Blenheim’s Bohally Intermediate crowned as national scriptwriting champions

Six South Island schoolgirls named as ChildFund New Zealand’s official ‘pens’ against poverty

Blenheim’s Bohally Intermediate are today celebrating a new calling to the arts, as they are announced as the winners of the ChildFund New Zealand national scriptwriting competition ‘Pens Against Poverty’.

Year 8 pupils Samantha Jarvis, Morgan Gurr, Emma Gardiner, Chloe Crawford, Caitlyn Woodley and Grace Williams created a unique adaptation of ChildFund’s fictional tale, Mary’s Christmas Yarn, and turned it into a script that has impressed five of the country’s finest thespians and scriptwriters. 

The pupils’ efforts have secured their name in lights as their script is transformed into a special Christmas-time play at Auckland’s celebrated St Matthews-in-the-City church in December.

The scriptwriters’ win was announced in a surprise visit by head judge of the competition, treasured Kiwi theatre icon and star of the stage and screen Alison Quigan, and ChildFund Communications Manager Kiri Carter. There were dramatic scenes and a few celebratory tears as Alison advised the girls of their achievement.  She then stunned the students further with the news that in addition to scriptwriters, one of them will be able to add ‘professional actor’ to their CV. 

ChildFund is supporting the offer to cast one of girls as the lead role of ‘Mary’ in the play, enabling them to work alongside a cast of professional actors at a star-studded Gala premiere.  Aided by stand-in character ‘Rosemary the sheep’ (gallant classmate Hugo), Alison spent some time directing an impromptu audition for the role of Mary and read-through of three key scenes of the play, giving the students a chance to test their dramatic flair.

ChildFund New Zealand works with children and communities in developing countries around the world.  To connect Kiwis to the organisation’s ‘Gifts that Grow’ programme, ChildFund secured the support of some of our top storytellers to pen the tale of Mary’s Christmas Yarn two years ago. Last year it became a published book, and this Christmas, the winning script from Bohally Intermediate will turn it into a professional play.

In the play, the story’s heroine, ‘Mary’, goes on a journey of discovery as she uncovers the true value of gifting a humble sheep, ‘Rosemary’, at Christmas, to a needy family in a developing country on the other side of the world. Humourous twists and turns take place, an opportunity the students took to with relish in the script.

Fellow judge and actor Mark Hadlow visited Bohally during the final stages of the judging process. He was “blown away” by the enthusiasm of the passionate youngsters, and particularly impressed with their grasp of the serious subject matter at heart – the importance of lending a helping hand to those less fortunate than ourselves.

“In addition to their enthusiasm for the job, I was really quite invigorated by their script reading and recognised that their efforts could be something quite superb on the stage. The script answered all the key components of the challenge, and contained the elements necessary to work with professional actors.”

Hobbit actor John Callen (who rounded out the judging panel with Shortland Street’s Michael Galvin and Outrageous Fortune screenwriter Rachel Lang) also agreed that the making of Mary’s pet lamb, ‘Rosemary’ as a real fully fledged character was an inspired addition to the story.

“Bohally did an amazing job of integrating the existing storyline and crucial themes with those critical personal touches, such as bringing Rosemary to life as tool to take the audience along on the journey”.

Paul Brown, ChildFund New Zealand CEO noted that the response to the competition from Year 6, 7 and 8 classes across the country really showcased the how the competition inspired schools at this level, and unearthed a wide range of enthusiastic Kiwi talent.

“The competition has been a genuine success. We’ve been thrilled by the creativity and willingness from all schools who entered to stay true to the spirit of Mary’s Christmas Yarn.  I didn’t envy the judges having to make the decision from three top finalist scripts, but I’m sure Bohally will do them all proud as this script is transformed to the stage.”

Casting for the key roles and cameo performances will now begin as Alison Quigan has generously agreed to bring the script to life with performers, lighting, sound, all proudly overseen by the students from Bohally Intermediate.

Mary’s Christmas Yarn will be performed by a professional cast on Monday 3rd December, at Auckland’s St Matthews-in-the-City. To learn more or register your interest in attending, please Contact Us.

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