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Strictly's Ed Balls steps out to judge young writers in literacy scheme

Strictly Come Dancing star Ed Balls will soon be waltzing from the dancefloor to the judging panel of a young writers book awards scheme in a bid to raise awareness of literacy levels in the UK.

The former shadow chancellor, who won a new legion of fans after taking part in the dancing programme last year, is "delighted" about his new role on the panel for the Wicked Young Writer Awards.

The annual awards was launched in 2010 by West End musical Wicked and is held in association with the National Literacy Trust.

A free-to-enter creative writing competition, it encourages young people between the ages of five and 25 to take part while also raising awareness of the National Literacy Trust, who strive to improve the public's understanding of the importance of literacy.

Balls will appear on the panel alongside ITV News arts editor Nina Nannar and writer and performance poet Laura Dockrill.

He said: "I am delighted to be joining the judging panel for the seventh year of the Wicked Young Writer Awards.

"I've seen the production on seven occasions, and I'm always inspired by the message that Wicked shares with its audiences and so I'm very excited to be able to support such an important initiative."

The ex-Labour MP added: "Raising literacy levels, and encouraging young people to express themselves through creative writing is a vitally important mission that this award helps to champion.

"Everyone has a story to tell, and I can't wait to read what young people across the UK have to share."

Wicked's executive producer Michael McCabe said: "It is with great pleasure that we welcome Ed Balls to the judging panel of the annual Wicked Young Writer Awards and back to the Apollo Victoria Theatre where, while serving as secretary of state for children, schools and families, Ed launched Anti-Bullying Week 2007 at an event we hosted in partnership with the Anti-Bullying Alliance."

The awards' media partner for this year will be The Week Junior, which will sponsor the prize in the For Good category - a work-experience placement at the magazine for a writer aged 15 to 25.

Keen writers have until March 27 to send in their entries for six categories and will have a chance to win from a selection of prizes, including book/eBook tokens worth £50 and a VIP experience to see a production of Wicked in London.

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