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Congratulations to our Christmas cover competition winner Kaoriko Tamura

It was a tough decision, as our judge Julian Clary explains

We were blown away by the nearly 900 brilliant entries sent in from children across the country this year. Santas, sleighs, snowmen and every other festive figure imaginable appeared on amazingly bright and imaginative pictures. The theme at this divisive moment in history was ‘Together’ and we were not surprised that children cut straight to the heart of what that means and the importance of unity, reconciliation and friendship at this time of the year.

It was a near-impossible task to pick a winner, so we brought in comedian and author of the brilliant Bolds books Julian Clary to help narrow down and judge a shortlist. Here’s what he had to say:

“All of these drawings were lovely and it was very hard to choose a favourite.

“The funniest was Amber, Jeremiah and Letitia’s picture of the politicians having their Christmas dinner. (I noticed that Boris refused to sit with them!). Jeremy Corbyn with his tongue out made me laugh a lot.

“Benjamin Gubb’s paper cut out was beautiful and classy and illustrated the Togetherness theme simply and effectively. Hattie Terry’s plasticine figures (03) are very sweet and such a brilliant idea!

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“As I am rehearsing the panto at the moment [Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the London Palladium] I asked my fellow performers which they liked best: Matt Baker and Gary Wilmot both chose Reuben Crome’s world.

“They loved that everyone was holding hands and the Earth was smiling as a consequence. Paul O’Grady liked the elves by Mason Wade.

“In the end I whittled my choice down to two: Kaoriko Tamura’s lovely fireside scene (although snow people probably shouldn’t sit so close to the fire) and Jasmine To’s elegant women and children with dogs and cats.

“I spent ages ruminating but in the end I chose Kaoriko’s as this was the drawing that made me feel most Christmassy. Congrats to Kaoriko and happy Christmas to everyone!”

I created the cover thinking of vendors

Our winner, Kaoriko Tamura (12, ACS International School in Hillingdon), was born in Hong Kong and lived there until she was eight. She then lived in Japan for three years and moved to London just last year.

She says:

“I had extra fun drawing it, especially when I imagined my artwork being sold from The Big Issue vendors. I was surprised when I first found out I won and felt so special when I was congratulated.

“I hope that my cover will help Big Issue vendors sell more magazines at Christmas because I have created the cover thinking of them, spending the money they got from selling the magazines for things they need.

“I think people should not just buy the magazines but wish a merry Christmas for the vendors and they can have a happier Christmas.

“I think it is important for people to be “together” at Christmas because it is one of the days in the year when nobody cares about your normal life, it is a day to spend a good time and spending time together makes people feel cared for.”

Dozens of bundles of covers came from school classes, cub or brownie groups or art clubs. Notable entries included more than 100 from primary 2-7 pupils at Rowantree Primary School in Dundee (all painstakingly photographed by family development worker Erin Hail), a group at Devonshire House Preparatory School in Hampstead and the Magpies Class (Year 3) at Queen Margaret Primary School in Tewksbury which, like many other schools, used the competition to discuss and learn about homelessness and the work of The Big Issue.

But the group entry that really stood out came from Nightingale House, a 26-bedroom hostel for families experiencing homelessness in Cardiff.

Kerry Rowlands, who works at the hostel, says: “We work with families who have lost their accommodation through a range of issues including domestic abuse, substance misuse, relationship breakdowns and debt.

“The kids we work with have been through incredibly stressful and traumatic experiences. Some of them have had to leave their schools and support networks to relocate to a different area whilst living in one room in a hostel. We try to ensure they have a sense of normality, especially at times like Christmas.”

This Christmas they will have around 50 children, from newborns to teenagers, living in the hostel over Christmas.

This week’s The Big Issue is available now, on the street, from our hard-working vendors up and down the UK. Alternatively, you can pick it up from The Big Issue Shop.

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