and multi award-winning plant scientist Giles Oldroyd will be speaking at the upcoming Arrol Adam lecture on the subject of: How beneficial associations in plants can drive sustainable food production.

Book your free place.

Winner Shaun Seah
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