The Riot Act – Our Monthly Newsletter

It’s getting chillier, but things are still hotting up at Riot HQ.  October included a team outing to Trafalgar Square to discuss the historical significance of the landmark in relation to Black History Month. PR trainees from the Taylor Bennett Foundation visited Riot to get a flavour of what a culture and entertainment agency does and our MD, Preena, participated in a panel discussion, hosted by Women in PR x Badass Women’s Hour, talking about the challenges, opportunities and taboo topics that impact women in the workplace. And that’s not all…

Staging the launch of Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth

How to top our magical La Belle Sauvage launch at the Bodleian Library for the latest release in the Lyra chronicles, The Secret Commonwealth? Recruit a stellar line-up of performers – including Anne-Marie Duff, Niamh Cusack and Helen Aluko – to perform favourite readings and scenes from across Lyra Belacqua’s lifetime at London’s glorious Alexandra Palace Theatre, ahead of the first interview with the great man himself. If you weren’t able to get tickets to the sold-out event, you can watch again here or listen in to a one-off episode of BBC Sounds’ Obsessed with…. podcast, out this Sunday to coincide with the first episode of His Dark Materials on BBC One. We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the show at its recent BFI premiere, and we can assure you that it’s as spectacular as it looks (Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter is suitably terrifying).

Tatty x Moomin

The Finnish crown Jewels, aka the Moomins, and iconic London-based jewellery brand, Tatty Devine, have joined forces to launch a new capsule jewellery collection. The collection – which includes necklaces, earrings, and brooches – features beloved characters and design elements plucked straight from the world of Moominvalley. We launched the collection with a Moomin Manicures pop-up, with celebrity manicurist Lee Moore, inspired by the ornate Moomin nails created for Moominvalley actress Rosamund Pike at the world premiere. In other Moomin news, our client, Gutsy Animations, also won Best Animated Kids Programme prize at the Content Innovation Awards this month. Moomin marvellous!

Are comms professionals sensitively managing the co-opting of sub-cultures? 

After 11 hugely successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race over in the US, the show made its UK debut earlier this month, showcasing some of the best queens on the UK drag scene. When an established subculture becomes mainstream, the communications campaign can be a difficult thing to manage. Our Junior Campaigns Manager, Emily, shared her experiences of the drag scene and why she believes comms pros need to understand how to sensitively manage the co-opting of sub-cultures. Read all about it in our latest thought leadership piece.

Riot Recommends

The clocks have gone back and the nights are most definitely colder, so get those blankets ready, whack the central heating on, and settle in with some of our specially chosen Riot Recommends! (Confession: some do require you to leave your house; scarf advisable).

What started out as a documentary about the Duke and Duchess on the recent 10-day tour of Africa, Meghan & Harry: An African Journey morphed into a candid conversation about mental health and the stress caused by being at the mercy of the tabloids – a fascinating watch. Contrastingly we’ve been laughing out loud to both Auntie’s second series of Motherland and Phoebe Waller Bridge’s encore screening of Fleabag at the National Theatre – streaming in cinemas near you! You may have to borrow, beg or steal to get tickets, but Matthew Warchus’ production of Lungs, starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, is so worth it. The Cut’s Ask Polly newsletter by the brilliant Heather Havrilesky, gives us some incredibly relatable content including Is My Absence From Social Media a Red Flag?’ and I Can’t Stop Oversharing and the Bridget Riley retrospective at The Hayward Gallery has already garnered rave reviews – definitely worth bagging a ticket!

15-strong shortlist announced for the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting


  • 15 new scripts by established, emerging and debut playwrights in the running for £40,000 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting
  • Five plays from Australia and the US are considered for the new International Award
  • Shortlist selected from the highest number of entries in the Prize’s history, a 35% increase on the previous cycle


Today, Tuesday 15th October 2019, the Royal Exchange Theatre and Bruntwood announce the shortlist for the prestigious Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. The Prize – the largest for playwriting in Europe – seeks scripts from established, emerging and debut writers to develop for the stage, in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre’s creative team.

This year’s 15 shortlisted scripts were selected from 2,561 new plays submitted to the Prize following the competition launch in January. Each playwright entered anonymously, meaning all scripts were judged on their own merit by impartial readers, with no knowledge of the writer’s background or previous experience.

The shortlist is vivid, imaginative and topical, with politics, mental health, race relations and climate change just some of the themes appearing within the scripts. Female voices are also strongly represented across the shortlisted works, with eight of the 15 shortlisted plays written by women.

The Prize has a £40,000 fund across four categories. As well as an overall winner, who takes home £16,000, there are three further categories: The Judges Prize (£8,000), the Original New Voice for debut writers (£8,000) and the International Award (£8,000), for writers invited to enter by the Prize’s international partners.

The 10 UK scripts in the running for the overall £16,000 prize are as follows (listed alphabetically by surname).

  1. black bird by babirye bukilwa
  2. Shed: Exploded View by Phoebe Eclair-Powell
  3. Neptune by Sam Grabiner
  4. The European Hare by Sami Ibrahim
  5. Glass by Jacob Kay
  6. Salty Irina: (Retitled as ‘Title Redacted’ for the judging process) by Eve Leigh
  7. Hares by Lee Mattison
  8. Ballybaile by Jody O’Neill
  9. Akedah by Michael John O’Neill
  10. Glee & Me by Stuart Slade

Four of the playwrights shortlisted for the overall Prize – babirye bukilwa, Sam Grabiner, Jacob Kay and Michael John O’Neill – are also eligible for the Original New Voice Award.

The second category, the International Award, sees five playwrights from Australia and the USA vie to be crowned the winner. They are (listed alphabetically by surname):

  1. TAMBO & BONES by Dave Harris (USA)
  2. Pavlov’s Dogs by Emme Hoy (Australia)
  3. untitled f*ck miss sa*gon play (srsly this is not the title) by Kimber Lee (USA)
  4. This Land Was Made by Tori Sampson (USA)
  5. Periods of Collapse OR Mother Russia by Lauren Yee (USA)

Suzanne Bell, Dramaturg at the Royal Exchange Theatre, said: “I am extremely pleased to present this year’s impressive shortlist for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, which for the first time includes international entries. It’s thrilling to see submissions growing year-on-year, and it is fantastic to celebrate the outstanding achievement of our 15 shortlisted writers who have been selected from over 2,500 entries. Theatre, as we know, is a mirror to the world. So, it comes as no surprise that many of the shortlisted plays reflect our times. From highlighting the crisis of mental health and the rise of the far right to stereotypes portrayed and enforced by the media, the 2019 shortlist represents the remarkable breadth of talent in the UK and further afield.”

Bryony Shanahan, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre and judge for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, added: “The Bruntwood Prize engages, encourages, supports and celebrates the craft of playwriting, beginning with the phenomenal online resources on and culminating in the help each of our winning writers will receive from the Royal Exchange. New work is the way in which theatre remains alive, and a vital way in which we can reflect on the world around us. These 15 writers have bravely shared their stories with us, and it is fantastic that we can celebrate their hard work and dedication and creativity with this announcement today.”

The 15 scripts have been judged by a prestigious panel of figures from across the arts industry. Alongside Bryony Shanahan, judges include: Kwame Kwei-Armah (Chair), Artistic Director of the Young Vic; Michael Oglesby CBE DL, founder of the Bruntwood Group and chairman of The Oglesby Charitable Trust; Anna Jordan, Bruntwood Prize-winning playwright; Bridget Minamore, journalist, poet and critic; Jenny Sealey MBE, Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre Company; Kate Vokes, Director of Social Impact, Bruntwood and actor Shane Zaza. New to the panel this year is ‘The People’s Judge’, Faith Yianni, a member of the public selected following a search by the Prize and leading theatre critic Lyn Gardner, to bring an audience member’s perspective to the judging process.

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.

The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting has a proven track record of finding new talent and helping established writers bring their stories to new audiences. Since its inception in 2005, over 15,500 scripts have been entered, £256,000 has been awarded to 28 prize-winning writers and 24 winning productions have been staged in 38 UK wide venues.  In 2015, the Prize celebrated its 10th anniversary and is now recognised as a launch-pad for some of the country’s most respected and produced playwrights.

Co-producing partners have included the Lyric Hammersmith, Live Theatre, Soho Theatre, Bush Theatre, Orange Tree Theatre, Sherman Theatre, High Tide and the Royal Court Theatre. Work has also gone on to be produced internationally from Australia, USA, Germany, France to Canada and Sweden.

The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting also works in partnership with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, The Banff Centre Playwrights Lab, Melbourne Theatre Company, The Belvoir Theatre and the National Theatre New Work Department. Nick Hern Books continues to support the Bruntwood Prize as the publishing partner for winning playwrights.


UK shortlistees

  1. black bird by babirye bukilwa

Actor, model, podcaster and songwriter babirye bukilwa, formerly known as Vanessa Babirye, from Bethnal Green, London, was most recently seen returning to the National Theatre stage opposite Cate Blanchett and directed by Katie Mitchell. black bird is a personal story about a black woman’s experience of mental illness, told in a distorted reality wherein a mentally ill woman is found by two of her exes. black bird is bukilwa’s first play.

  1. Shed: Exploded View by Phoebe Eclair Powell

Phoebe Eclair Powell, a writer from South East London, was the resident playwright at Soho Theatre through the Channel 4 Playwright scheme for 2016 and 2017. Shed: Exploded View is a jigsaw play, inviting the audience to make the connections between characters and how their stories fit. At different stages of their lives, the characters navigate love, life, marriage, parenthood and the modern world in a series of short scenes.

  1. Neptune by Sam Grabiner

Londoner Sam Grabiner is a playwright and theatre maker, currently based at Columbia University in New York. He was the 2016 resident playwright at Papatango Theatre Company, with whom he is currently developing a new play. Neptune is a futuristic drama set on a base on Neptune, where four human beings Molly, Sarah, Ben and Harry are sent to the furthest known planet to undertake research. The play evokes feelings of isolation and disconnect from the familiar.

  1. The European Hare by Sami Ibrahim

Sami Ibrahim, a young writer from London, is currently a writer-in-residence at Shakespeare’s Globe and has been on attachment at the National Theatre Studio and Theatr Clwyd. His shortlisted play The European Hare is set in Norfolk and follows an Egyptian woman and her English partner as they grapple with the expanding construction site that will encroach on their land. The play happens across the timespan of humanity’s existence.

  1. Glass by Jacob Kay

Lincoln-based writer Jacob Kay, originally from Derby, studied Drama at the University of Lincoln and went on to complete an MA in Drama (Playwriting) in 2018. He went on to co-write a screenplay that was shortlisted for BBC Wales’ It’s My Shout competition. Glass, his first play, is written in a poetic style, with no designated characters, setting or timeline. The story explores the idea of bodies of water, people underwater and the presence of an ominous Lake of Glass.

  1. Salty Irina: Retitled As ‘Title Redacted’ For Reading by Eve Leigh

London-based playwright and theatremaker Eve Leigh is one of the Royal Court’s two Jerwood playwrights of 2019. Salty Irina is set in an unnamed Eastern European country where Anna and Eireni meet after a spate of violent crimes. This love story explores the rise of the far right in Europe.

  1. Hares by Lee Mattison

Award-winning writer Lee Mattinson, originally from Workington, Cumbria graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in Fine Art. His shortlisted play, Hares introduces three fourteen-year-old girls, Shania, Whitney and Courtney living in a deprived area in Cumbria. While trying to find themselves in a world of violence, the girls are given a videotape that draws them into a dangerous secret.

  1. Ballybaile by Jody O’Neill

Irish actor and writer Jody O’Neill is currently based in Wicklow, where she spends much of her time learning about geography, science and the Universe from her seven-year-old son. She has spent the past two years researching and developing work that promotes autism acceptance. Ballybaile is set in Ireland and explores government failings and inactivity whilst a small town struggles to adapt to the world rapidly changing around them.

  1. Akedah by Michael John O’Neill

Glasgow-based producer Michael John O’Neill has worked with companies including Blood of the Young, Tron Theatre, Theatre Gu Leòr, National Theatre of Scotland, SUPERFAN, Little King, Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, The Arches and Traverse Theatre. His first full length play, Akedah centres on two sisters who, after two years apart, find each other and discuss their abusive past. The play explores religion, abuse and forgiveness in Northern Ireland.

  1. Glee & Me by Stuart Slade

London-based playwright Stuart Slade’s previous plays include BU21 (Trafalgar Studios) and Cans (Theatre503). Glee & Me is a one woman play which sees 16-year-old Lola delivering a monologue charting her journey after being diagnosed with a rare, degenerative neurological condition.

International shortlistees

The five shortlisted playwrights in the International Award category are (in alphabetical order):

  1. TAMBO & BONES by Dave Harris (USA)

Poet and playwright Dave Harris, from West Philadelphia, is the Tow Playwright-in-Residence at Roundabout Theatre Company. His play TAMBO & BONES is a passionate piece that wrestles with Blackness and its mythologies. Harris weaves together various forms of writing including rap, monologue, and dialogue, to tell the story of two homeless black men who rise to become founders of a civilisation.

  1. Pavlov’s Dogs by Emme Hoy (Australia)

Award-winning Australian writer Emme Hoy completed her Master of Fine Arts in Writing at NIDA and was recipient of the 2017 Belvoir Philip Parson’s Fellowship. Her play Pavlov’s Dogs has a Frankenstein-esque narrative that asks big questions about humanity and our control over our own actions and emotions.

  1. untitled f*ck miss sa*gon play (srsly this is not the title) by Kimber Lee (USA)

New York-based playwright Kimber Lee’s work has been presented by The Lark, Page 73, Hedgebrook, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Old Globe Theater, and Magic Theatre. Her shortlisted play untitled f*ck miss sa*gon play (srsly this is not the title), is a fresh look at absurd Asian stereotypes across American entertainment. The piece parodies media from 1949’s South Pacific through to 2016’s Moana, with a smart political commentary.

  1. This Land Was Made by Tori Sampson (USA)

A Boston native, Tori Sampson’s plays have gained her multiple awards and honours including 2016 Relentless Award, Honorable Mention; the 2016 Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting from The Kennedy Center; the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award and many more. Her play This Land Was Made, is set in Oakland, California in 1967/68, during the time of the organisation of the Black Panthers with a particular focus on the arrest and trial of Huey Newton. The play uses different stylistic modes to tell the story, including re-enacted scenes of political events and speeches by Huey Newton.

  1. Periods of Collapse OR Mother Russia by Lauren Yee (USA)

American playwright Lauren Yee is a Residency 5 playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists member, Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. Her shortlisted play, Periods of Collapse OR Mother Russia, is a satire set in 1992 about ordinary Russians’ loss of confidence after the downfall of the Soviet Union. The story is told from the perspective of two 25-year-old men.



  • The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is Europe’s biggest competition for playwriting which searches for original and unperformed plays by writers of any experience and background. Since its inception in 2005 over 15,500 scripts have been entered, £256,000 has been awarded to 28 prize winning writers and 24 winning productions have been staged in 38 UK wide venues.  In 2015 it celebrated its 10th anniversary and is now recognised as a launch-pad for some of the country’s most respected and produced playwrights. Each winner enters into a development process with the Royal Exchange Theatre in an endeavour to bring their work to production.  It is not guaranteed but we aspire to produce each play and find co-producers to give the plays a longer life and further reach.  There have been co-productions with Lyric Hammersmith, Live Theatre, Soho Theatre, Bush Theatre, Orange Tree Theatre, Sherman Theatre, High Tide and the Royal Court Theatre. Work has also gone on to be produced internationally from Australia, USA, Germany, France to Canada and Sweden. The Bruntwood Prize is biennial.

  • Bruntwood

Bruntwood believe that by helping to shape a city’s vibrant cultural offering, we contribute towards a thriving city and we bring our leadership, connections, spaces, colleagues and their skills to our partnerships to help create communities that grow and develop together. Bruntwood own, let and manage outstanding buildings and science facilities across the UK but is much more than a property company. Bruntwood is a purpose-led business who partner with ambitious cultural organisations that are looking to make an impact, tell the stories of our cities, and inspire change. That’s why we’re proud to support the Royal Exchange and the Bruntwood Prize.  Fundamentally what we believe is that cities aren’t structures, cities are people, and we look forward to the stories they can tell us.

  • Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre Company transforms the way people see theatre, each other and the world around them. Our historic building, once the world’s biggest cotton exchange, was taken over by artists in 1976. Today it is an award-winning cultural charity that produces new theatre in-the-round, in communities, on the road and online. Exchange remains at the heart of everything we make and do. Now our currency is brand new drama and reinvigorated classics, the boldest artists and a company of highly skilled makers – all brought together in a shared imaginative endeavour to trade ideas and experiences with the people of Greater Manchester (and beyond). The Exchange’s unique auditorium is powerfully democratic, a space where audiences and performers meet as equals, entering and exiting through the same doors. It is the inspiration for all we do; inviting everyone to understand the past, engage in today’s big questions, collectively imagine a better future and lose themselves in the moment of a great night out.

2019 Prize Judges: Biographies (alphabetically by surname)

  • Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Chair) is British actor, playwright, director, broadcaster, and current Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre. From 2011-2018 he was Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage. He was an Associate Director of the Donmar Warehouse and has served on the boards of the National Theatre, Tricycle Theatre, and Theatre Communications Group. Kwame is a patron of Ballet Black and a visiting fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.
  • Anna Jordan is a writer, director and acting coach. As a writer her current productions include: The Unreturning (Frantic Assembly / Theatre Royal Plymouth) and Pop Music (Paines Plough / Birmingham Rep). Anna won the Bruntwood Prize in 2013 for her play Yen, which has had productions at the Royal Exchange, Royal Court and MCC New York as well as several international productions. It was also shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2015-2016. Other theatre includes We Anchor in Hope (Royal Court – Beyond the Court), Chicken Shop (Park Theatre) and Freak (Theatre503 / Assembly Studios). She has recently written on HBO’s new series Succession. Anna has taught / directed at RADA, LAMDA, Arts Ed, Central and Italia Conti.
  • Bridget Minamore is a writer, journalist, and critic. She is a contributor to the Guardian, Pitchfork, and The Stage, and her writing has been commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Historic England, Nike, and the Tate Modern. Bridget has read her work both nationally and internationally, was shortlisted to be London’s first Young Poet Laureate, is the youngest person and first woman to be lead tutor for the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, and is part of the creative team behind Brainchild Festival. Bridget has been a Creative in Residence at The Hospital Club, as well as one of Speaking Volumes’ 40 Stars of Black British Literature. Titanic (Out-Spoken Press), her debut pamphlet of poems on modern love and loss, came out in May 2016.
  • Michael Oglesby CBE founded the Bruntwood group of companies in 1976, which has since become one of the leading commercial property owners in the North of England. At the end of 2013 he gave up executive responsibility in the Company and now devotes his time to a wide range of activities covering the arts, civic roles, philanthropy, health and education. He is Chairman of the Oglesby Charitable Trust which has given in excess of £13 million to over 300 charities over the last 10 years. Michael is a former High Sheriff and Vice Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester and, in the 2011 January Honours list, was awarded a CBE for his services to Industry and Charity.
  • Jenny Sealey has been Artistic Director and CEO of Graeae since 1997 and has pioneered a new theatrical language; the creative integration of sign language, captioning and audio description within performance. Jenny co-directed the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony alongside Bradley Hemmings (GDIF). In 2009, Jenny was awarded an MBE. Jenny has been awarded the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award, is an honorary Doctor of Drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Middlesex University and a Fellow of the Central School of Speech and Drama and Rose Bruford College.
  • Bryony Shanahan is current Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange. In 2016 she won the Genesis Future Directors award and directed her sell out production of trade by debbie tucker green at the Young Vic. Current and forthcoming productions include Wuthering Heights (Royal Exchange) and Enough (Traverse Theatre). Directing includes Queens Of The Coal Age (Royal Exchange/New Vic Theatre), Chicken Soup (Sheffield Crucible); Operation Crucible (Finborough Theatre, Sheffield Crucible/UK tour/59e59 New York); Weald (Finborough Theatre); Nothing (Royal Exchange, winner of Manchester Theatre Award); Bitch Boxer (Soho Theatre/national tour/Adelaide Fringe Festival); Boys Will Be Boys (Women Centre Stage, National Theatre); Chapel Street (National Tour) and You And Me (Greenwich Theatre/National Tour). Bryony trained at East 15 Acting School and on The National Theatre Directors’ course. She has been Staff Director for The National Theatre and was a 2014 BBC Theatre Fellow.
  • Kate Vokes is the Director of Social Impact at Bruntwood. She is responsible for ensuring that Bruntwood’s purpose-led values are embedded throughout everything the company does. Her commitments to the city include being an active Trustee of the Oglesby Charitable Trust and of Manchester Youth Zone, and she has gained a passion and knowledge particularly around the youth sector and arts and culture. With a broad and commercial view of Bruntwood, she helps to get clarity on how we are using our experience, knowledge and resources to have the greatest long-term sustainable impact and introduces our partners to suppliers and customers to inspire others to get involved in effecting change.
  • Faith Yianni is the first ‘Peoples Judge’ chosen from the Royal Exchange Audiences in the North West via a competition searching for the best script report. Faith’s report was chosen anonymously with the support of leading theatre critic Lyn Gardner. Faith is a Mancunian facilitator and director, with a keen interest in theatre for using theatre for social change. Since leaving university, she has begun directing short pieces of new writing with Mancunian theatre collectives Declared Theatre and Hung Theatre. At 24 she is the Bruntwood Prize’s youngest ever Judge.
  • Shane Zaza made his appearance for the Royal Exchange Theatre as Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein. Other Theatre credits include: Road, Hang, Oxford Street (Royal Court); Behind The Beautiful Forevers, 13 (National); Henry V (Unicorn); Mongrel Island, Realism (Soho); Macbeth, Romeo And Juliet (Shakespeare’s Globe); and many more at the Bush Theatre, Barbican, Birmingham Rep, Liverpool Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Menier, Bolton Octagon, New Vic Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith. Television and Film credits include: Endeavour, Doctor Who, Press, Will, Black Mirror, Happy Valley, Silent Witness, The Mummy, The Rezort, Spooks: The Greater Good, The Da Vinci Code and many more.

International Partners:

  • The Banff Centre Playwrights Lab is proud to be the Canadian partner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. Over the past four years, the development of James Fritz’s Parliament Square and Sharon Clark’s Plow have been supported by the Playwrights Lab which, in partnership with Bruntwood, offered James and Sharon residencies in 2015 and 2017 as recipients of Judges Awards. The Banff Centre Playwrights Lab offers Canadian and international playwrights an inspiring environment to work on their plays while surrounded by performing artists from across Canada and around the world.
  • The Belvoir Theatre

Based in Surry Hills, Sydney, Belvoir is one of Australia’s most distinguished and beloved theatre

companies. Since 1984, when a group of 600 likeminded theatre-lovers came together to buy a theatre to save it from becoming an apartment block, Belvoir has been at the forefront of Australian storytelling for the stage. Each year the company presents an annual season of shows for this now-iconic corner stage. New work and new stories sit at the centre Belvoir’s programming, alongside a mix of classics and international writing, and a lasting commitment to Indigenous stories. In short, Belvoir is about modern theatricality, an open society, and faith in humanity.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Eamon Flack and Executive Director Sue Donnelly, Belvoir engages Australia’s most prominent and promising theatre-makers. Belvoir has nurtured the talents of artists including Cate Blanchett, Leah Purcell, Tommy Murphy, Kate Mulvany, Simon Stone, Anne-Louise Sarks, Wesley Enoch, S. Shakthidharan, and former Belvoir Artistic Director Neil Armfield. Landmark productions include Counting and Cracking, Barbara and the Camp Dogs, Cloudstreet, The Drover’s Wife, The Glass Menagerie, Angels in America, The Wild Duck, Keating!, The Sapphires, and many, many more. Belvoir regularly tours productions nationally and internationally.

Belvoir was delighted to participate in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwright this year. It is exciting that this prestigious and wide-reaching honour has been open to Australian (and other international) playwrights for the first time. We have an incredibly rich and unique new writing culture here, and the Bruntwood prize is a great opportunity and platform for more people to hear our stories in conversation with those from around the world.

  • Melbourne Theatre Company is Melbourne’s home of live storytelling, producing an annual mainstage season of up to 12 plays, the Cybec Electric play readings series, an annual Education program, the First Nations Young Artists’ Program, the Women in Theatre program and Australia’s most generous New Writing program, Next Stage, with 25 writers under commission and six writers in residence. MTC is one of the major performing arts companies in Australia, and one of the largest theatre companies in the English-speaking world. Founded in 1953, MTC is also the oldest professional theatre company in Australia, and currently exists as a semi-autonomous department of the University of Melbourne.

The very best new writing expands the space of the possible and here Bruntwood and the Royal Exchange have taken this provocation literally, welcoming the world, or at least our corner of it, into one of the most prestigious new theatre writing competitions. What better way is there to reward ferocity, fearlessness and ambition than to throw open the doors to story, to share resources and to celebrate ingenuity and talent. We at MTC are thrilled to support this work, to be a part of it and to see our writers kicking holes in the sky—in a good way. Chris Mead, Literary Director, Melbourne Theatre Co.

  • Berkeley Repertory Theatre has grown from a storefront stage to an international leader in innovative theatre. Known for its ambition, relevance, and excellence, as well as its adventurous audience, the non-profit has provided a welcoming home for emerging and established artists since 1968. Over 5.5 million people have enjoyed nearly 500 shows at Berkeley Rep, which have gone on to win six Tony Awards, seven Obie Awards, nine Drama Desk Awards, one Grammy Award, one Pulitzer Prize, and many other honours. Berkeley Rep received the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1997. To formalize, enhance, and expand the processes by which Berkeley Rep makes theatre, The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work was launched in 2012. The Berkeley Rep School of Theatre engages and educates some 20,000 people a year and helps build the audiences of tomorrow with its nationally recognized teen programs. Berkeley Rep’s bustling facilities — which also include the 400-seat Peet’s Theatre, the 600-seat Roda Theatre, and a spacious campus in West Berkeley — are helping revitalize a renowned city. Be a Rep.
  • Playwrights Horizons is dedicated to cultivating the most important American playwrights, composers, and lyricists, as well as developing and producing their bold new plays and musicals. Tim Sanford became Artistic Director in 1996 and Leslie Marcus has been Managing Director since 1993. Under their decades of leadership, Playwrights builds upon its diverse and renowned body of work, counting 400 writers among its artistic roster. In addition to its onstage work each season, Playwrights’ singular commitment to nurturing American theatre artists guides all of the institution’s multifaceted initiatives: our acclaimed New Works Lab, a robust commissioning program, an innovative curriculum at its Theater School, and more. Robert Moss founded Playwrights in 1971 and cemented the mission that continues to guide the institution today. André Bishop served as Artistic Director from 1981-1992. Don Scardino succeeded him and served until 1996. Over its 47-year history, Playwrights has been recognized with numerous awards and honours, including six Pulitzer Prizes, 13 Tony Awards, and 39 Obie Awards.

Playwrights Horizons is honoured to collaborate with the Royal Exchange on the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. As a theatre devoted to amplifying American voices, we are thrilled to partner with an international peer to celebrate visionary playwrights on this global platform.

As RuPaul’s Drag Race UK hits our screens, our Junior Campaigns Manager, Emily, shares her experiences of the drag scene and why she believes comms pros need to understand how to sensitively manage the co-opting of sub-cultures

When an established subculture becomes mainstream, it can be a difficult thing to manage from a comms perspective. Without coming from or being part of that subculture/minority group, it can be difficult to implement a comms strategy that does justice to your objective of achieving widespread awareness without leaving the members of the subculture feeling that they’re being misrepresented and even potentially exploited.

A recent example of this that I was struck by was the promotion of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. As someone who has been immersed in drag culture since my mother introduced me to her friend, who she added casually “is a drag queen” before I was ten years old, I have loved to bring elements of drag into all of my creative pursuits. This has culminated in me becoming a drag performer who now regularly graces the stages of queer bars and venues across London.

What I observed with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK was a fantastic campaign that had near-blanket coverage across broadcast, print and online media. However, even though the UK scene is very supportive of the girls who are appearing on the show, there was a general feeling that the coverage about Drag Race UK was not providing an accurate representation of what the UK drag scene is.

A clear example of this is the lack of ‘performer diversity’ as the cast is nearly all cis male* drag queens. The UK scene is full of amazing drag kings, female-bodied drag queens and non-binary performers. However these performers aren’t represented or alluded to in the articles or comms about Drag Race UK that I have seen, apart from an op-ed in The Independent, that was not a part of the Drag Race UK PR, by drag performer Chiyo Gomes titled, “I’m a trans Afro-Latinx drag performer – but you won’t see people like me on RuPaul’s show”.

The knock-on effect of this could be very damaging to the finances of the performers, and the types of performers, who aren’t on the show. I have been used to seeing Cheryl Hole (who is a contestant on the show) and her drag family** in my local queer pub, Apples & Pears, for less than £10; a meet and  greet with her and the other UK queens from the show, as part of the official tour is £135. As a member of Cheryl’s drag family, Herr the Queen, tweeted on the night before Drag Race UK aired, “UK drags performing tonight, ENJOY IT! Everything is gonna start changing from tomorrow, isn’t that weird.”

The reaction to the cast reveal coverage on social media was compiled by LGBTQIA+ news website Pink News with Twitter user @elledrawsdrag saying:

“There are so many amazing femme/bio queens & drag kings in the UK it’s frustrating they’re not being utilised in drag race. Yeah, it’s the first season, but still, they’ve had eleven others across the seas & they’ve had that opportunity even if they’ve not taken it, and they deserve that opportunity! Especially as the UK is filled with such a diverse group of drag performers, it seems foolish to miss out on exposing them to the world. It would open many doors to queer kids everywhere to see ALL kinds of drag on TV, and as it’s been noted all drag is f*cking valid! These performers deserve the notice, and it’s a shame Rupaul doesn’t seem to want to accept them into his family. On another note, the cast looks brill, it’s just a shame there’s not more diversity!”

Twitter user @lucyeccles93 commented:

“While I LOVE drag race and I’m so excited for the UK season, remember that drag goes beyond what you see on the show. Support your local drag kings and bio queens – all drag is valid and beautiful!”

Twitter user @lauxx_n said:

“Will drag queens who identify as female out of drag be booked? Nobody’s thinking of these things. I still stand by what I said last year, drag race uk isn’t what our scene needed. It’s great that queens who deserve the exposure are getting it but it’s caused a lot of problems”

When handling an announcement that is about a subculture or minority it is important that you understand, not just the commercial product (in this case Drag Race UK), but the impact of that product on the community it came from. At Riot we champion diversity which goes further than race and gender. Cultural diversity is important. If I had been working on the announcement of Drag Race UK I would have wanted to implement a clear strategy to maximise coverage and positive sentiment through both celebrating the product (as has been done) and promoting the wonderful, inclusive and diverse subculture of UK drag.

* At the time of writing Davina De Campo is the only contestant to be out as non-binary, this may change.

** ‘Drag family’ – comes from the ball culture and is made of an experienced drag performer and their mentees. They form an extremely supportive and special bond, guiding each other though the scene.

[photo credit: Pink News]

New Horizons for Desmond Elliott Prize as Flagship for Early Career Awards at National Centre for Writing

Submissions for the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize are now open and should be directed to

The National Centre for Writing (NCW) is to take on the running of the Desmond Elliott Prize (“the UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists” – The Telegraph) it has been announced.

The Desmond Elliott Prize will be the flagship in a portfolio of Early Career Awards being launched by NCW to support new writers. In addition NCW is working with the University of East Anglia and the Laura Kinsella Foundation on the creation of two new awards for early career writers which will be announced and opened for applications later this year.

The Early Career Awards represent a new model for literary prizes combining the power of a private trust with the unique year-round programme of NCW. Arts Council England (ACE) will increase the impact of the awards by contributing towards an early career digital programme providing resources, professional development and industry advice as a free public resource for new writers. The ACE support will also enable a tailored early career programme for the winning writers which will include residency opportunities, mentoring and industry support to help them build a sustainable career.

NCW launched in June 2018 in Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Patrons include Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak, Kei Miller and Ali Smith. It exists to support a vibrant and diverse literary environment in the UK. Since opening it has pioneered projects such as the International Literature Showcase with Val McDermid’s spotlight on LGBTQI+ writers and Elif Shafak’s focus on women writers.

Chris Gribble, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Writing said:

“Through embedding the Desmond Elliott Prize in our portfolio and launching the Early Career Awards we are looking to contribute to an alliance between writers, publishers, the trade, libraries and readers to boost the environment for literary fiction and writers at the critical early stages of their career.

“The market for literary fiction is tough and getting tougher and we want to help find innovative ways to increase collaboration in the sector. We are delighted to be the custodians of such a prestigious prize and to have found a sustainable way to support its future. We thank the Desmond Elliott Charitable Trust, the University of East Anglia and the Laura Kinsella Foundation for their confidence and investment in us. Huge thanks also to Arts Council England for recognising the opportunity to increase the impact of prize culture.”

The winner of The Desmond Elliott Prize will receive £10,000 and, new to this year, a programme of support to help them towards a second novel and a sustainable career in writing. Past winners of the prize include Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, Claire Fuller for Our Endless Numbered Days, and Preti Taneja for We That Are Young. The 2019 Prize – chosen by judges Man Booker Prize-winning author, Alan Hollinghurst; Literary Editor of The Times, Robbie Millen; and managing director of the Booksellers Association, Meryl Halls – was awarded to Claire Adam for her “electrifying” debut Golden Child.

Dallas Manderson, Chairman, Desmond Elliott Charitable Trust said:

“The Desmond Elliott Prize has so far given a significant financial boost and vote of confidence to twelve wonderfully talented writers just starting out in their careers, whilst also bringing attention and praise to the wider longlist of 10 titles selected each year. We are fortunate and excited to have found an organisation as vibrant and dynamic as the National Centre for Writing, whose values align closely with our own, to continue the work that we have started. The NCW approached us with an inspiring model that saw our remaining funds matched by the Arts Council and various other partners, and will make a greater impact than we could have had alone with what remained to the Trust. We are confident that Desmond’s Prize could not be in better hands and look forward to celebrating the future recipients of the Early Career Awards with the NCW, UEA and Laura Kinsella Foundation.”

Sarah Crown, Director of Literature, Arts Council England said:

“The Desmond Elliott Prize has long played a critical role in bringing debut novelists to wider audiences. I’m delighted that Arts Council England is able to support the National Centre for Writing to continue the delivery of the prize – and to test an innovative approach in which awards are complemented by professional development, mentoring opportunities, resources and advice, helping new writers to build sustainable careers in an increasingly challenging landscape.”

Submissions for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020 are now open until 29 November 2019. For further details see All first novels written in English by authors permanently resident in the UK and Ireland and published there between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 are eligible for the Prize.