Bridgett Cains is the lucky winner of the Etihad Prize for the best essay about her dream destination. She has won flights for two to London with her poignant story about accompanying her mother on her first trip back to the UK since leaving when she was 4 years old.

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When we gave her the good news, Bridgett’s reaction was:
“Winning this prize has affirmed my decision to write a book about the places that dance has taken me. Not only will this trip to the UK contribute to the book, but will give me a chance to thank my mother for her support by taking her to explore the city where she was born. It will mean a combination of training, research, sightseeing, and spending time with family, and is most importantly an opportunity for Mum and I to go on the adventure we’ve always dreamed of. Her squeals of excitement over the phone will stay with me forever. Thank you.”

 

We wish both Bridgett and her mother happy and safe travels! Read Bridgett’s story below:
At the age of three, the only place in the world I wanted to visit was London. My mum was born there, and as far as I was concerned it was a magical place filled with castles and snow. A real queen lived there, wearing a spikey hat that she referred to as a crayon, and if I used my cutlery properly and ate like a lady, I’d be allowed to eat dinner with her. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to eat dinner with the Queen, but was open to the idea of befriending anyone who had their very own horses.

Mum was only four when she came to Australia and hasn’t left the country since, but introduced her anglophile daughter to Doctor Who and Monty Python, and instilled a lifelong appreciation of tea, leaving her parents to advise over my multiple school projects on the UK. I’d visit my grandparents and listen to their stories for hours, fascinated by the country and desperately wanting to visit. By the time I’d reached my teens I was more interested in meeting my relatives than the Queen (although people had commented that I held my cutlery as though eating was a form of art), and my focus had shifted from horse riding to dancing, but London was still my goal.

The plan was to finish school, get my Bachelor of Dance Performance, and join a dance company in London. Mum made a lot of sacrifices in order to keep me in training throughout high school, and it wasn’t easy, but I finished school, started full-time training, had glandular fever by Easter, and spent the rest of that year in bed. When I’d finally recovered and started dancing again, I was offered a job teaching dance in New York. I had no interest in visiting the US, and even less in New York. It seemed loud and larger than life in comparison to the sensible and sophisticated impression I had of the UK, but I accepted the job, reasoning it’d look good on my resume, and left Australia for the first time at the age of nineteen.

My first passport expired this month, and is filled with stamps from the US and Canada. Over ten years I’ve taught at a youth circus in the Catskills, worked with magicians in Manhattan, belly danced in Albuquerque, studied world dance and burlesque in San Francisco, and assisted in the construction of a performance space in the Hawaiian jungle, but I’ve yet to set foot in the UK.

With a goal to perform, teach or study dance in as many countries as possible, the next destination on my list had been whittled down from ‘everywhere’ to a fuzzy ‘anywhere but the US’ while I save for my next trip. But now, failing an invitation from Buckingham Palace, I’d love nothing more than to accompany my mum on her first trip home, where she can watch with pride as her daughter wields cutlery at The Ritz instead.