Urban Tree festival 2023 writing competition

Urban Tree festival 2023 writing competition
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We at walk · listen · create are delighted to be hosting the submission process for the Urban Tree festival 2023 writing competition.

Competition closed – thank you to all who submitted work.

As walking among trees in their urban and suburban neighbourhoods is central to their creativity, we asked Joanna Wolfarth and ML Grieve, winners of the 2022 Festival writing competition, to come up with a theme for the Urban Tree festival 2023 writing competition, adding that we wanted to encourage people to get out and about on foot, among urban trees.

So we invite you to write a (flash) story or poem of 250 words or under about “Secrets of The Trees.

Secrets of The Trees

Our urban trees have stood central to the story of urban development and urban living for centuries. What human stories have they witnessed? Time to give the urban trees a voice!

How has the urban population relied upon them both practically and spiritually?
What do these trees represent to a variety of cultures?

What can our trees reveal about global connections and histories? 

How do our trees help us find a sense of belonging in our urban environment?
What personal stories feature your urban trees? (Maybe you proposed under a tree, took your baby out for their first walk…etc)
What possibilities do urban trees provide for our future? 

The pieces can be grounded in life writing or fiction, with two categories of Poetry and Prose Writing. The latter can encompass any genre of fiction or nonfiction, including memoir and personal essays. 

The Urban Tree festival will publish an anthology of the best poetry and prose submitted both in an illustrated chapbook anthology as well as an audio locative podcast.  Shortlisted pieces will be showcased during the Urban Tree Festival 2023, at a public online event in which the shortlisted authors and poets of this writing competition will be invited to read their work. We are seeking engaging narratives whether they are fiction or fact.

We take submissions from Sunday 4 December, until midnight (GMT) on Monday 13 March 2023.

Winners will be published in Canopy, a limited edition illustrated chapbook anthology, published by Sampson Low Publishers in the Spring of 2023, the net proceeds of which will go towards funding future Urban Tree Festival writing competitions. The anthology will also be made available as an audio locative podcast. You can purchase copies of chapbooks from previous Urban Tree Festival competitions here.

You can watch the video of the launch event and companion creative writing workshop on the Urban Tree Festival Youtube channel here.

Key dates:

  • Submission deadline: midnight (GMT) on Monday 13 March 2023.
  • March – our judges will draw up a long-list. All poems and stories on the list will be published on the Urban Tree festival and walk · listen · create websites from April 2023.
  • May – Printed illustrated chapbook anthology of shortlisted pieces published (for public sale) and audio locative podcast.
  • Saturday 20 May – Shortlisters’ Writers’ Circle Prize online event – exclusive private event.
  • Sunday 21 May – Shortlisters’ Showcase – online public event – winners & runners-up announced


Shortlisted authors will receive 2 complimentary copies of the anthology, be invited to an exclusive Writers’ Circle online event on Saturday 20 May, and will be invited to read their work at the Write About Trees Showcase on the final Sunday of the Urban Tree Festival, Sunday 21 May.

This year we are inviting submissions as poems, or as fiction and non-fiction stories. The judges will be asked to choose their winner and runner up for poetry and prose categories, for which the winners in each category (poetry or prose) will receive a cash prize of €200, as well as a year’s Silver Membership to walk · listen · create (worth €50). Runners Up in each category will receive a year’s Silver membership. Winners and the runners up, will each receive an artwork that illustrates their poem or story, created by Alban Low

The competition closes at midnight GMT,  Monday 13 March 2023


There is an entry fee (to cover administration costs) of €6 for one flash piece or poem and €9 for two (entrants are limited to 2 entries only – you may submit a poem and a story, either fiction or non-fiction, two poems or two stories). The entry fee will be waived for those unable to afford it. If you wish to enter please read the guidelines below.

Terms and Conditions

You need to register on the walk · listen · create website, return to the top of this page to pay the submission fee (a purchase), check that your purchase has been successful on your profile page, and then submit your piece(s). An illustrated guide is available from here.

The Theme

We want to read poems and stories about “Secrets of The Trees“. The poems or stories can be fiction or factual, travelogue, reportage or memoire but must be no more than 250 words in length. Judges’ decisions on this matter are final.

Our judges

We are delighted to announce that M L Grieve, the current Urban Tree Festival Poet in residence, Sarah Westcott, and JC Niala have volunteered to act as judges for the poetry competition. For stories, the judges are Joanna Wolfarth, the current Urban Tree Festival Prose writer in residence, NG Bristow and Lewis Morrison.

Chris Bestwick will edit the anthology, and it will be illustrated by Alban Low. The Urban Tree festival competition is run by walk · listen · create.

You can get creative writing tips by downloading this audio-guide produced by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone.

Poetry judges

M. L. Grieve

M. L. Grieve

M. L. Grieve; poet, writer, tree seer. Her first drafts written within the ancient forests of Hertfordshire; she’s currently collating her first collection. Urban Tree Festival 2022/3 Writer in residence.

JC Niala

JC Niala

JC Niala is an award-winning nature writer, poet and anthropologist. Educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire and the University of Oxford (Kellogg, St Antony's, St Catherine's) she is interested in how our imaginations of nature affect how we treat it. ...

Sarah Westcott

Sarah Westcott

I am poet, writer and mentor with a life-long interest in the natural world. I have published a pamphlet and two collections with Liverpool University Press, the second of which, Bloom, was long listed for Simon Armitages' 2022 Laurel Prize for the best co...

Prose judges

Joanna Wolfarth

Joanna Wolfarth

Joanna Wolfarth is an art historian, lecturer and writer. Her first book, "MILK: An Intimate History of Breastfeeding" will be published in early 2023 by W&N. She currently teaches art history at The Open University, having previously been V...

NG Bristow

NG Bristow

In 2019 Nigel wrote and directed DUMBSTRUCK ON BAZELY STREET one half of ONE OH EIGHT - a pair of geolocated audio dramas set on the 108 bus routes in London and Cape Town. The listener downloads the app which triggers the audio drama to play on their pho...

Anthology editor

Chris Bestwick

Chris Bestwick

During the pandemic, most of my usual work as a musician disappeared. I took the enforced lay-off as an opportunity to diversify; I did some training in proofreading and completed The Publishing Training Centre’s Essential Copy-Editing course, passing wi...

Anthology illustrator

Alban Low

Alban Low

From leaving art college in the 1990s, like many artists it was a matter of survival, trying to earn enough while finding time to work. I worked at Kingston College and Brunel University as a drawing lecturer; travelling around signwriting blackboards and ...


  1. Entrants must be 16 years or over.
  2. Entry is open to everyone.
  3. An entry can only be made by the work’s individual author.
  4. Entries must not have been previously published in print or online, been broadcast or won a prize.
  5. Entries must not include any defamatory language.
  6. Entries must clearly respond to the theme, be original and written in English. They must also be for adult or young adult readers. Non-fiction and fiction written for children under 13 years is not eligible.
  7. Simultaneous submission is permitted. Should your writing piece win a prize or be published elsewhere, please let us know so that we may remove your entry from the current competition.
  8. Authors retain full worldwide copyright throughout.


  1. Maximum length is 250 words excluding the title (that mustn’t exceed 8 words).
  2. Entries can be either fiction or non-fiction.
  3. Entries should be typed in a plain legible font. A sans 12pt font is suggested.
  4. Entries will be read and judged anonymously so do not put your name, address, email, telephone number or any personally identifying information on any page.
  5. If the piece has no title, then its first five words must be used as the title.
  6. Acceptable file type is as a PDF document only.


You need to register on the walk · listen · create website and submit your piece(s) at the top of this page.

  1. Entries will not be returned so please keep a copy.
  2. Entries can be retracted at any time up to the closure of the competition.
  3. Entrants are limited to 2 entries each.
  4. The competition closes at midnight UTC,  Monday 13 March 2023.
  5. No correspondence will be entered into regarding the judges’s decisions and no feedback will be provided.


The standard fee is €6.00 for one submission and €9.00 for two (which can be either 2 stories, 2 poems or one of each). The entry fee will be waived for those unable to afford the fee – please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.

Editing the longlist and anthology

As the anthology editor may need to make slight editorial changes, long listed authors (this includes those shortlisted) grant access to their email address by the editor.

Audio recording of shortlisted pieces

Authors will be invited to record themselves reading their work, or can choose to be contacted by the organisers, to record them over the Internet, or can choose to have a reader hired by the organisers, to read their work on their behalf.

Time line

  • Competition launch – 4 December 2022
  • Submission deadline: midnight (UTC) on Monday 13 March 2023.
  • March – our judges will draw up a long-list. All poems and stories on the list will be published on the Urban Tree festival and walk · listen · create websites from April 2023.
  • May – Printed illustrated chapbook anthology of shortlisted pieces published (for public sale)and audio locative podcast.
  • Saturday 20 May – Shortlisters’ Writers’ Circle Prize event – exclusive private event.
  • Sunday 21 May – Shortlisters’ Showcase – public event – winners & runners-up announced


  1. Full no quibble refunds are available up to the closing date. Contact us should the need arise.
  2. Once the closing date has passed, no refunds can be made.


  1. Winners and Runners-up will be announced at the Showcase event on Sunday 21 May. One winner in each category: poetry and prose will receive a cash prize of €200, a year’s Silver Membership to walk · listen · create (worth €50), as well as an artwork illustration by Alban Low, plus 2 copies of Canopy the illustrated limited edition chapbook that will be published at the beginning of May.
    The runner up in each category will receive a year’s Silver Membership to walk · listen · create (worth €50), an artwork illustration by Alban Low, and 2 copies of the illustrated limited edition chapbook. 
    All the authors of shortlisted entries will receive 2 copies of the illustrated limited edition chapbook (publishing beginning of May), be invited to an exclusive Writers’ Circle online event on Saturday 20 May, and to read their work at a live on-line showcase event on Sunday 21 May.
    Long-listed entries (includes the shortlist as well) will be published on the Urban Tree festival and walk · listen · create websites from April 2023.
  2. The results of the competition will be announced on the Urban Tree festival and walk · listen · create websites.
  3. Entrants retain copyright.

Entry constitutes acceptance of all rules. Entries that fail to comply with the rules will be disqualified. No correspondence can be entered into, judges’ decisions are final.

Sampson Low Publishers, as an imprint, has existed for over two hundred years. Today it’s still managed by the Low family, and based just outside London. They have published diverse works from Noddy to Jules Verne to sporting heroes like Dennis Compton. One newish interest is in publishing small-scale chapbooks, often combining the work of writers and artists. The format is perfect for pithy written works that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

The Urban Tree Festival is a volunteer-led festival begun in 2018 co-founded by Peter Coles, Paul Wood, Mel Sutton and Andrew Stuck, and runs annually in May. It is funded through the generosity of festival-goers, and has received support from CPRE London, the Mayor of London, Trees for Cities, and The Woodland Trust. 2023’s festival will run 13-21 May and the programme curator will be Neil Sinden (formerly Director of CPRE London).

walk · listen · create is a not for profit art organisation which encourages collaborations between artists, performers and writers and catalogues the publications of artists who walk, and provide a place for walking artists to share their work, thoughts, pieces and events.

You are a judge!
Vote on a scale from 1 to 10. 10 is best.
story Memento
story 1670774387.Unseen
story The Proud Poplar
story Come, Walk with Me
story 4Ever
story Taxus baccata ‘Aurea Midasii’ or ‘Heart of Gold’
story Yesterday I Turned Into a Tree
story I Am the Tree that Wears Ribbons
story Memory
story The Voice of the Tree
story Frightened twisted trees
story Nearly nothing
story Mulberries for Prince Henry at Charlton House
story Urban Connections Between France and the US
story Britons in Miami
story The Past Rewound
story Watching Over the Town
story A Tree Full of Dreams
story 95
story The secrets of root diseases
story Since shelter is all I have to give
story Mammy`s Green Trees in Concrete
story In the tangled roots of life
story The Sad Tale of the Happy Man Tree
story Jubilee Oak?
story Oh Squirrel
story Wasps
story Rooted Transcendentalism
story Childhood Chant Amidst the Trees
story The Longest Heartbeat
story Winter Pulse
story Second Sight
story Elder
story Golden Dust
story No such thing as fairies
story Old Green Men
story The Alone Tree
story Deidre
story The Groundskeeper of Hookhide Cemetery
story The Silver Maple and Weeping Willow
story Family Elder
story The Forest
story When The Bough Holds Strong
story Muriel
story Animals in the Wood
story My Birthday Tree
story Vive les arbres
story Contained and recycled
story Here I Pray
story Trees Are Poems Sung by the Wind
story Weekly Visit
story The Magnolia Tree
story The Tree of Serenity
story Home to the Unknown
story A Tree Grows
story Their Beloved Forests
story The secret of Trees
story Once a mother, always a mother
story The Berry Thief
story The Tree Where I Tied My Shoelaces
story Halloween Tree
story The Witch Tree
story Secrets of The Trees
story Old Man From An Ancient Forest
story Fallen branches
story The Orchards Estate
story No sticks higher than your hips
story Monster Tree
story Sucking
story Fascinating facts about palms and Palmers
story The Inkspots’ Warning
story Sap, Sadness, and Singing with Joy
story Longing
story Stillness
story Kin-keeper
story London’s Pharos pass on by
story An Ode to the Lemon Scented Gum
story Laurel nobilis – The Lesnes Bay
story The Top of the Tree
story Last Tree Standing
story The Galtee Pines

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