WGGB presented its annual awards for the encouragement of new playwriting in London on Wednesday 22 February 2023.
Founded by playwrights Mark Ravenhill and David James (former Chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee), the Olwen Wymark Awards were set up 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 award since 2005, said: “Writing thrives when it is encouraged and, as theatres continue to emerge from the challenges of Covid-19 and face cuts in funding, encouraging writers has never been more important. In the 18th year of the awards, we are pleased to celebrate seven nominees who have all provided steadfast support through difficult times.”
The winners of the 18th annual awards are:
John and Viv Berry – directors, Printers Playhouse (PPH)
Nominated by WGGB member Alan Spence for their support of various of his proposals, including workshops, plays, courses, festivals and other events
Alan Spence said:
“I have been so warmly welcomed by John and Viv, and allowed to follow my dreams, with PPH finding ways to make things happen, rather than saying no. That sense of being accepted, supported and yet, with a degree of independence – that is John and Viv’s approach.
“PPH provides an Eastbourne community arts hub that offers a safe space for local artists and musicians to share, collaborate, learn and develop new skills; placing theatre at the centre of an arts culture, and at the heart of the local community.
“For these reasons, I believe John and Viv embody the very best that the Olwen Wymark Awards represent, in the range and scale of their previous achievements and the future they have offered me.”
Nominated by WGGB member David Kent for his support of his musical Soul Sisters
David Kent said:
“Matt Brinkler has shown great belief in me, my work, and new writing in general by committing to produce the original musical Soul Sisters at a very risky time for theatre. As the world came out of the pandemic Matt invested a huge amount of his personal energy in getting this piece on stage. He also calmed me down (many times) and gave encouragement several times when I was ready to give up on the project. By leading me through my first major production he inspires me to write better and to reach higher. I will be forever in his debt.”
Nominated by WGGB member Rachael Halliwell for Porl’s role as mentor, champion and advocate of her playwriting career and creative practice
Rachael Halliwell said:
“Through his artist development work at Harrogate Theatre, Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, and festivals in Sheffield and Europe, Porl supports so many creatives. Every organisation needs a Porl!
“He is such a support, shoulder to cry on, creative ally, Arts Council application genius and all-round top lad. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to think bigger and apply for opportunities without his encouragement.
“In an industry that can be ruthless, selfish and fickle, Porl is a shining light – one we need to protect at all costs. He really is one of the best and a true arts professional and leader. A truly exceptional supporter of writers, creatives and live theatre.”
Nominated by WGGB member Jennifer Lunn for championing her play Es & Flo through several postponements, including as a result of Covid-19
Jennifer Lunn said:
“Pádraig took on producing my first play Es & Flo several years ago as part of his work for Wales Millennium Centre. He very quickly became a real champion of the play and stuck by it through several postponements including, of course, Covid. He never faltered in his conviction that the play would reach the stage, even when I began to wonder if it, and I, had missed our moment. He is an incredible producer – humble and yet tenacious – going out to bat for the work every day.
“He has also been a source of incredible personal support and kindness to me over the years. He is never too busy, despite producing shows across the world and juggling all the demands of that. He has absolutely been the voice of encouragement that has kept me going. Without his encouragement I think I may well have given up writing, but instead I continue to write, and Es & Flo is scheduled for production in Cardiff and London next year. I am so very grateful to have him as my producer, my champion and, I hope, my friend.”
Nominated by WGGB member Susannah Pearse for the support he offers other writers
Susannah Pearse said:
“Carl is a wonderful writer himself but the amount of selfless and meaningful support he offers to other writers is of the best kind: sincere and without agenda. He loves to see fellow writers thrive but understands the challenges that mean we can’t always; he cheers our successes and commiserates with our setbacks. He also has one of the most brilliant dramaturgical brains I have ever encountered, but will never foist a note on a person unless it is sought. He is kind as well as wise and I would like to thank him for all the encouragement and support he has given me over the course of the pandemic in particular. Thank you Carl!”
Nominated by WGGB member Lucy Gough for his trust, courage and support of her radio plays, which has positively impacted on her current theatre and other work
Lucy Gough said:
“For many years I wrote radio plays for the BBC which Peter produced and directed. The plays were challenging, often dark (not without hope) and always rather uncompromising. He had the trust and courage to give me the space to do this. In a time when being quirky, outspoken and challenging is often feared and frowned on, he stood by me.
“He also took great care to produce and direct the plays, getting the absolute best out of them, and he was so sensitive to the work of the writer. I was obsessed with taking the possibilities in audio to its limit and Peter gave me the space to do this, but always with some gentle guidance. I owe him so much – I was allowed to grow and experiment, to be bold and complex and in the ensuing years I recognise how he gave me confidence and nurtured me as a writer, impacting on my present theatre work and other work across a range of media and with a diversity of collaborators.”