CALL FOR ENTRIES: The Big Idea’s Suffrage Celebration Essay Competition

Can you write? Do you have an opinion about arts, suffrage, and democracy? Then we need to hear from you.


On September 19 New Zealand can be proud to celebrate 125 years of universal suffrage, by which we mean that women can vote as well as men. To mark the occasion at The Big Idea, we want to know what you really think about it, so we’re hosting a mini-essay competition. The winner will get $250* and we’ll publish your work as an article on The Big Idea, in the Soapbox column.

Here are the basics:

Topic: democracy and the arts in New Zealand

Length: at least 700 words, and no more than 900. No exceptions.

Content: strong opinions, progressive ideas, powerful insights and new facts.

Image: we need a large and interesting image. If you supply one, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got the right to reproduce it. 

Copy deadline: 11.59 pm, Friday, September 7, 2018.

Publishing date: 19 September, 2018.

How to win!

Just because it’s an essay, doesn’t mean it has to be academic, or pedantic, or mealy mouthed. We’re an online magazine, not a peer-reviewed scholastic journal.

We want your big, bold ideas, rendered in clear, assertive language. We don’t want to constrain you: quite the opposite. This is an opinion piece, so be opinionated. The winner will both challenge and engage the audience, and advance our thinking.

You’ll need to write in English: we’re still learning te reo. That said, we welcome diverse perspectives from writers of all cultures, creeds and orientations. The competition is open to anyone and everyone.

Some provocations

Challenge us, and the audience, and yourself. Give us something we don’t know, haven’t thought about, or don’t like. Make us uncomfortable. Save us.

We all agree the 1883 Electoral Act was a good thing. But now, 125 years later, is it enough? How universal is “universal”? Are we there yet?

What problems has women’s right to vote solved? What would society be like without this right? Is it enough? What else needs to change? Is democracy delivering the kind of society we want? If not, why not?

And, of course, what does all this have to do with the arts? You might use your essay to celebrate the work of an amazing artist, or educate us about an artist who’s making an important contribution to the national debate. You might do the opposite, and critique someone who’s doing something vile. Or both. You could focus on a genre, or an art form, or a community, or an entire population. Funding is always a reliable pot stirrer. So too are the strategies of representation.

How to enter

  • Write your essay (700 - 900 words) in either Word or Google Docs

    • Include a working title

    • Include the words “By [your name] for TBI’s suffrage essay competition”

  • Convert it into a PDF (but keep the original: we’ll need it if you win)

  • Email it along with your chosen image to  with the subject line: “Suffrage Essay Entry”

  • and include

    • Your name

    • Your email address

    • Your phone number

    • The number of words in your essay

    • Photo credits and captions (which ideally should also be in the photo file name)

Some other details

  • The Big Idea will publish the winning entry, and possibly any other entries we choose.

  • The writer of the winning entry will receive a cash prize $250*, paid electronically.

  • *Prize money may be subject to taxes.

  • There will only be one winner, but we might publish any number of entries.

  • The judges will decide the winner based on the writer’s ability to challenge and engage the audience, and their ability to progress our thinking on the topic.

  • All entries will be received by 11.59 pm, Friday 7 September. Late entries will be disqualified.

  • All entries will be typed.

  • The judges’ decision will be final.

And that’s it! We really, really look forward to reading your thoughts!



Written by

The Big Idea Editor

27 Aug 2018

The Big Idea Editor

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