The Astrid Lindgren Company reveals UK plans for Pippi Longstocking’s 75th anniversary in 2020

“I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking. How extraordinary it must be to never once feel constrained by the opinions of others. Now I am grown-up I know this is the single quality I would still give almost anything for.” – Lauren Child, former Waterstones Children’s Laureate

2020 marks 75 years since the publication of Sweden’s most famous literary export, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, in 1945. Nine-year-old Pippi – originally created by the author for her daughter during the dark days of World War Two – was a new kind of children’s character: a free-spirited girl with superhuman strength who uses a powerful mix of anti-authoritarian thinking and kindness to challenge the status quo and to bring joy to the lives of those around her.

The iconic redhead has become a role model for generations, and an international bestseller – the Pippi Longstocking stories are amongst the most translated children’s books in the world, with over 70 million copies sold in 70 languages. She is regularly picked as a favourite children’s character and famous names to have been inspired by her include Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Cerys Matthews and even Stieg Larsson, who admitted his character Lisbeth Salander (The Millennium Trilogy) was directly influenced by Lindgren’s creation.

Over the course of 2020, UK audiences will have multiple opportunities to be introduced to and interact with ‘The Strongest Girl in the World’ through a charity partnership launched today, new books and storytelling events across the country, before Pippi appears on stage in Pippi at Cirkus – a musical circus executive produced by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, premiering in Stockholm in summer 2020 – and on the big screen in a new film adaptation from STUDIOCANAL and Heyday Films, the creators of Paddington 1 & 2, in the near future.

‘Pippi of Today’ partnership with Save The Children

Astrid Lindgren was a life-long campaigner for children’s rights, changing Swedish law on corporal punishment and advocating for children’s voices to be heard. Continuing this legacy, The Astrid Lindgren Company are collaborating with Save The Children to launch ‘Pippi of Today’, a global campaign to raise awareness and funds for the charity’s work for girls on the move. The number of girls on the move is at the highest it’s been since the end of the Second World War. Like Pippi, millions of girls are forced to leave their families and make homes in new cities and countries, and they are at greater risk of being exposed to violence and exploitation, such as sexual abuse and child marriage. In most cases, their education is also often put on hold. The campaign will tell the stories of 13 refugee girls over the course of the anniversary year, giving voice to their experiences and holding Pippi up as an empowering role model for strength, courage and hope in adversity. Biscuiteers, Design House Stockholm, Houdini Sportswear, Primus and Unilever are just some of the companies supporting the campaign with limited-edition Pippi products for 2020.

New Pippi Longstocking books from Oxford University Press

Lindgren’s long-term UK publisher will release six new, highly-illustrated editions of the Pippi stories during 2020: two chapter books, Meet Pippi Longstocking and Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt (March 2020), featuring artwork from the original illustrator, Ingrid Vang Nyman; Pippi LongstockingPippi Longstocking Goes Aboard and Pippi Longstocking in the South Seas (May 2020), with black and white illustrations by Mini Grey, and a hardback gift edition of Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard (October 2020), illustrated in full colour by former Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child.

Pippi Longstocking events around the UK

Acclaimed storyteller Danyah Miller (I Believe in Unicorns) will be touring  the UK with her one-woman storytelling performance, Meet Pippi Longstocking, appearing at venues and festivals including the Imagine Children’s Festival (February 2020), British Library (March 2020) and the newly opened Story Museum (May 2020) during the first half of the year. In additionPippi Longstocking: A Swashbuckling Musical Adventure, adapted for the stage by Mike Akers with music by Stu Barker, will travel to York Theatre Royal in July 2020 whilst a pop-up exhibition is scheduled to appear at Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London, later in the summer. Further event details will be announced over the course of 2020.

Olle Nyman, CEO at The Astrid Lindgren Company and grandson of Astrid Lindgren, said: “We can’t wait for British audiences to experience the particular combination of wit, humanity, independence and flair that turned both Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking into icons.

“For us at the Astrid Lindgren Company, it is important to continue my grandmother’s fight for children’s rights. In a world with ever stronger currents of nationalism and xenophobia, we want to highlight our shared responsibility for all children in demonstrating their strength and potential. With the help of Pippi, we want to support the girls who need it most, while also making their voices heard. Save the Children’s activities aim to support them, while Pippi serves as an inspiring role model that gives them strength and hope.”

Inger Ashing, CEO at Save the Children International, adds: “Save the Children is excited to partner with the Astrid Lindgren Company to help expand our work for girls on the move. In 2019, we interviewed girls from around the world who are on the move to better understand their experiences and how we can best reach them with the right efforts. But we still lack sufficient data and knowledge in this area. With the funds raised, we will be able to help fill these knowledge gaps and expand our work, so that every girl survives, learns and is protected.”

The Riot Act – Our Monthly Newsletter

It’s our final newsletter of the year and indeed the decade. And what a decade it’s been, since it’s exactly ten years since Riot began. Over that time, our agency has grown in size and stature and the breadth of our work has developed, transitioning from exclusively publishing, to a rounded culture and entertainment specialistic agency with a roster of clients spanning film, TV, theatre, gaming, family entertainment and of course books.

In this month’s newsletter we share some of the highlights from this month, reflect on a decade in PR, and look ahead to 2020.

Aardman launches first 4D ride

We’ve been busy helping Aardman promote their first major piece of original content for the theme park market, The Bear and the Squirrel, which won best CGI at the Le Book London Creative Awards. As part of our work to showcase the sheer breadth of Aardman’s output, we organised a press trip to the attraction at Efteling in the Netherlands, landing national media coverage for our client.

Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures series for the BBC

A staple in many a family’s Christmas calendar, The Ri’s Christmas Lectures series has been shown on the BBC since 1936. This year’s lecturer is mathematician extraordinaire, Dr Hannah Fry, who will be “making maths cool” across our TV screens this month. Our second consecutive year working with the Ri, we have secured a raft of media coverage including The Times  and Start The Week. Tune in to BBC Four at 8pm on 26th-28th December with your family, especially to learn how to win at Christmas crackers…

Series two of MOOMINVALLEY premieres on Sky One and Now TV this Christmas

Oh what happiness! We’ve been working with our client Gutsy Animations to support the launch of the second series of MOOMINVALLEY, starring Rosmund Pike, Taron Egerton and Matt Berry who revive their roles as the beloved Moomin family. Directed by Academy Award® winner Steve Box, we are looking forward to meeting some new characters too. The first five episodes of the new series will air at Christmas, starting on 21st December.

A decade of Riot

Riot co-founder Preena, was a panellist in the first ever BME PR Pros conference entitled: Comms in a post-mainstream world, where every speaker was from a BME background. A passionate advocate of making the PR industry more reflective of society, she participated in a line-up that included journalist Samira Ahmed, gal-dem founder Liv Little and campaigner Femi Oluwole. Contributing a piece for the inaugural BME PR Pros ‘zine, she reflected on a decade of running an agency, with tips for anyone considering setting up their own shop.

News in brief

The London Review of Books launched its new online hub, with free unlimited access to the full archive of 17,500 articles for a month – an amazing treasure trove of content. Pippi Longstocking is currently treading the boards at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate theatre in a new musical, kicking off a run of Pippi 75th anniversary related activities in 2020. And we’ve been retained by Penguin Random House for a third year to help the brand and communications team create Penguin Presents – watch this space!

Riot Recommends

Looking for more cultural inspiration? Here are our top (non-Riot-related) picks…
We’ve been getting festive at the theatre, and very much rate both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Bridge, and Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Hackney Empire. Less than festive but well worth watching are Marriage Story on Netflix and Glenda Jackon in the BBC’s Elizabeth is Missing. And finally, if you need to drown out the Christmas din, stick your headphones on and listen to Stormzy’s Heavy is the Head or Kanye West’s Jesus is King.

The Riot Act – Our Monthly Newsletter

Welcome to the November issue of the Riot Act. It’s been a barnstorming month for our agency, with campaign launches, news announcements and new client acquisitions to boot. Check these out:

New client win: OKRE

We triumphed in a five-way pitch to represent OKRE (Opening Knowledge across Research and Entertainment), a new global hub of expertise incubated at Wellcome. Building on Wellcome’s work in Broadcast, Games and Film, OKRE connects research, entertainment and social impact professionals, to fuel the development of fresh ideas in both content and research, in order to expand our understanding of the world. Our first job was to launch the organisation and announce Lucy Prebble as the recipient of the Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship earlier this week. Read more here.

Aardman and Netflix announce holiday special, Robin Robin

Last week, we deployed our corporate communications expertise, helping our client Aardman announce news of its ground-breaking new stop-motion musical Robin Robin which will be shown on Netflix in 2020. It’s the first time Aardman have created new IP for Netflix, and our full-page Guardian exclusive was then picked up around the world. Watch this space for further heart-warming updates on the robin adopted by a family of mice…

Record-breaking year for Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

In our first year working with Bruntwood and the Royal Exchange Theatre, our unconventional approach resulted in helping the playwriting prize achieve the highest level of entrants and engagement since it began in 2005, as well as smashing our media relations targets. Unpicking the original brief, our intelligent, disruptive questioning enabled us to get to the heart of what the client wanted to achieve. Working with the in-house team across media, talent, online and social, we helped secure a 115% uplift on entries to date, including increases in traditionally underrepresented demographics. Our work culminated in the announcement of this year’s winner, Phoebe Eclair-Powell, for whom we secured interviews across a variety of national media outlets, many new to the Prize. Bosh!

Happy 40th anniversary London Review of Books

The LRB throw a good party, and for their 40th, we headed to Banqueting Hall in Whitehall for an evening of celebration with some of the paper’s supporters, old and new. As the gin flowed, Editor at Large, Andrew O’Hagan treated guests to highlights from the past four decades before a toast was raised to their legendary Editor, Mary-Kay Willmers (pictured). A paper bucking the trend of declining print sales, we are proud to be the LRB’s retained agency, helping showcase fine long-from writing – here’s to the next 40 years!

When Hephzie met Björn

Our lucky colleague, Hephzie, led a press trip to Sweden for our client, The Astrid Lindgren Company, as part of our work to raise awareness of Pippi Longstocking and her creator ahead of Pippi’s 75th in May 2020. Media were treated to a few days in Stockholm with partners Visit Sweden, taking in a tour of Lindgren’s apartment, a conversation with Pussy Riot members about art and activism, and a meeting with the legendary Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, at the announcement of his brand new Pippi circus musical, which opens next summer. The rest of us were very jealous…

News in brief:

We helped Artemis Fowl creator and all-round top bloke Eoin Colfer launch The Fowl Twins; provided consultancy and media relations expertise for the Rebel Girls team upon launch of two new titles; and worked with The Duchess of Cornwall and Clarence House to announce Moomin Characters’ sponsorship of The Royal Commonwealth Society’s essay writing competition.

Riot Recommends

Looking for cultural inspiration? Here are our top (non-Riot related therefore unbiased!) picks – you’re welcome!

Book your tickets for All Points East (May 2020), where Tame Impala will be headlining the Saturday. Get cosy on the sofa and watch Modern Love (what started as a New York Times column is now a must-see Amazon Prime show). We’re campaigning for a West-End transfer of National Theatre Wales’ production of On Bear Ridge, starring Rhys Ifans. And finally, Steve McQueen’s Year 3 project can be seen at the Tate or on a billboard near you.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Competition 2020 launched by the Duchess of Cornwall


  • ‘Climate Action in the Commonwealth’ announced as 2020 theme
  • Moomin Characters appointed principal sponsor of the Competition

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, Vice-Patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society, has today launched The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2020 at Tūranga library in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The 2020 theme, ‘Climate Action in the Commonwealth’, encourages young writers from across the globe to explore the many facets of this critical issue, which will dramatically shape the future of the Commonwealth’s 1.6 billion citizens under the age of 30.

The selection of this environmental theme is particularly welcomed by the Competition’s new principal sponsor, Moomin Characters, which has a long history of charitable work, particularly championing causes that align with the values of friendship, tolerance, open-mindedness, respect for nature and the power of storytelling. The Moomins, created by the Finnish artist Tove Jansson, are a family of friendly, round trolls who live in Moominvalley with their diverse group of friends and acquaintances. Featured as a comic strip in 1954 in the world’s largest newspaper at the time – London’s The Evening News – the Moomins are much loved characters across the Commonwealth and beyond.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition aims to challenge young people’s thinking and the means by which they can express their views, using creative forms of writing such as essays, poems, stories or scripts. Since 2010, it has received nearly 100,000 entries, from hundreds of schools across almost every Commonwealth country. Entries are judged by 150 pan-Commonwealth volunteers. The winners are selected by an expert panel, including poets, publishers, scriptwriters and journalists.

The Competition has been run by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883, and culminates with winners and runners-up traveling to London for a week-long series of educational and cultural events, typically including an Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

The theme was launched during an assembly of local school children, who had earlier participated in a writing workshop at the library involving local authors, educators and New Zealand’s Poet Laureate, David Eggleton. During the assembly, Her Royal Highness took the opportunity to present a number of certificates to high-level winners from the 2019 Competition.

Sophia Jansson, creative director of Moomin Characters and niece of Tove Jansson, said:
“The power of reading and writing and the importance of working together to protect our planet are both very important to us, and they come together in such a beautiful way in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2020. Each year, the themes of the Competition are around community and collaboration. We’re very proud that in the first year of our sponsorship this is applied to the environment. The passion and intelligence of young people will be crucial in tackling the climate crisis, so we are very excited to see what entrants have to say in response to the topics that have been set for 2020.”

The National Centre for Writing launches two new awards for early career writers

The National Centre for Writing (NCW) has today (Monday 25th November) launched two new awards for writers at the beginning of their careers: The University of East Anglia (UEA) New Form Writing Award and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship.

The UEA New Form Writing Award, worth £4,000 to the winner, will champion an innovative and daring new voice in fiction. It will be awarded to a writer at the beginning of their career whose work might collaborate with other art-forms or in site specific/site responsive ways, experiment with forms of performance or print, challenge traditional form or inhabit a digital space. The winner will also receive a bespoke period of development, which may include mentoring, learning opportunities and promotional platforms, depending on their ambition and need.

The Laura Kinsella Fellowship, also worth £4,000, has been set up to support writers experiencing limiting circumstances or whose voices are underrepresented in mainstream literary fiction. It will be awarded to one exceptionally talented early career writer of literary fiction, who will also benefit from a bespoke programme of professional development and promotional opportunities. This may include space and time to write, mentoring, residency or research trips, introductions to the industry or engagement with existing NCW programmes.

These two new prizes will fall under the NCW’s Early Career Awards, which represents a new model for literary prizes combining the power of a private trust with the unique year-round programme of NCW. The Desmond Elliott Prize, the running of which has been taken on by the NCW as announced in September of this year, is the flagship in the NCW’s Early Career Awards portfolio.

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director, National Centre for Writing said:

“Most writers face challenges at the beginnings of their careers, but these challenges can be exacerbated by other factors – for example, by coming from a group underrepresented in literary fiction, or by choosing to write more unusual, experimental work. These two new awards aim to improve access to opportunity for early career writers facing these particular difficulties. Through them, we are aiming to provide comprehensive, tailored programmes of support, where the financial assistance is one element of a wider package, to help promising talent overcome these specific, identified barriers to publication.”

Arts Council England (ACE) will increase the impact of the Early Career 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.

Professor Henry Sutton, Director of Creative Writing at UEA, said:

‘New opportunities and collaborations for literary writing and sustainability are rapidly opening up as the digital revolution continues to reshape both creation and dissemination. This award aims to embrace that change and support emerging writers who are exploring radically new literary models and frontiers. This is a wonderful opportunity to help shape the literary landscape of the future, and we are delighted to be working on this immensely important scheme with our longstanding partners National Centre for Writing, and with ACE support.’

Alice Jolly from the Laura Kinsella Foundation, said:

‘In the world of writing and publishing, it is vitally important that we hear all of the voices. The Laura Kinsella Foundation is thrilled to support the National Centre of Writing in providing opportunities for early career writers of literary fiction who are facing particular challenges.’

The submissions deadline for both prizes is Friday 17th January. Both prizes are free to enter. Both are open to writers who live in England at the time of application and until at least June 2021, are over the age of 18, have not published a debut novel or short story collection, and propose a clear case for support.

For further information about the submissions process, please visit:


We’re hiring: Office and Campaigns Assistant

Are you looking for your first step into the PR industry? Do you want to gain valuable insight and experience in public relations? Are you passionate about culture and entertainment? Riot Communications is seeking enthusiastic and energetic self-starters to assist our team.

About Riot Communications:

Riot specialises in culture and entertainment PR because, like our clients, we want to make a positive impact in the world. We are purpose and integrity driven: we passionately believe that both culture and entertainment help promote empathy, creativity, respect for others and joy. We are guided by the four principles of the Riot ethos: intelligence, passion, collaboration and disruption which drives everything we do: from the clients we choose to work with, how we deliver our work and who we hire.

We work with some of the best creatives in the world – writers, artists, actors and visionaries. Clients include Penguin Random House, Aardman, Mammoth Screen, DeepMind, Moomin Characters, The Astrid Lindgren Company, London Review of Books, and the Royal Society. Recent work includes: hosting A-list talent such as Jennifer Saunders, Taron Egerton and Rosamund Pike at the world premiere of Moominvalley in Finland; securing Stormzy for the annual #PenguinPresents showcase at the London Palladium; masterminding the launch of the new book by the legendary Philip Pullman; getting more kids into science promoting the annual Christmas Lectures on the BBC; and finding the most exciting new fiction voice of the year.

We actively support BME PR Pros, the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Women in PR because…well, if it needs to be explained, we are probably not the right agency for you.

About the role:

You will be in charge of office administrative duties to ensure the smooth running of the office, as well as assisting the team on the execution of various PR campaigns as required. You will receive on-the-job training, the responsibility and opportunity to help run an office and deliver projects and a one-to-one line manager to help guide your development.

Examples of office administration responsibilities:

  • Answering phone calls politely and promptly – dealing with enquiries, message taking
  • Managing post efficiently – incoming and out-going
  • Accurately booking couriers, travel and accommodation for team members and clients when required
  • Co-ordinating mailings
  • Using Microsoft office packages, Dropbox and other pieces of administrative software
  • Booking meeting rooms and providing refreshments, setting up AV equipment
  • Distributing newspapers among the team
  • Ordering and managing office supplies
  • Creating timesheet reports using our online project management app, Paymo
  • Managing expenses
  • Processing invoices

Examples of campaign administration responsibilities:

  • Managing press cuttings that come through our cutting’s agency, Kantar media, twice a day. Creating and formatting coverage reports for our clients
  • Co-ordinating mailings and producing mailing lists using our media database
  • Press release distribution – mailing of press releases to relevant individuals and outlets via our media database, Gorkana
  • Keeping project meeting agendas, transcribing meeting notes and taking meeting minutes as appropriate
  • Managing event logistics including for example venue hire, photographers, taxi and hotel bookings
  • Managing launch/event invite lists including mailings and RSVPs
  • Keeping campaign budget spreadsheets up to date

You will have at least one year’s experience of office administration or similar in a professional setting. You will have a clear idea of what PR is, why you want to work in this industry and what you can bring to it. You will be a highly motivated, passionate, curious and solutions oriented individual; have exceptional attention to detail; have outstanding multi-tasking skills; be super organised and dependable and have a proactive, can-do approach. You will be unafraid of hard work and mucking in and will enjoy the challenge of working in a fast-paced, creative environment. You will have a natural curiosity for the media and be interested in the ways brands harness consumer trends, culture and current affairs to communicate and influence customers. You will be a digital native and feel very comfortable running social media accounts, for example.

Key skills:

  • Reliability
  • Adaptability
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Proficiency in Microsoft packages and Dropbox
  • Excellent command of written and oral English

The selection process:

We are seeking creative individuals with an ambition to succeed in the PR industry. Your enthusiasm for working at Riot Communications, your flair, can-do attitude and strong work ethic will be evident in your application. You will have at least one year’s experience of office administration or similar in a professional setting.

Interviews will take place at our offices in Bethnal Green. Only candidates invited to interview will receive a reply.

To apply please send us your CV and a short covering letter to Please include ‘Application for Assistant’ in the subject header.  

Deadline for applications is 5pm, Monday 9th December 2019.

Summary of main terms and conditions:

Job title:
Office and Campaigns Assistant – Permanent position


Riot Communications,
Studio 113, The Pill Box,
115 Coventry Road, Bethnal Green,
London, E2 6GG

Full time 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday

25 days plus bank holidays

Hold the plasticine: Aardman’s new look for musical made with Netflix


  • Production Company: Aardman: Four time Academy Award winners, ten time Academy Award nominees, creators of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run, and many more
  • Creators/Directors: Dan Ojari (Slow Derek – Grand Prix: Animated Encounter) and Mikey Please (The Eagleman Stag – BAFTA: Best Animated Short, Marilyn Myller – McLaren Award: Edinburgh Film Festival)
  • Producer: Helen Argo (Tate Movie Project, Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels )
  • Executive Producer: Sarah Cox (Tate Movie Project and BAFTA nominated Heavy Pockets)
  • Logline: When her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse – but ends up discovering who she really is.
  • “When Mikey and Dan first pitched us the concept for Robin Robin we knew instantly that this was a rare and special project that we had to make together. It’s a beautifully crafted stop-frame musical that immediately feels classic whilst being groundbreaking and modern.” — Sarah Cox, Executive Producer.
  • “Together with Aardman, we’re thrilled to celebrate and introduce new generations of families around the world to the craft of stop motion animation through Robin Robin, a magical tale that warms the heart and can be enjoyed by the whole family.” — Alexi Wheeler, Manager of Kids and Family International Originals at Netflix.
  • Robin Robin is currently in production at Aardman’s award-winning studio in the UK and will debut on Netflix in time for the holidays in 2020.
  • A number of Aardman’s beloved films, such as Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Flushed Away, and Shaun the Sheep Movie are currently available for members to enjoy on Netflix in most countries.
  • Robin Robin will join Netflix’s growing family-friendly animated slate, which includes Sergio Pablos’s Klaus (streaming now), Kris Pearn’s The Willoughbys, Glen Keane’s Over The Moon, Henry Selick’s Wendell & Wild, Nora Twomey’s My Father’s Dragon, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Chris Williams’ Jacob and the Sea Beast, and Mark Osborne’s Escape From Hat.

About Netflix: Netflix is the world’s leading streaming entertainment service with over 158 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

About Aardman: Aardman, based in Bristol (UK) and co-founded in 1976 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, is an independent and multi-award-winning studio. It produces feature films, series, advertising, interactive entertainment – such as the ‘visually astonishing’ (The Guardian) console game, 11-11: Memories Retold, and the four-times Gold Cannes Lions-winning StorySign app – and innovative attractions for both the domestic and international market, including a new 4D theatre attraction at Efteling in the Netherlands. Their productions are global in appeal, novel, entertaining, brilliantly characterised and full of charm reflecting the unique talent, energy and personal commitment of the Aardman team. The studio’s work – which includes the creation of much-loved characters including Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph – is often imitated, and yet the company continues to lead the field producing a rare brand of visually stunning content for cinema, broadcasters, digital platforms and live experiences around the world. In November 2018 it became an Employee Owned Organisation, to ensure Aardman remains independent and to secure the creative legacy and culture of the company for many decades to come.

Phoebe Eclair-Powell wins the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting


  • Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s play Shed: Exploded View named the overall winner of the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 
  • Three compelling scripts win in the ‘Judges Award’, ‘Original New Voice’ and ‘International Award’ categories 
  • Two shortlisted plays receive special recognition from the judges  


Today, Monday 4th November 2019, Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s play, SHED: EXPLODED VIEWhas been named the overall winner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting during a ceremony at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. As well as receiving £16,000, Eclair-Powell will work with the Royal Exchange Theatre’s creative team to develop the script 

Eclair-Powell is an award-winning writer from South East London. Her previous plays have had critical acclaim, with one of her shows, FURY, winning the Soho Young Writer’s Award and having an extended run at Soho Theatre due to popular demand. She joins the Bruntwood Prize’s prestigious alumni of playwrights including Katherine Soper, Phil Porter, Duncan Macmillan, Alistair McDowall, Vivienne Franzmann, Anna Jordan, Janice Okoh and Tim X Atack. 

Described by the writer as an “explosion in actionSHED: EXPLODED VIEW, spans 30 years and sees three couples navigate family life, complex relationships and loss. Audiences are invited to make the connections between the characters and feel the impact of violence through a series of non-linear short scenes. 

The play is inspired by Cornelia Parker’s art piece Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View made with the restored contents of a garden shed exploded by the British ArmyParker uses the surviving fragments to create an installation suspended from the ceiling as if captured mid-explosion.  

On winning the overall 2019 Bruntwood Prize, Phoebe Eclair-Powell said: “I began writing this play when I read on a domestic violence blog that someone had been stabbed with a fork in the face and that the fork had stood out and reverberated. It was such a haunting, horrific story and it sat with me for years. It’s taken me three years to write this play. I kept returning to that image and seeing that domestic violence statistics continue to climb and get worse, it became important for me to continue this story. I wrote this script from the heart and I’m so grateful to Bruntwood and to the Royal Exchange Theatre for this award. 

Also announced at the ceremony were  the winners of three Prize categories: AKEDAH by Michael John O’Neill won the debut writer’s category, Original New Voice; GLEE & ME by Stuart Slade was awarded the Judges Award and New York based writer Kimber Lee’s UNTITLED F*CK MISS SA*GON PLAY (SRSLY THIS IS NOT THE TITLE) scooped the International Award, a newly introduced category for the 2019 Prize. Michael John O’Neill, Stuart Slade and Kimber Lee each take home £8,000 and their scripts will begin a development process with the Royal Exchange Theatre. 

The four winning plays were judged and chosen from a 15-strong shortlist of established, emerging and debut playwrights.  

Due to the high calibre of scripts in this year’s record-breaking entries, the judges also awarded Dave Harris and Jody O’Neill £4,000 each as a commendation for their captivating playsTAMBO & BONES and BALLYBAILE respectively 

Bryony ShanahanJoint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre and judge for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, said: “This year’s Bruntwood shortlist was exceptional, the plays continually surprised us as judges both in subject matter and in form; they felt alive, contemporary and kept us debating for hours. SHED: EXPLODED VIEW is ambitious, nuanced and goes right to the heart of the human experience. When I first read it, it felt like a punch to the guts – it is precise and considered, a beautiful tapestry of ideas meticulously woven together, but it is also astonishingly emotional. Phoebe’s characters are so well drawn and she deals with themes of female trauma with dignity, offering hope to her characters and the audience along the way. The non-linear form of her play makes for a searing and exhilarating experience, and her words – as the title suggests – explode from the page. This is a beautifully crafted piece of brave, bold and aspirational writing. I am delighted for Phoebe and cannot wait to see where this play goes next. 

Kate Vokes, Director of Social Impact at Bruntwood, added: “Bruntwood is a longstanding champion of the arts, since arts and culture are what bring our cities to life. Our partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre helps nurture new and established creative talent, and I’m delighted to see the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting going from strength to strength; we received a record number of entries this year, of exceptionally high quality. Phoebe Eclair-Powell has written a play that I found deeply moving and I’m looking forward to seeing her and our other three Prize winners continue to make their mark in the industry.” 

The Winning Plays 

1. Overall Winner: 

 SHED: EXPLODED VIEW by Phoebe Eclair-Powell 

SHED: EXPLODED VIEW is a jigsaw play that invites 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. Phoebe Eclair-Powell is a writer from South East London who was made resident playwright at Soho Theatre for 2016 and 2017 through the Channel 4 Playwright scheme. Phoebe also writes for Channel 4 Continuing Drama HOLLYOAKS. 

The judges said: This script is gut-wrenchingly moving, stark in its violence and thrilling in its narrative quickness.  The observation of the human condition is beautiful, vivid and profound.  It is a staggeringly ambitious piece of work with a very clear concept and sense of theatricality. It stays with you long after the experience within it.” 

2. Judges Award 

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. 

The judges said: “GLEE & ME is a beautifully empathetic piece of writing, with a character who weaves her way into your life and becomes your best friend. This is an important play about strength, compassion, and the human spirit.” 

3. Original New Voice (for debut writers) 

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. 


The judges said: “There are lovely flashes of dialogue and a sense of theatrical ambition throughout the play.  The conversations are stimulating and thought provoking and the stunning ending stays with us long after.” 

4. International Award: 


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 MOANAwith a smart political commentary. 

The judges said: “Full of sharp wit, this play is absolutely staring into the belly of the beast in society in a human, warm, and utterly engaging way.” 

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.