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Theatre Encouragement Awards 2012
The Theatre Committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain presented its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing at a lunch ceremony at the Royal Court Theatre Bar at the end of November.
Awards winners and nominators: Front row: Sayan Kent (writer), Janet Steel (Artistic Director, Kali Theatre), James Hadley (Relationship Officer, Arts Council England), Josie Rourke (Artistic Director, Donmar Warehouse), Stewart Permutt (writer) Back row: Anne Hogben (Deputy General Secretary, WGGB), David James (writer), Robin Soans (writer), Nick Quinn (agent, The Agency)The awards, the brainchild of the playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give Guild members the opportunity publicly to thank those who had given them a particularly positive experience in new writing over the previous year. This also gives the committee and the Guild a welcome opportunity to celebrate, rather than focus solely on members’ problems.
The winners are:
James Hadley, nominated by David James
At a time when Arts Council England (ACE) is deeply challenged both by funding cuts and seemingly endless restructuring, and one hears a great deal of disquietude from so many ACE officers, James's energy, enthusiasm and commitment to his specialist field of musical theatre is huge. We have worked together for almost three years, and he has guided me through three successful Grants for Arts applications to support the BOOK Music & Lyrics (BML) musical theatre writing workshop programme I founded in 2010. He has answered endless questions, pointed out numerous places where points of argument on the applications could be strengthened, and always had time for another telephone conversation or meeting to discuss not only the applications but the BML programme as a whole and how it is strategically developing as an ongoing asset for musical theatre writers for the foreseeable future. He is a warm, friendly, and stable support for me. We meet regularly, and he has made the time to visit the workshop sessions. James had to take on a very responsible role as the major supporter of musical theatre at ACE in quite a condensed period of time. He also realises the complexity of the collaborative process of musical theatre and how far the British sector still has to go to achieve its full potential. More importantly, he is also aware of how much he himself still has to experience and learn to guide the sector forward most effectively.
He listens to new ideas and is open to further insights and arguments to develop his own knowledge, and never goes into a discussion with a closed view of how things should look. He is incredibly dedicated at proactively going out to see new work. Most unusually, he actively invites and encourages new practitioners – including all the members of our workshops – to meet him individually before they actually need funding, so he is aware of their work and they are aware of the funding opportunities that might be available to them.
Brigid Larmour, nominated by Theresa Howard
Brigid has been an enormous support and inspiration to Steven Edis and me on the journey to producing our musical, I Capture The Castle (based on the novel by Dodie Smith). With help from her we gained a National Lottery/Arts Council Grant for the Arts for research and development of our musical. At all times we felt nurtured by her and the Watford Palace Theatre, particularly through the grant application process and the research and development of the material. We were invited to every opening night at the Palace and made to feel a real part of the theatre. We went on to work on I Capture the Castle for two weeks under the creative and brilliant directorial guidance of Brigid to produce a one-hour showcase at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The two-week experience was intense and exciting not only for us, the writers, but also for the actors. She created a very productive, happy company and drew the best out of everyone. The showcase has stirred up a lot of interest in the show and moves are afoot to produce it in 2014, with Brigid directing. I have never worked with a director who seemed to know what was going on in my head as much as Brigid, who has as much passion for the work, or as much integrity.
Josie Rourke, nominated by Robin Soans
Sixty-Six Books, Josie Rourke’s leaving production at the Bush had a breadth of excitement and imagination rarely seen in contemporary theatre. It involved 130 actors, 31 directors and 66 writers who were allowed to use their skill in bringing fresh insight into old stories. Collectively it was a hugely impressive venture, and padding round the cloisters of Westminster Abbey in bare feet and wearing a simple robe at 3am, having just done four performances in a 12th-Century side chapel, and hearing other lines from other actors and writers echoing round the main nave, made me acutely aware that it needed a special sort of vision to make this all happen. Such vision should be rewarded. On the last day I performed my play at 7.30am as part of a 24- hour cycle at the new Bush itself, an amazing new space for the London Stage for which Josie was also hugely responsible. That evening, at the end of the cycle, many of the actors writers and directors congregated on the stage and shared the applause of the audience, many of whom had sat through the entire event. There was a tremendous feeling of camaraderie and achievement, and I think in a world where not that much is special, this was special, and should be recognised as such.
Nick Quinn, nominated by Stewart Permutt
Nick Quinn is one of those rare literary agents with a real passion for new writing. I have been with him for nearly nine years and have had excellent encouragement, guidance, criticism and advice. He attends everything I have written and is very supportive. He has many more prestigious clients than me, but everyone gets the same attention. He is at the theatre practically every night attending clients’ work. He represents only people who he really believes in and is not driven by financial gains, although his negotiating skills are excellent.
Janet Steel, nominated by Sayan Kent
In the 10 years that Janet has been at Kali Theatre she has worked tirelessly to encourage and produce new writing, providing an opening for voices that would otherwise remain unheard. I am nominating Janet for her personal commitment to my writing over the past year. I have had two recent pieces of new work produced with Kali that Janet supported from their inception; work that would not have got off the ground anywhere else. I have found her to be always generous with her time, kind in response and encouraging in pushing boundaries and trying something new. She has believed in me and my work where others have not and, in a difficult last year, through her encouragement and commitment, she restored my confidence to keep writing.