Geri Horner hails ‘amazing’ work of writers honoured at royal awards

Spice Girl Geri Horner has said a young boy posthumously recognised with an international writing award will “live on” through his words.

Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, who was killed aged 11 in the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday, was recognised along with other young writers in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.

His mother Dhulsini de Zoysa was presented with her son’s runner-up award in the junior category and was hugged by Geri after she read the entry of another youngster at the ceremony staged at Buckingham Palace.

The celebrity, who is also a children’s author, said: “I thought the standard of writing was incredible, absolutely amazing and inspirational.”

Geri Horner embraces Dhulsini De Zoysa at the reception
Geri Horner embraces Dhulsini De Zoysa at the reception

Speaking about the 11-year-old’s entry she added: “That’s the testimony to the power of words that he can live on.

“The young boy’s heart was in his words which really touched me.”

World-renowned writers Ben Okri and William Boyd read from the entries of some of the winners and the Duchess of Cornwall presented the prizes on behalf of the Queen.

Kieran was killed during the terrorist attack at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo. More than 200 people died in the attacks which targeted churches and hotels in Sri Lanka in April.

His essay, which spoke about his mixed heritage, from Europe and North America to Asia, and growing to love the homeland of his mother, was the final piece of school work he completed and was entered posthumously by his mother.

Mrs de Zoysa said about her son: “He was brilliant and funny and kind and loving.

“He was the most absolutely optimistic person I’ve ever met, his glass wasn’t half full it was brimming and spilling over.”

Another Junior Runner-up, Kieran de Zoysa, was tragically killed in the bombings in Sri Lanka earlier this year.

His mother today attended the reception to accept Kieran's certificate on his behalf.

— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) October 31, 2019

She added her son would have been “absolutely delighted” to receive his award at the palace and described how she decided to take Kieran, who grew up in America, to live in Sri Lanka for a year to experience the place where she was originally from.

Speaking about the terrorist attack she added: “We were at the Cinnamon Grand having breakfast. He was sitting with me and his grandmother and he was the one that was hit when the suicide bomber detonated.”

She described the palace ceremony as “bittersweet”, adding: “For me this is graduations and weddings and everything rolled into one.”

Speaking about Camilla, she praised her support while they were on stage: “She was so kind and supportive, she was holding me at one point because I was shaking like a leaf.”

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is one of the world’s oldest international writing competitions for schools and was founded in 1883 to promote literacy, expression and creativity among young people throughout the family of nations.

In 2019, more than 11,000 entries were received on the theme of A Connected Commonwealth from almost every country in the Commonwealth.

The duchess, who is vice patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society, said about her working promoting the competition: “I am delighted to be helping to spread the word, and I am even more delighted that so many young people from across the Commonwealth are rising to the challenge of writing the word!

“And the competition is challenging because it asks the young people who take part to write about subjects that require serious thought.

“The winning entries this year, for example, have addressed issues of gender equality, the environment and cultural heritage, and more besides. It’s challenging, but it is exciting, too, because it gives those who enter the opportunity to contribute poems, stories and scripts as well as traditional essays.”