Trading Places/ BLT19 Short Story Competition 2020

Are you curious about what comes after school or college – the world of work?

What is “work” anyway?  What does it mean to have a job?

This seems an especially important question to ask now that the Covid-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves across the globe, abruptly and dramatically changing how we live and work.  

At BLT19, a literature project at the University of Greenwich, we are fascinated by the origins of how we think about work, because, by understanding the history of the stories we tell, we can imagine – and perhaps work towards – alternatives.  

If today we watch stories based in the workplace, and those of us lucky enough to have a job have manuals and guides that tell us how to do our jobs, the Victorians had magazines. Some of these you can find on BLT19:

We have set up the website to feature some of the Victorian magazines focused on work. Many of them ran stories that illustrated how we should behave at work, while others just tell you what the job involved (you often have to work it out – they don’t say “this is what this job involves” – you may need to read the commentaries we have written). 

We want to know what stories you can tell in reaction to what these magazines say and so we’ve set up this competition.

Take a look around the website. Browse through the periodicals (magazines), the blogs, and the image galleries for inspiration. There are lots of images as well as lots of words on this site: maybe you will start wondering what stories might lie behind them. Your story doesn’t have to be set in Victorian times but you need to tell us what on the website inspired your story and why.

BLT19 stands for “Business, Labour, Trade and Temperance and 19th-century Periodicals.” That’s not a catchy title, so we tried to make it catchy by using only the first letters of the first three words and the number of “nineteenth-century.” We thought it would make people think of “BLT” Sandwiches – Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato! – and that would help them remember us. BLT19 refers to the whole website not just the competition.

We called the competition “Trading Places” because it’s all about putting yourself into one of the many work situations that are described on the site – imagining you are in such a work place, surrounded by the kinds of people, customs, rules, regulations described in the magazines on this site: what does it feel like? What might the story of your life be in such a situation? And because the site is all about the value of work, of trading your work for money – or not getting any money for your work in some cases – we thought highlighting “trade” in the title would be a good idea. Writers “trade places” with the creatures of their imagination, and that is what we’re asking you to do here.

Not sure what kind of thing to write? You can find sample stories written by our students here.

We’ve got two categories:

  1. one competition for ages 12-15 and
  2. One for ages 16-18.

Each category has three prizes: 

  • 1st – £100 in vouchers
  • 2nd – £75 in vouchers
  • 3rd – £50 in vouchers 

For winners, there will also be an online award ceremony and you’ll be invited to work with an academic to perfect your stories for publication on


  1. If you are aged 12-15, write a short story (1500 words maximum). You don’t need to set the story in Victorian times, but you do need to add a short account (200 words maximum) saying what on inspired you and explaining why you decide to write the story as you did.  [please note that because you are under 16 years old you will need to ask your parent or guardian to submit the entry on your behalf].  
  2. If you are aged 16-18, write a short story (2000 words maximum). You don’t need to set the story in Victorian times, but you do need to add a short account (250 words maximum) saying what on inspired you and explaining why you decide to write the story as you did.  

You can download the Terms and Conditions by clicking here.
It’s all pretty obvious but you should always read them anyway.

There is a mirror site to this one on the University of Greenwich website here.

FAQs are available by clicking through here

Submit your story and your short explanation through the University of Greenwich website here.

Make sure you write out your story before you copy and paste it into the entry: you don’t want to risk losing all your work if the connection goes down.

You’ve got until 30 September 2020 to submit your story.

Submission is open 22 July 2020 – 30 September 2020.

Winners will be announced in November 2020.

Good Luck!