The world of sport was the suggested theme in this year’s competition, and we got a striking range of interpretations.
There was of course tennis – well, we were taken on a tour of Wimbledon by no less than the ghost of Jaroslav Drobný, winner of the men’s singles there in 1954. There was football. One entry was called The Best Football Team Never To Have Won the World Cup? A composite Czech and Slovak team, of course. Another entry was My Grandfather was Plánička. He wasn’t, that was the nickname given to the author’s Sudeten German grandfather when playing in goal with his friends in Liberec before the war. We also had the Olympics, skiing, some Slovak archery, and basketball. That one relived a drunken match that ended in a Moravian wine cellar.
Sport was not a compulsory theme. Non-sporting entries included a trip back to the 15th century and the martyrdom in Scotland of the religious reformer Pavel Kravař, or Paul Craw as the Scots called him. Another martyr whose tale was told, this time in the format of a TV news feature, was Milada Horáková, judicially murdered by the Communists in 1950.
The fascinating and varied work of the perhaps subversive sculptor David Černý was entertainingly examined in the form of an Oxbridge tutorial. There was a delightful retelling of the Christmas story set in an inn in 1951 in northern Czechoslovakia, where the star that is being followed is in fact the Communist star at Party headquarters.
Our winner – taking home £400 – was Anna Parker. Anna is a PhD student at Cambridge University, researching into the lives of ordinary people in Renaissance Prague. Her winning entry will be close to every Czech and Slovak heart: it’s called The Sport of Mushroom Picking. It can be read here.
The second prize, winning £150, has gone to Hugh Oxlade, a researcher for the polling organisation Mori, from South Woodford in east London. You might have thought it difficult to work cricket into a Czech and Slovak competition but he ingeniously made it with Jan Kaplický – The Refugee Who Made His Mark on English Cricket. This focuses on that renowned architect’s achievement in creating the Media Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground, the home of English (and the English would say world) cricket.