The 40th anniversary of the Bridport Prize international writing competition takes place this year.

The judges for this celebration year have been announced as Wendy Cope for poetry, Michèle Roberts for short stories and David Swann for flash fiction.

Since its inception the prize has grown into the richest and one of the most prestigious open writing awards in the UK.

There is £5,000 in prize money each for poetry and short stories and £1,000 for flash fiction up to 250 words.

Prize administrator Frances Everitt said she was delighted to announce this year’s eminent judges – and to have the loyal support of so many volunteers.

She said that some of them have been associated with the prize since Peggy Chapman-Andrews started it to raise funds for the arts centre.

Last week the tradition continued with Frances and a band of some 20 volunteers mailed 150,000 entry forms.

Among those long-serving volunteers are Ken Garrard who did all the heavy work counting and packing boxes of leaflets, which are sent to libraries and other large organisations. Mrs Chapman-Andrews supplied refreshment and a large tin of Quality Street to keep everyone going.

Sandra Brown also recalls how Peggy press-ganged friends whenever they went on holiday to take leaflets with them.

Jon Wyatt, the lead short story reader, has been involved since 1982 when there were 600 entries in total – nowadays it’s around 16,000.

He recalls stories from 20 or 30 years ago that didn’t win a prize but that he hasn’t forgotten.

He said: “Those anonymous writers have a profound and lasting effect on a reader, only they will never have known that, and perhaps – since writers’ egos are often fragile – not continued writing.

“But, if they had, who is to say that they might not have persevered and found success. “Keep trying is the motto of that, I suppose.”

In the internet age, the number of stories and poems entered through the website has risen enormously.

In 24 hours there have been 70 entries, 300 new Facebook ‘likes’ and 250 new Twitter ‘followers’.

Anyone can enter so long as the work is previously unpublished.

It costs £8 per story, £7 per poem or £6 per flash fiction and the closing date is May 31.

Entries can be made by post or online.

Postal entry forms are available online or by sending an SAE to: The Bridport Prize, PO Box 6910, Dorset DT6 9BQ UK The anthology of the 33 winning stories and poems of 2012, plus judges reports, is now available online or from the above address for £12.