WGGB is delighted to present its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing on Friday 4 March 2022 at the Almeida Theatre in London.
The winners in the 17th year of the awards are artistic directors, executive producers and leaders in the theatre industry.
All have been undaunted in the face of the pandemic and are united by their compassion, generosity and dedication to bringing the best new work to the stage.
Not only have they worked hard to support playwrights, but they have also surmounted incredible odds to support their local communities throughout the ongoing pandemic.
The Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards were developed by playwrights Mark Ravenhill and David James (former Chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee) to give WGGB members the opportunity to publicly thank those who have given them a positive experience in new writing over the previous year.
They are named in honour of playwright Olwen Wymark, passionate supporter of WGGB and former Chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee, who died in 2013.
David James, who has organised the awards since 2005, said: “Writing thrives when it is encouraged and, as theatres continue to face down the pandemic, encouraging writers has never been more important.
“In the 17th year of the awards, we are pleased to celebrate five nominees who have all provided steadfast support through challenging times.”
The winners of the 17th annual awards are:
Nominated by WGGB member Caroline Summerfield for supporting her through the Covid-19 closure of theatres, providing invaluable advice and championing her work.
Caroline Summerfield said: “Bill Cronshaw has been a most generous and supportive mentor for me during the last year, a year in which I seriously considered abandoning my career as a playwright due to the Covid-19 closure of theatres. Being able to talk to and discuss my options and my work with Bill made me realise that I should not do so.
“Bill provided me with a role model and encouraged me to continue. On a practical level, he shared his more than 30 years of experience in the theatre world. This provided me with invaluable guidance as I found that I needed to embark on self-production to keep my playwriting career afloat. This has led to several artistic and financial successes for me during this last year – including securing Arts Council funding, creating multiple episodes of daily broadcast The Gardening Times and More Gardening Times, adapting my stage play Myself and Other Parts for radio, securing a production slot for my touring play Jane Austen and the Cheltonians, and writing a new full-length stage play. Without Bill’s mentoring I would not have done so.”
Nominated by WGGB member Olu Alakija for his work producing his short plays at Live Theatre and encouraging his creative development.
Olu Alakija said: “Graeme’s support of my writing in the last 12 months has been amazing. After selecting my short play Watching and Waiting from an open submission call for the 10 Minutes To…Call Home Live Wired digital project, he was very supportive in getting the play produced, listening to and responding to any concerns that I had and finding the right actor in order to make the play a success. Following this, Graeme commissioned my play The End of Term Show for 5 Plays of Christmas, which he brilliantly directed, as well as providing excellent dramaturgical notes and cast. I’m also delighted to have been asked by Graeme to work on a long-term project which I’m very excited about.
“Graeme’s support throughout this past tumultuous year has been very uplifting and empowering to me as a writer. I am pleased that he is receiving the Olwen Wymark Award for his dedication, encouragement, creativity, hard work and support, not just to me but for many other emerging playwrights and creatives in the last – extremely challenging – 12 months.”
Nominated by WGGB member Nicholas McInerny for his constant support for his play Gregory’s Ashes.
Nicholas McInerny said: “As a middle-aged writer, I have really struggled over the past 10 years. I told myself I would give up if I haven’t produced some significant piece of work by the age of 60. Just before that auspicious date, I wrote my bravest and boldest play, Gregory’s Ashes, and it was Liam who encouraged, supported and challenged me along the way.
“It is as Director of his company, CampFire Theatre, that Liam has had most impact on Gregory’s Ashes. CampFire started as a project responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and the isolation LGBTQ+ people have felt during this period. Using social media to platform stories of warmth, campery and love in the face of adversity from across the world, Liam champions LGBTQ+ voices which aren’t being heard in the mainstream.
“As much as I was excited to share Gregory’s Ashes, I was terrified too. Liam gave me confidence by organising an online reading, introducing me to expert consultants, cast and director, and putting together an ACE application. He made me believe I had something to say and that we could shout it from the rooftops together. For that reason, I am thrilled that he is receiving the Olwen Wymark Award.”
Nominated by WGGB member Alun Saunders for their work supporting freelancers and their local community during the pandemic.
Alun Saunders said: “I don’t need to elaborate on how challenging the past 18 months has been for freelancers, particularly in theatre. Tamara Harvey and Liam Evans-Ford have thrown open their (metaphoric) doors to their local community, transforming Theatr Clwyd into a welcoming hub for anybody who might find it a useful point of contact. They have gone the extra mile to reach out to artists at all points throughout the lockdowns, reminding us that they’re there to listen to our concerns. I want to make it known that we see this and are grateful.
“I was recently commissioned by Theatr Clwyd to write a piece for Curtain Up, which saw 15 writers commissioned (and paid a fair fee) to write a 10-minute piece. The process of creating and writing these pieces was handled with the utmost care and consideration for each individual’s needs. The playwrights chosen were incredibly diverse in terms of identity, and it was an absolute thrill to be involved in such a production. I am humbled by the care and attention which Tamara and Liam have given writers like me – and, importantly, who are unlike me – and this is why I wanted to nominate them for an Olwen Wymark Award.”
Find out more about the awards.
Photo: Kate Glasspool