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 www.writeaplay.co.uk 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. writeaplay.co.uk

  • 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 awards@nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk

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 www.nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk. 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.

We’re hiring: Senior Campaigns Manager

Riot Communications
Senior Campaigns Manager – permanent, based in London
Salary – £ Competitive 

Are you passionate about culture and entertainment? Have you got a track record in comms? Riot Communications is hiring. 

We are looking for an experienced communications professional to be our next Senior Campaigns Manager.  You will be responsible for creating and implementing PR campaigns of exceptional quality that are in line with our agency ethos: intelligent, passionate, collaborative, and disruptive. You will work with some of the best creatives in the world – writers, artists, actors and visionaries. In turn, you will be part of a team of highly skilled colleagues, in a supportive environment with emphasis on your personal training and career development. As part of a small, growing company, you will be exposed to a 360-degree view of what it takes to build a successful agency.

About the role:

Essential skills:
Media relations
Talent and client management
Copywriting skills
Project management
Events management
Delegation skills
Negotiation skills
Strategic planning

Key responsibilities: 

  • Lead and project manage campaigns independently and as part of a team, delegating as required
  • Pitch our clients and their work succinctly and creatively leading to demonstrable high-quality coverage 
  • Create bespoke, strategic and creative publicity campaigns for specific projects identifying media angles and media targets 
  • Negotiate scopes of work and time management with clients 
  • Liaise directly with clients and manage your own clients 
  • Liaise directly with and manage talent 
  • Organise and attend regular journalist/influencer meetings, building, nurturing and sustaining media and influencer contacts 
  • Organise and implement events
  • Help to generate and participate in new business activities 
  • Manage personal administration


About you: 

  • Be a proactive self-starter – you’ll be personally motivated and get things done before being asked 
  • Be super-organised 
  • Have excellent attention to detail 
  • Be an exceptional communicator in all mediums – writing clear, creative copy is vital as is a natural social ability on the phone and in person
  • Have experience of effectively delegating to junior team members 
  • Be curious – you will go out of your way to discover new things, and will be eager to question and to learn 
  • Be imaginative and thoughtful – your approach to work will be considered, and you will think about things laterally
  • Be able to work independently and as part of a small company that places teamwork at the heart of the agency 
  • Have entrepreneurial flair to spot creative and commercial opportunities

Essential Criteria:

  • Minimum 4-5 years of solid PR experience either in-house or at an agency
  • A passion for culture and entertainment
  • Proven media relations skills
  • Proven copywriting skills
  • Proven client-management skills


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.

If you want to impact the world in a positive way, and this job description sounds like you, we’d love to hear from you. Please apply in writing to info@riotcommunications.com with a CV and a covering letter explaining why you should be our Senior Campaigns Manager, including your current salary and notice period by 5pm, Friday 11th October 2019. Only candidates invited to interview will receive a reply.

Caroline Criado Perez’s ground-breaking gender bias exposé wins 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Judges praise Criado Perez for drawing together compelling research to reveal systemic discrimination

On Monday 23rd September 2019, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (Chatto & Windus) by writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez, becomes the 32nd winner of the prestigious Royal Society Science Books Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment.

In Invisible Women, Criado Perez brings together for the first time a range of case studies, stories and new research from around the world that highlights the ways women are ‘forgotten’ on a daily basis. From government policy and medical research to technology, media and workplaces, she exposes to readers the lack of gender-specific data that has unintentionally created a world biased against women.

Criado Perez presents a clear case for policy change by exploring the myriad ways the world is designed for men; from the size of mobile phones to women being more likely to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack. Invisible Women is a rallying cry to close this gap by paying attention to the whole population, not just half, and ensure that our world is constructed for everybody.

Criado Perez becomes the fifth woman to scoop the Prize in as many years, following last year’s winner Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (Inventing Ourselves, 2018), Cordelia Fine (Testosterone Rex, 2017), Andrea Wulf (The Invention of Nature, 2016) and Gaia Vince (Adventures in the Anthropocene, 2015). The panel of judges praised the 35-year-old writer for challenging their worldview and perceptions by revealing the systemic discrimination caused by a data gap.

Chair of this year’s judging panel, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt FRS, Principal and Professorial Research Fellow in Computer Science at Jesus College, University of Oxford, said: “Invisible Women is a brilliant exposé of how the world is designed around the default male. Caroline Criado Perez writes with energy and style, every page full of facts and data that support her fundamental contention that in a world built for and by men gender data gaps, biases and blind spots are everywhere. As an AI researcher and data scientist, it makes me look at my field afresh. Read it and be prepared to think again.”

Fellow judge and bestselling author Dorothy Koomson added: “Invisible Women shows quite clearly: modern-day life has been built for one particular type of person and if you do not fit that type, the world doesn’t work properly for you. From tech that doesn’t recognise feminine pitched voices to health symptoms that are dismissed and often prove to be fatal; from work situations that are set up to prevent women being promoted to public transport networks that make life harder for the people who use them most, we have a real world problem that needs to be talked about. And changed. This important and vital book is only the beginning of the conversations we need to be having about how to make sure modern life works properly for everyone, no matter who they are. It’s definitely a worthy winner.”

Professor Brian Cox OBE FRS, The Royal Society’s Professor for Public Engagement in Science, hosted the awards ceremony at The Royal Society at which Criado Perez’s book was announced winner. He commented: “We look to science to provide objectivity and curb our human biases. To be reminded then – as Caroline’s book so forcefully does – that our modern society is built upon a foundation of incomplete and often biased data, is cause for real reflection, not just for readers of popular science writing, but for the science community too. This book proves why contemporary science writing is vital and relevant and has an important role to play in challenging us to do better.”

Caroline Criado Perez received a cheque for £25,000 at the ceremony and the five shortlisted authors were each awarded £2,500. Invisible Women is Criado Perez’s second book, following the well-received Do it like a Woman.

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt FRS was joined on the judging panel by: Dr Shukry James Habib, stem cell specialist and Royal Society University Research Fellow; bestselling author, Dorothy Koomson; actor and science communicator, Stephen McGann and Gwyneth Williams, former Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra.

Founded in 1988, the Prize is the only major international award that celebrates popular science writing for a non-specialist audience. Over three decades, it has championed writers such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould and Brian Greene and last year’s winner Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.

Award-winning animations studio Aardman appoints Sean Clarke as MD

Clarke has headed the studio’s international rights and marketing department for over a decade

Bristol, UK – Aardman, the multi-award-winning, independent animation studio, has today (Thursday 19th September) announced the successor to David Sproxton, who is stepping back from the MD role after 43 years at the helm of the organisation.

The role is to be taken up by Sean Clarke, who has been at the company for over 20 years and headed up the International Rights and Marketing department for over a decade.

Famous worldwide for its unique and entertaining productions, Aardman is home to much-loved characters including Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph – as well as being the creative powerhouse behind dynamic and cutting-edge content for advertising partners, digital platforms, games developers and immersive entertainment experiences for a global audience. Co-founded by Peter Lord and David Sproxton in 1976, the company transitioned into Employee Ownership in November 2018 in order to secure its creative and cultural legacy for decades to come.

David Sproxton, co-founder of Aardman, commented: “We were determined to find the best possible candidate for the role, which is critical for securing the studio’s future especially in its Employee Owned incarnation. I am delighted that Sean cut through very strong competition to take my place. He has a deep understanding of the creative culture at Aardman – which will ensure continuity – in addition to a very strong, clear and exciting strategy to take the company forward, so it will certainly not be resting on its laurels. There are wonderful projects on the slate with new creative talent behind them and the future looks very bright. I am more than confident that with Sean leading the Executive Board the company will thrive.”

Sproxton will continue his connection with the studio by sitting on the Trustee Board as well as applying his decades of film-making experience to a number of projects as a consultant.

Peter Lord, co-founder and Creative Director of Aardman, added: “I’m absolutely delighted that Sean Clarke is going to continue his wonderful work at Aardman, following in the footsteps of Dave Sproxton, my long-term partner and co-founder. In a rich world of new opportunities, Sean takes the helm of a dynamic, creatively-led company in a very strong position. Not content to rely on our considerable heritage, we are pioneering a slate of the best in animation entertainment and Sean is the perfect candidate to handle its rich diversity and lead us on to ever-greater things. Most importantly, along with his expertise in the global marketplace, he brings a deep understanding of the legacy and culture of Aardman. Sean will thrive on the challenge and excitement of leading a company, which is not only dedicated to creativity but also Employee Owned by its incredibly motivated workforce.”

Sean Clarke joined Aardman as Head of Consumer Products in 1998, after several years as UK Licensing Director for Disney Consumer Products. In 2008, he became Head of Rights & Brand Development, responsible for global brand development and distribution of Aardman and third-party rights across all platforms: film, TV, DVD & digital, merchandising & licensing, and themed attractions and live events. He was instrumental in developing Aardman’s rights team, which now includes 30 people and works across 170 territories worldwide; the launch of the studio’s YouTube channels, which currently exceed 1.2 billion views annually; and the studio diversifying into new areas of immersive storytelling, including its first Shaun the Sheep Land which opened in Sweden in 2015.

Sean Clarke, Aardman’s new MD, commented: “It’s an honour to be taking on the MD role and a privilege to be leading Aardman in this exciting new era of Employee Ownership. The studio’s strength has always been in its visionary creativity and storytelling expertise which, combined, mean that we are able to adapt to new platforms and changes in the way we consume entertainment whilst delivering consistently inspiring, funny and engaging animation. Ensuring that our independent spirit and our unique blend of innovation and integrity remain at the heart of everything we do – while nurturing and supporting sensational new creatives alongside our existing roster of incredible talent – will be a guiding principle.”

Aardman has a number of new projects about to launch, including its latest film, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, which is distributed by StudioCanal and opening in UK cinemas on Friday 18th October. The studio’s first major piece of original content for the theme park market, a 4D immersive experience with brand new characters, will open at Efteling: World of Wonders in the Netherlands at the end of November.

British parents feel ‘under pressure’ to ensure children do better than they did in school


  • New research shows three quarters of British parents feel ‘under pressure’ to make sure their child excels in their schoolwork and exams
  • 62% of parents put their children’s work before their own, with 22% admitting that homework puts strain on home life
  • Maths requires the most time and attention for most parents and children
  • Almost half (47%) of children surveyed admit they want their parents’ help with homework

Yesterday, Collins  announced the results of research into how much time and effort parents invest in their children’s school work. The survey, released as families prepare to go back to school this autumn, revealed that three quarters of British parents feel ‘under pressure’ to make sure their child does well with school work and exams.

A study of 1,000 parents and 1,000 children in school years 1-11 found that over a third of parents said that their youngsters’ success is important to them because they want them to do better at school than they did. The research also found almost one quarter of households feel ‘strained’ due to the demands of homework, with one quarter saying it impacts on their quality family time together.

The final year of primary school was pinpointed as the most pressured time for both parents and children, with the leap to secondary school having an impact on family life.

Over half of respondents said that a child’s homework is regularly the centre of family conversations. 62% of mums and dads also admitted that they put their child’s work before their own work.

Maths required the most time and attention, with 45 per cent of parents admitting they spend the longest time helping their children with this subject. English comes in second place at 27%.

Almost half (47 per cent) of primary school children would like their parent’s help with homework, as would 44 per cent of secondary school students.

Seven in 10 students, both primary (71 per cent) and secondary (73 per cent) agree their parents’ support helps them do better at school and over one third – 35 per cent of primary school children and 37 per cent of secondary – would struggle on their own.

The research was commissioned by Collins, leading publisher of school, homework and revision books. Colin Hughes, Managing Director of Collins said: “We know that parents care deeply about how their children are faring at school, which makes them feel under pressure to ensure their children thrive. It’s important to note, though, that even though homework can create strain at home, most children want their parents’ help. As families prepare for the new school year, we can provide support and encouragement both to parents and school children that will help take off some of the pressure.”

According to 42% of parents, their main concern when it comes to their child’s education, is their confidence being affected if they don’t do well, whilst over two thirds fear their child may not get the grades they want or need.

A further 40% of parents said they worry their child’s grades will affect what people think of their parenting skills and four in five said one of the proudest moments of being a parent is seeing their child ‘thrive’ in education.

Three in 10 parents admitted to comparing their child’s success to others, and believe social media adds to the pressure they feel. Similarly, over one third believe social media only shows the positives, with 26% of mums and dads saying that other parents shouldn’t post updates on their child’s behalf. In the words of one parent: “I feel it’s unnecessary to brag about how well children do at school as it puts pressure on parents and can make them feel inadequate.”

Colin Hughes added, “As well as working closely with schools, we understand how difficult it can be for a parent navigating the education system. Collins offer a wide range of books that help families find answers to questions about homework and revision quickly and easily. We hope to ease some of the pressures parents feel under at key times during their child’s school journey.”

Shortlist for The Royal Society Science Book Prize 2019 revealed


  • Six game-changing reads for curious minds in the running for prestigious prize for popular science writing.
  • Shortlisted titles question status quo and challenge readers’ perspectives – from upturning the laws of nature to uncovering unknown gender biases shaping our world today.
  • “Within these titles we encounter triumph and tragedy, hope and despair, enlightenment and enduring mysteries. These writers open up our understanding of the world in which we live and remind us of the important discoveries taking place around us every day.” – Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt FRS, 2019 Chair of Judges.

The Royal Society today, Tuesday 27th August, reveals the shortlist for The Royal Society Science Book Prize 2019 sponsored by Insight Investment, celebrating the very best in popular science writing from around the world for a non-specialist audience. This year’s six shortlisted books, chosen from over 170 submissions, ask readers to rethink the way they view both themselves and the world around them, whilst their wide-ranging subject matter reflects the sheer breadth of science writing published today.

The shortlisted authors, many of whom are active science communicators, comprise two debut authors (Monty Lyman, Tim Smedley), a mathematician (Steven Strogatz), writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner (Caroline Criado Perez), and two physicists (Paul Steinhardt, John Gribbin) practising theoretical science and astrophysics respectively. Only one of the authors,  John Gribbin, has previously been nominated for the Prize, longlisted with In Search of the Multiverse (2010) and Deep Simplicity (2005), and shortlisted with The Stuff of the Universe along with Martin Rees (1991) and The Omega Point (1988).

The judges praised the six authors on the rigorous scientific content of their books, conveyed through elegant writing and engaging storytelling. They pointed to each book’s active role in questioning the status quo, by introducing practical solutions to tackling big issues such as gender politics and pollution, and by introducing complex scientific breakthroughs and theories – from the simple interpretations of the quantum world to proving the existence of an impossible form of matter  – in an accessible way for lay readers.

The full 2019 shortlist is (in order of author surname):

  • Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez (Chatto & Windus)
  • Six Impossible Things: The ‘Quanta of Solace’ and the Mysteries of the Subatomic World by John Gribbin (Icon Books)
  • The Remarkable Life of the Skin: An Intimate Journey Across Our Surface by Monty Lyman (Bantam Press)
  • Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution by Tim Smedley (Bloomsbury Sigma)
  • The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter by Paul Steinhardt (Simon & Schuster)
  • Infinite Powers: The Story of Calculus – The Language of the Universe by Steven Strogatz (Atlantic Books)

Chair of this year’s judging panel, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Principal and Professorial Research Fellow in Computer Science at Jesus College, University of Oxford, comments:

“This year’s shortlist is a great collection of popular science writing. Each book on the list presents an area of science that is fascinating, enthralling and important: from the mysteries of the quantum universe to the air we breathe, from the way that data encodes bias to the skin that is our largest organ, from the infinite power of calculus to new kinds of matter, our shortlist will appeal to all.

“Within these titles we encounter triumph and tragedy, hope and despair, enlightenment and enduring mysteries. The writers share great stories, rooted in outstanding research. They open up our understanding of the world in which we live and remind us of the important discoveries taking place around us every day.”

Two books that capture the zeitgeist and present clear cases for policy change feature on the list. Writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez is shortlisted for her second book, Invisible Women: a book exploring the myriad ways the world is designed for men – from the size of mobile phones to the design of air bags – using compelling new research, case studies and statistics. Meanwhile, sustainability journalist Tim Smedley’s first book, Clearing the Air, presents insights from the scientists, countries and politicians leading the fight against air pollution and shares practical ways in which readers can proactively contribute to creating a cleaner future. In The Remarkable Life of the Skin, fellow debut author and Junior Doctor in Acute General Medicine at Oxford University Hospitals, Monty Lyman, uses his specialism as a dermatologist to create the first popular science guide to the many layers of the body’s largest and fastest growing organ through the lenses of science, sociology and history.

Two other books on the list that will appeal to popular science enthusiasts deal with game-changing theories and discoveries in the field of physics. In Six Impossible Things: The ‘Quanta of Solace’ and the Mysteries of the Subatomic World, John Gribbin – established science writer and Visiting Fellow at the University of Sussex – delivers a short, common-sense guide that aims to explain Quantum Physics through six theories – earning it the nickname the ‘TARDIS of popular science books’ by popular science author Brian Clegg. Meanwhile, American physicist Paul Steinhardt – currently Albert Einstein professor at Princeton University – writes in The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter about his discovery of a new kind of matter – the quasicrystal – which shattered centuries-old laws of nature, proving that there’s a whole new world of forms of matter.

Finally, a mathematician appears on the shortlist for the third year running, with the inclusion of Infinite Powers by American professor of applied mathematics, Steven Strogatz, whose history of calculus maps the impact that this branch of mathematics has had on our contemporary world.

Four out of the six books on the shortlist come from independent publishers. An Icon Books title makes it onto the list for the second time in two years, following Cordelia Fine’s win with Testosterone Rex in 2017. Penguin Random House has titles from two imprints (Chatto & Windus and Bantam Press).

Founded in 1988, the Prize – well-loved and respected in the popular science community – boasts an illustrious list of former winners including Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything, 2014), Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel, 1998), the late Stephen Hawking (The Universe in a Nutshell, 2002), Mark Miodownik (Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World, 2014), , Andrea Wulf (The Invention of Nature, 2016), Cordelia Fine (Testosterone Rex, 2017) and Sarah-Jane Blakemore (Inventing Ourselves, 2018).

Alongside Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the 2019 judging panel comprises: Dr Shukry James Habib, stem cell specialist and Royal Society University Research Fellow; bestselling author, Dorothy Koomson; actor and science communicator, Stephen McGann and Gwyneth Williams, former controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra.

The winner of the 2019 Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony at The Royal Society on Monday 23rd September 2019, hosted by Professor Brian Cox OBE FRS, The Royal Society’s Professor for Public Engagement in Science. The winner will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.

Talking about the r-word (that’s race btw)


Following an interview about her career in the Independent this week, Riot MD Preena Gadher discusses why it’s important to talk about race at work. 

Talking about race is never easy – for the person doing the talking or the people listening. It tends to make everyone shift uncomfortably in their seats.

For a long time, I avoided it: I have gained lots of experience over the ten years of running a successful business which I could share, so why should I talk about race? After all, it is only one aspect of who I am. The fear of a backlash when you talk about race is very real too; some people even feel that in speaking out, they are risking career suicide. Read Reni-Eddo Lodge’s superb book to understand what this really feels like, and how to become an ally.

But when you are the only one in the room, something strange happens: there is often an assumption that you are the expert, which can weigh very heavily, though the moment you point out bias when you see it, the mood turns, and a tidal wave of isolation threatens to submerge you. You ask yourself: I’ve got so many great ideas to share, is it really my job to challenge this? Is it worth rocking the boat?

For years I have grappled with this, not least as I have worked, and do still work in industries where almost everyone is white – publishing and PR. But one day, a wise soul told me, as I bemoaned my dilemma with genuine anguish, that if you have a platform, you have a responsibility. It hit me like a truck and after several weeks of soul searching, I realised that talking about race was not optional.

That’s why I became a mentor for BME PR Pros in their mission to diversify the PR talent pool, and continue to champion their work, and why at Riot, we support The Taylor Bennett Foundation, offering PR experience to the next generation of our workforce – sure, we don’t have as much money as the big agencies to give them, but I can openly share my very real experience of navigating a career when there is no-one else around who looks like you. I wish I had had that when I first started out. And that’s also why I talked to the Independent about my experience this week.

Cue the haters…but hopefully the allies too.

London Review of Books Announces 40th Anniversary Celebrations


  • Magazine unveils headline events including a live edition of the Talking Politics podcast in the week of the Brexit deadline, with Rory Stewart; and the UK debut of the LRB’s New York series ‘Against the Grain’ with Anne Carson, Nico Muhly and Paul Muldoon, at Southbank Centre.
  • London Review of Books: An Incomplete History, a selection of never-before-seen letters, typescripts and artefacts from archives and personal collections in the UK and the US, will be published on 3 October. A launch event with Mary-Kay Wilmers, Nicholas Spice, Andrew O’Hagan and special guests will take place at Conway Hall.
  • Two anniversary issues of the LRB will be published in October.
  • Birthday gifts to include a limited edition facsimile of the first ever issue, dated 25 October 1979, featuring writing by William Empson, Emma Rothschild, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes – plus Wynne Godley asking ‘if Britain will have to withdraw from Europe’.
  • The autumn will also see the relaunch of lrb.co.uk for the first time in a decade, with a comprehensive overhaul of the LRB’s web presence.

The London Review of Books, Europe’s leading magazine of culture and ideas, has today, Wednesday 31 July, announced the highlights of its programme of 40th anniversary activities, including events at the London Review Bookshop and beyond; the first ever history of the LRB, a coffee table book to be published by Faber and Faber; two special issues of the magazine, available from Wednesday 16 and Wednesday 30 October; and, looking forwards as well as back, the relaunch of the LRB website.

The month-long celebrations will begin with a launch event for London Review of Books: An Incomplete History at Conway Hall on Monday 7 October.

The book, a selection of unusual and resonant literary artefacts, offers an intimate insight into the evolution of the LRB and its relationships with some of the most important writers and thinkers of recent times, including Isaiah Berlin, Angela Carter, Bruce Chatwin, Jenny Diski, Martha Gellhorn, Christopher Hitchens, Frank Kermode, Oliver Sacks and Edward Said, plus the occasional prime minister and/or Nobel Prize-winner. Full of facsimiles of the letters, notebooks, drawings, postcards, fieldnotes, typescripts and, eventually, issues, in which publishing triumphs and disasters have played out for four decades, it also contains more than 100 captions and commentaries by the LRB’s editors, writers and friends, and introductory essays by Mary-Kay Wilmers (one of the paper’s founders and its editor since 1992) and editor-at-large Andrew O’Hagan.

The public launch will see Wilmers, O’Hagan and special guests from the paper’s past and present interviewed by LRB publisher Nicholas Spice about the life and times of the legendary paper, on Monday 7 October.

Mary-Kay Wilmers said: ‘Back in 1979, I’m not sure any of us would have held out much hope that the paper would still be going 40 years later. Yet here we are, with a circulation that’s grown from the low thousands to more than 75,000, new generations of writers and editors, and a new website that I don’t entirely disapprove of. The LRB’s future looks bright. What I’m less sure of is whether we’ve ever managed to produce another issue as good as the first one.’

A limited edition facsimile of Vol. 1 No. 1 will be part of a range of anniversary gifts, some featuring work by the founding designer of the LRB, the late Peter Campbell, exclusively available at the London Review Bookshop and on the LRB’s online store. From August through to the end of October, a year’s subscription to the LRB (plus a free tote bag) costs just £40/$40.

The London Review Bookshop will host a series of ‘birthday conversations’ throughout October, with star contributors and editors reflecting on the last four decades.

A live edition of the Talking Politics podcast, produced in partnership with the LRB, will see Rory Stewart interviewed by regular presenters David Runciman and Helen Thompson at a venue in Westminster in the week of the Brexit deadline.

The anniversary celebrations conclude with an evening of readings and music at Southbank Centre on 30 October. The LRB is bringing ‘Against the Grain’, the acclaimed literary-music series it presents in partnership with National Sawdust in Brooklyn, to the UK for the first time. Curated and presented by Paul Muldoon, it pairs writers with musicians to discuss and create art that speaks to the contrariness and complexity of our moment.

The autumn will also see the LRB relaunch its website for the first time in ten years, with a complete overhaul of its online presence – blog and newsletters, archive and podcasts.

Sign up for the LRB newsletter here for further information about the programme. Details of how to book tickets for the first anniversary events to go on sale may be found on the London Review Bookshop and the Southbank Centre websites. Remaining events will go on sale on Wednesday 14 August.