WGGB presented its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on Friday 25 November 2016.
The Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards, the brainchild of playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give WGGB members the opportunity to publicly thank those who had 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, former Chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee, who has organised the award since 2005, said: “The award was set up to make a statement of how important encouragement is, and is based on the simple premise of saying ‘thank you’. Now in its 12th year, it is a bright spot on the Writers’ Guild’s annual calendar.”
The winners of the 12th annual awards are:
Deborah Dickinson, producer
Nominated by WGGB member Emma Hill, for her support developing Emma’s show #ChipShoptheMusical, which toured real chip shops in Yorkshire earlier this year (Deborah worked with Emma first as Creative Producer at Freedom Studios, and then later as a freelance producer on the tour).
Emma Hill said: “Deborah has encouraged me and supported me through first meeting me as an up-and-coming writer attending the Street Voices 4 writing scheme at Freedom Studios (when she was Creative Producer there and leader of the organisation).
“There were many challenges associated with #ChipShoptheMusical – a genre-crossing, boundary-breaking, site-specific new musical touring real chip shops.
“I cannot imagine the show would ever have been made without Deborah’s encouragement and that I would have been able to develop and showcase my writing.”
Chris Honer (formally Artistic Director of the Library Theatre, Manchester) and Arthur Stafford (development consultant)
Nominated by WGGB members Lindsay Williams and Debbie Oates for their work with the Gap Theatre Project – a grassroots initiative researching and addressing a gap in provision between Manchester and Salford’s fringe theatre and main house venues, seeking professional stepping stones for North West writers and theatre makers.
Lindsay Williams and Debbie Oates said: “Chris Honer helped steer this project, bringing his expertise crafted during 20 years at the helm of Manchester’s Library Theatre. We engaged Arthur Stafford to launch an ambitious research and development project, to run alongside our production Bridging the Gap (which won a prestigious Manchester Theatre Award in 2016). Chris quickly became the person without whom the project would have faltered or folded. Arthur worked tirelessly, forging ahead when we could no longer pay him, driven by a desire to help create more opportunities of paid work for writers in the North West.
“We deeply appreciate Chris and Arthur’s determination and respect for the writing community in the region.”
Donald Hutera, veteran arts journalist, critic and festival curator
Nominated by WGGB member Lorna V for his support in helping her to reignite her career in theatre.
Lorna V said: “Having been shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award in 2000, which led to the Soho Theatre’s writers’ one-year attachment programme and a commission for another play, I hit a major depression when my theatre career didn’t in fact take off.
“Then over a decade later Donald Hutera asked me not only to write something for the dance/performance arts festivals he began curating, but also to perform my work. Since my first stage outing in 2014 I have, through Donald, developed two one-woman projects, which have been performed in venues across London, as well as in Winchester and Oxford.
“I was losing hope as a theatre writer, and then Donald gave me a double opportunity: for my voice as a writer to be heard through me as an emerging actor. For a woman over 50 to contemplate the stage might be madness, but he’s the nurturing genius who gave me the confidence and opportunity to do so.”
Kumiko Mendl, Artistic Director, and Drayton Hiers, Literary Associate, Yellow Earth Theatre Company
Nominated by WGGB member Joyce Lee for mentoring and supporting her as a playwright.
Joyce Lee said: “Over the past four years Yellow Earth, and particularly Kumiko and Drayton, have mentored me as a playwright, nurtured me to write a short play for their celebrated Dim Sum Nights series, and supported me to progress to write a full-length play Zen (Or Shadowtrail). They have put a great amount of their own personal time into encouraging me as a writer – it has been exceptional and inspirational support, above and beyond the call of duty, at a time when funding and opportunity can be few and far between. Without this, I may have given up writing. Yellow Earth has no regular funding, but this does not deter them from supporting British East Asian writers like me who are an underrepresented minority and might not otherwise be heard on stages.”
Gavin Stride, theatre director, producer, commentator and Director of the Farnham Maltings arts centre in Surrey
Nominated by WGGB member Kevin Dyer, for his support of him as a writer.
Kevin Dyer said: “Gavin has commissioned me to write a number of plays, but more than that he trusts me as a finder and developer of ideas that will connect to his company, Farnham Maltings.
“He is a creative producer and director who is interested in working out new methods of commissioning and developing plays in organic and spontaneous ways. So sometimes I write for a specific ‘slot’ in the programme; sometimes he gives me the opportunity to write up an idea for any audience and then later he looks for partners to produce; sometimes he asks me to make plays with him; sometimes I am writing scripts for him.
“He is straight-talking, clear-thinking, yet always ready to say when he is stuck and needs help. He is keen to make design and script work together, and he is always unpretentiously focused on his audience. I have learned a lot from him in this respect and together we can enjoy the process of idea to script to production to final theatre event, and I am included in the whole journey.”
Alison Watt, director, writer, actor, and co-founder and Artistic Director of the Beach Hut theatre company in Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Nominated by WGGB member Jackie Daly, for mentoring and supporting her over the past three years.
Jackie Daly said: “A skilled dramaturg, director, playwright, TV writer, actor, mentor and all-round brilliant human being, Ali has nurtured me – and many other writers – to grow and shine.
“Beach Hut theatre company, which she co-founded, is a charity with a stated purpose of developing community writers. During 2016, Ali has commissioned, supported and directed full productions of 14 community writers’ work. She also tutored the Write Stuff course at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for seven years, and led the creation of Springboard Scriptwriters, a Yorkshire collective of writers who produce and direct their own rehearsed readings. She also runs a small advanced scriptwriters’ group I’m honoured to be part of.
“As a script editor, Ali’s instinct for story is extraordinary, her feedback sensitive and direct. Ali has been my mentor since 2013. With her support I’ve grown from a fumbling storyteller into an emerging writer with momentum and self-belief. I’m winner of the 2016 Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing, and have been selected for writer development programmes by Sheffield Theatres and West Yorkshire Playhouse. None of this would have happened without Ali’s support.”
Gallery photos (of Olwen Wymark Award winners, nominators, Theatre Committee representatives and WGGB staff): Sarah Woodley and Anne Hogben