2015 Olwen Wymark Awards for Theatre

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) presented its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on Friday 4 December 2015.

The Olwen Wymark Awards, the brainchild of playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give WGGB members the opportunity to thank publicly those who had given them a positive experience in new writing over the previous year.

They are named in honour of the playwright Olwen Wymark, passionate supporter of WGGB and former Chairman of the WGGB Theatre Committee, who died in 2013.

David James, former Chairman 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 11th year, it is a bright spot on the Writers’ Guild’s annual calendar.”

For lovers of radio, the award to Polly Thomas (radio play producer) is of special interest.

The winners of the 11th annual awards are:

Jarek Adams, founder of Gloucester Scriptorium
Nominated by WGGB member Andrew Thorn, for her work with Gloucester Scriptorium, which develops new writers and funds theatre companies in the Gloucestershire area, culminating in public performances at the Gloucester Scriptorium: Only in Gloucester festival.

Andrew Thorn said: “Jarek created the project partly due to frustration she felt after taking part in other schemes which claimed to provide ongoing development for writers but didn't live up to their promises or even provide useful feedback. Many of the writers involved have expressed joy and astonishment at the sheer amount of constructive help, support and follow-up she has given them.

“In tandem with Scriptorium, Jarek secured funding for my Pride of Gloucester project, where I ran workshops, developing short stories in response to the participants' input, and created a novel based on the stories. Marketing Gloucester then suggested developing the book into a performance, and Jarek is now mentoring me in the development of this script. I have never written a 'straightforward play' and found it a daunting challenge. Her input, mentoring and support are invaluable. I couldn't do it without her.”

Joe Sumsion, Artistic Director of the Dukes theatre, Lancaster
Nominated by WGGB member Debbie Oates, for his work in establishing the Dukes as a centre of encouragement for writers.

Debbie Oates said: “At a time when many theatres feel they must play safe and work with tried and tested existing plays, Joe has been working hard for seven years to reposition the Dukes as a centre of encouragement for writers. This has not been done simply as a development exercise, but has translated into fully realised commissions and productions. Writers are valued, encouraged, developed, supported and, ultimately, produced, and this is down to the drive and vision of Joe.

“The Dukes is now upping its commitment to new plays further, creating a Writers Hub – developing work and making links with the local university to connect with up-and-coming young writers. The company is attracting new partners to support the work; at a time of real financial pressures, new writing is becoming a growth area for the theatre.

“I am personally benefitting from the Dukes’ commitment to new writing as they will be producing one of my plays in 2016 supported by the Story Fund – a new initiative driven by private investment exploring the link between new theatre writing and film and television drama. The Dukes is a supportive and nurturing place for writers to work, and it’s great to see this commitment rewarded in the form of this award.”

Mared Swain, Director, and Kate Wasserberg, Artistic Director, The Other Room pub theatre in Cardiff
Nominated by WGGB member Alun Saunders, for the support they showed for his first full-length play, A Good Clean Heart.

Alun Saunders said: “Mared Swain was the person who, sensitively and creatively, encouraged/pushed/shoved me to question my play, and allowed me to draw out the very best play I could write – all of which within an incredibly short time frame.

“Kate Wasserberg took a chance on an up-and-coming writer with an as-yet-unfinished play. Kate's dramaturgical skill encouraged me to write a play in two languages. Her vision for her new pub theatre, The Other Room, is highly ambitious, and including my work in their inaugural season alongside Sarah Kane and Howard Barker was an unbelievable honour.

“I am ridiculously grateful to both Mared and Kate for proving to me that I have the ability to write bold, exciting and accessible work.”

Polly Thomas, radio drama producer
Nominated by WGGB member Dan Rebellato, for her support of his Radio 4 Zola adaptation and other writing projects.

“Working with Polly Thomas has been one of the great collaborations of my life and has taught me so much about writing, radio and the possibilities of story and sound. Over the last year, while I’ve worked on a very large-scale, high-pressure project, adapting 20 Zola novels for Radio 4, she’s been a model of support and tact, offering both a sounding board and clear-sighted creative input.

“What I appreciate so much about Polly is her openness: you can take an idea for a walk in her wonderful company; she’ll support the journey, offering route adjustments, quickening the pace or slowing us down so we can enjoy the new surroundings, but never doubting the wisdom of the journey. She has exquisite taste, offering clean, subtle, witty sound worlds, favouring detailed and thoughtful actors, and complex, challenging scripts. She has generous and creative political commitments too; every one of the last 10 scripts we’ve done together has had a mixed-race cast, because, on the radio, why ever wouldn’t you?

“She asks stimulating and important questions about gender and representation that always open up possibilities and never close them down. She’s endlessly good-humoured, kind and clear with her writers, keeping the space between us creative at all times. She makes radio drama as creatively exciting as it can possibly be.”

Info. sent by Sarah Woodley, Communications Manager, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain; many thanks - ND.


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