Sonnel David-Longe of Guyana copped the 2017 Ridding Reading Prize after being judged the overall winner of the competition which was held last Friday at Girton College of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom (UK).
The competition is a Girton tradition founded in honour of Caroline Mary Ridding, who won a scholarship to Girton to read Classics in 1883, and became a renowned Sanskrit and Pali scholar.
According to a statement from the college, 24-year old Sonnel, who is a former student of Queens College, consistently showed appreciation of and sensitivity to the language of the passages and poems, and riveted the audience with her readings.
Prose and poetry readings were set for the contestants to prepare and read. They read a range of subjects in the Sciences and Arts.
Sonnel, who holds a Bachelor’s of Law Degree from the University of Guyana (UG) and a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS), was the lone Guyanese contestant. She emerged victorious over five other competitors who all attend Girton College; four undergraduate students and two graduate students including Sonnel.
The other participants were: Jessica Ginn, David Lawrence, Sheanna Patelmaster, Ruari Paterson-Achenbach and Scott Remer.
The statement highlighted that in the first round of the competition, the contestants read an extract from Shadderby Neil Gaiman, and a sonnet, ‘Farewell!’ by William Shakespeare. After this round, only three of the six contestants were selected to proceed to round two.
In the second round, contestants read an extract from ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford and ‘A poetry reading at West Point’ by William Matthews.
“The contestants approached the former passage with relish, and communicated its humour and changing voices very effectively to the audience” the statement read.
It was noted that all readers of the Matthews poem engaged with the sense of place and tension running through the piece. Additionally, it was pointed out that the contestants read an unseen poem, ‘A Blessing’ by James Wright, and the judges were impressed by the way that they conveyed the mingling of gentleness and wildness in the scene depicted.
The competition was judged by a panel of Girton Fellows: Judith Drinkwater, Dr Jill Jondorf, Dr Roland Randall and Dr Emma Weisblatt, and Yelena Popova, Girton’s Artist in Residence for 2016-17, who was the external adjudicator.
Following the distribution of prizes, the evening concluded with an excellent buffet meal kindly provided by the catering staff, while those assembled took the opportunity to discuss the readings and the different styles with which they had been presented.