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Kwame Kwei-Armah to chair Bruntwood Prize judging panel

CHAIR: Kwame Kwei-Armah was part of the Bruntwood Prize's very first round in 2005

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR of the Young Vic, Kwame Kwei-Armah, is to chair the judges for this year’s Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

The biennial prize is a partnership between property company Bruntwood, a major supporter of the arts, and world-class producing theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre, in Manchester.

The 2019 prize is now open for entries from anyone aged 16+ in the UK, Ireland and the British Territories with a story to tell.

Between now and June 2019, established writers and those who may never have written a play are encouraged to submit scripts through an anonymous judging process, which means that each entry is judged on its own merit. Successful scripts will then be developed for the stage in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre’s creative team.

Kwei-Armah, whose first performance as an actor took place at the Royal Exchange Theatre, said: “It’s my absolute pleasure to return to The Bruntwood Prize, particularly having been part of the very first round in 2005, and to chair a panel of brilliant judges who have such a variety of experience, from performers to writers, directors, poets and journalists.

“In my eyes, the Prize has become such a profound and essential part of our cultural ecology for playwrights. It represents a most invigorating opportunity to undertake a leap of faith by virtue of a chosen pseudonym. So, send the thing that is brewing in you... the thing that says, ‘I must tell this story in a theatrical form’. It doesn't matter whether it's a first draft, or a final draft. Just send it.”

Kwei-Armah is joined on the judging panel by co-founders of The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting Sarah Frankcom, Artistic Director, Royal Exchange Theatre and Michael Oglesby CBE DL, founder of the Bruntwood Group and chairman of The Oglesby Charitable Trust. The rest of the nine-strong panel comprises: Anna Jordan, Bruntwood Prize-winning playwright; Bridget Minamore, journalist, poet and critic; Jenny Sealey MBE, Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre Company; Kate Vokes, Director, Bruntwood Culture, and actor Shane Zaza. A new addition to the panel this year is ‘The People’s Judge’, Faith Yianni, selected following a search by the Prize and leading theatre critic Lyn Gardner for a member of the public to bring a fresh, new perspective to the judging process.

Sarah Frankcom said: “The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is a genuine endeavour to discover new stories and help playwrights develop their craft, providing everybody and anybody with the opportunity to write a play. It offers a fantastic opportunity to hone your writing skills, whether or not you have written for the stage before (35 per cent of the entrants to the 2017 Prize had never written a play before). In addition to a high proportion of winning and shortlisted plays being produced professionally, each of the top 100 plays receives individual feedback from the Royal Exchange Theatre’s creative team.”

Michael Oglesby adds: “It is clear to see that the Prize has evolved to play a vital role in championing and developing playwriting talent, be they established or new names. As a funder of the arts, and a co-founder of this Prize, this legacy is a great thing to behold.”

The Bruntwood Prize is the richest prize for playwriting in Europe, with its £40,000 fund across four categories. As well as an overall winner, who takes home £16,000, there is a Judges Prize of £8,000 and two new awards in 2019: a prize awarded to debut writers (Original New Voice: £8,000) and voices from Australia, Canada and the USA who will be invited to enter by the Prize’s international partners (International Award: £8,000).

To encourage those who have not previously written for the stage, the Prize will release a 10-week online playwriting programme, developed by experts including Royal Exchange Theatre dramaturg Suzanne Bell and playwright Chinonyerem Odimba (Princess And The Hustler) featuring tips on how to approach writing a script. In addition to this all writers will be able to follow a series of live-streamed, online workshops run by internationally recognised playwrights like Tanika Gupta and Winsome Pinnock.

The Prize can be a springboard to a writing career. Its alumni include some the UK’s most respected playwrights such as Duncan Macmillan and Alistair McDowall. Anna Jordan’s 2013 Bruntwood Prize-winning play, Yen, was recently produced off-Broadway with Oscar-nominated actor Lucas Hedges; Kendall Feaver’s 2015 Judges’ award-winning play The Almighty Sometimes is now a multi-award-winning play that has gone on to be produced by the Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney. She is now the Philip Parsons Fellowship for Emerging Playwrights at the Belvoir, Australia.

Bruntwood Prize-winning plays have been produced in the UK and abroad, with 24 productions appearing in 38 UK venues and as far afield as Australia, the USA and Canada since 2005. Partner co-productions mean that plays have gone on to other venues following their Royal Exchange Theatre run, including the Bush Theatre, the Lyric Hammersmith and Sherman Cymru. The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting also works in partnership with the Royal Court Theatre, The Kenyon Institute, Ohio and the National Theatre New Work Department, who all provide winning writers with development opportunities. Nick Hern Books continues to support the Bruntwood Prize as the publishing partner for winning playwrights.

Submissions for the 2019 Prize are open until Wednesday 5th June 2019 via www.writeaplay.co.uk. A shortlist of 10 plays will be announced on Monday 14th October 2019, and the winner of the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on Monday 4th November 2019.

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