THE family of a young Wirral girl who fell victim to swine flu have launched a creative arts competition to celebrate what would have been her 21st birthday.
Olivia Rae Clee-Barnett was just 17-years-old when she died in January 2011 after contracting the H1N1 swine flu virus and a secondary bacterial infection.
Her family launched the Olivia Rae Foundation in her memory in the hope of giving a helping hand to local community groups and individuals.
They wanted to allow her “lively and loud” spirit to live on by backing her two greatest passions – creative arts and education.
Now, in the year that would have seen Olivia celebrate her 21st birthday, the family is holding VOX 21 – a creative arts competition open to Wirral youngsters between the ages of 17 and 21.
Olivia’s dad Ken – who campaigned for better flu awareness following her death – told the Globe: “Olivia was a very creative person. She dabbled in most creative activities and tended to excel at quite a few.”
A gifted stage performer, Olivia appeared alongside her Wallasey School classmates in Sky One’s Grease: The School Musical in 2009, beating more than 500 others from across the country to claim the winning spot.
She was also a finalist in the Liverpool Athenaeum Literary competition.
It is Olivia’s interest in all things creative and her own success in competition that partly inspired VOX 21, although Ken says its primary purpose is to celebrate his daughter’s birthday on March 5.
He said: “Olivia was 17 when she died – a confident, creative and aspirational young person, poised on the threshold of adult life. She embodied the potential of youth.
“VOX 21 is a way for us as a family to both celebrate Olivia’s 21st year and the potential of her generation.
“The family are privileged to be watching many of Olivia’s friends reaching this exciting age. It is lovely to see them becoming adults, taking opportunities, creating a place in the world and finding their own voices.
“We can only guess what Olivia would be doing now but I really miss the vibrancy and the challenge of a young teenage voice about the house.”
Ken added: “Young people are the dreamers, the architects of our future. They are naturally challenging and creative and the Foundation was set up to promote such things.”
VOX 21 will cover all art forms and aims to give Wirral young people a creative platform to express and share the experience of being young in the 21st century.
Each of the 21 shortlisted finalists will win something, ranging from £500 for first place to £100 for third place. All other shortlisted entries will receive £50.
“I really hope that VOX 21 can attract young people who may not ordinary enter an ‘arts’ competition,” said Ken.
“I don't care if somebody submits a two minute video recorded on their phone - if it has something to say then it is valid.”
The competition will be open for entries from March 5 until August 5.
Entry is free and entrants must be aged between 17 and 21 and be a Wirral resident.