Win pounds 2,000 and have your work published in our competition to write a story for 6-to-9-year-olds

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Patrick Deuchar, chief executive of the Royal Albert Hall, is married to the actress Liz Robertson. Their daughter Briony is five and a half. They tell Louise Levene about the stories they enjoy together.

Patrick: I was always read to as a child. I don't recall when my parents stopped doing it. I went away to school when I was eight so I expect that's round about when. After that we all disappeared into corners and read our own books. Swallows and Amazons was a great favourite. We used to sail when we were children and it was so evocative of family holidays. And there was a book called Mr Papingay about a retired sailor who lived inside a pillar box in Bournemouth - like a Tardis but without the science fiction. I've no idea who wrote it and I've never been able to get hold of it, which is a great pity as I would love to read it to Briony.

Books were a wonderful opportunity to disappear into your own world. My parents had this great big house and when they sold it there wasn't enough room for the books and a lot of them went. I don't think you can ever have enough books. I love to see the spines of books, shelves full of books. We never throw books away. Very often when we're in a bookshop Briony will get a book as a present.

We read a lot of the classics. We're reading The House at Pooh Corner at the moment. There are a lot of new stories of course and we buy those and that's fine but I feel comfortable reading things I had read to me as a child. I suppose that's how things become classics.

I would always actively encourage Briony to read to herself and she does read very well, but that's not what reading aloud is all about. It's part of it. But it is also about the closeness of parent and child. It is much more than sitting down and reading a story: it is very much a loving thing. When Liz is not working she reads the goodnight story to her but whenever I can, I do. But it's not just goodnight stories: at weekends we also read to her in the morning. She'll bring a book into bed and we'll read a chapter each. We all read to each other - she even reads to us (she has a lot of reading from school).

I like the theatrical side. It gives me the chance to be a bit silly with her. She lies in bed while we read, which means it is not so important to look at the pictures. With The House at Pooh Corner I try to do Piglet with a squeaky voice and Eeyore with a slow, deep voice and Briony lies in bed listening, transfixed.

Briony: I go to bed at seven o'clock. Mummy and Daddy both read to me and I lie in bed and listen. I like poems and I like the one Mummy's just been reading: The Pooh at House Corner [sic]. I have Disney Aladdin and Disney Cinderella. I like Cinderella. That's my favourite. I read my reading book to Mummy and Daddy, which is quite nice. I'm nearly on Orange and next I'll be able to choose books. I can read The Cat in the Hat.

Liz: I have come with no books at all from my childhood. I have no recollection of being read to. My father was in the army and my mother took in work typing envelopes. I really don't think she had the time to read to me. I do remember being caught reading late at night. Yesterday I went upstairs and there was Briony with a book on her knees at nine o'clock at night. That's the trouble once they learn to read, they can get so tired.

I don't enjoy reading the Disney books and those push the buzzer ones! I loathe them! For a while Briony was obsessed by them. I didn't get any joy from them at all and I don't think she was listening to the words at all, just making the noises. I never bought one, they were always presents.

I'm looking forward to her getting into Alice in Wonderland and Toad of Toad Hall. She saw The Wind in the Willows on stage and had a major tantrum when it came to an end. But you can't go ahead too fast or they get bored. I'm enjoying them all so much because a lot of these books passed me by as a child. I didn't have The Wind in the Willows. I didn't even have Pooh.

We don't really use tapes much. I don't know how many children actually read along with the book while they're listening. It's very sad to leave the child alone with the tape. It's so impersonal. There are certain things you should make time for. Besides we both enjoy doing it - and it's just before the glass of wine as well!

How to enter

You are invited to submit stories of 1,500-2,500 words, which must arrive on or before 8 March 1997 at: PO Box 13047, London WC1A 1NR. You may enter only once, and entries must be made by the writer, not on his/her behalf. Entries must be typewritten, double-spaced and on one side of the paper only. We will not accept stories with illustrations. Manuscripts will not be returned, so please keep a copy. All entries must be unpublished, but published writers may enter with new material. Each entry must be submitted with both a cover page and title page. The cover page must feature the story title, and the entrant's name, address and telephone number. The title page must feature only the title of the story. The story should start on a new page, and the author's name must not feature on any page, so that all entries can be judged anonymously. The winning story will be published in The Independent Magazine subsequent to the final judging of the competition, which concludes on 23 May 1997. The top three stories and up to 10 others will be published in the autumn, in the anthology Story of the Year 5, by Scholastic Children's Books.

This competition is not open to employees of, or relatives of employees of, Scholastic Ltd or Newspaper Publishing plc or anyone connected with the competition. Proof of posting cannot be accepted as proof of delivery. No responsibility can be accepted for entries which are delayed, damaged, mislaid or wrongly delivered. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Entry grants to Scholastic Ltd the exclusive right to publish an entrant's story in all formats throughout the world for the full legal term of copyright. A copy of the form of the contract may be obtained on application to Scholastic Ltd. By submitting an entry, an entrant agrees to be bound by the terms of, and to sign, this agreement if called upon to do so. Any story chosen for publication in the anthology that does not win one of the top three cash prizes will receive a fee of pounds 200. Any entry not submitted in the form specified will be deemed invalid. If your story is not published in the anthology or in the newspaper by the end of December 1997, these rights revert to you. Entry into this competition implies acceptance of these rulesn

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