The Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme was first established in 1973 by Howard Thomas, then Managing Director of Thames Television, launching the initiative as the Thames Television Writers Scheme. The scheme aimed to support and celebrate new playwrights. In 1993, Pearson took over supporting this scheme and it became the Person Playwrights’ Scheme. Then in 2013, it was announced that this scheme would be supported by Channel 4, becoming the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme.
Over the past 40 years, the playwrights’ scheme which celebrates and supports emerging new talent in British theatre writing has supported some of the finest writers we know and love today including; Jack Thorne, Joe Penhall, Catherine Johnson, Peter Moffat, Lucy Prebble, Martin McDonagh, Nancy Harris, Hanif Kureishi, Lydia Adetunji, Richard Bean, and Tanika Gupta.
Each year, the initiative awards six bursaries of £10,000 to new theatre writers, four of these bursaries come from Channel 4. The remaining two are supported by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation, named after one of the best-known theatre agents, Peggy Ramsey, who died in 1991 leaving her estate for charitable purposes to help stage writers of the future, thus “The Peggy Ramsay Foundation was established in pursuance of this objective.”
Playwrights were nominated for the Channel 4 scheme by UK theatre practitioners, and then, the six winners were selected by the scheme’s Panel, chaired by Sir Richard Eyre. This year’s panel also included: Rosie Alison (Heyday Films), Jack Bradley (Sonia Friedman Productions), Will Mortimer (The Bridge Theatre & The Peggy Ramsay Foundation), Julia Oh (Senior Commissioning Executive, Film4), Dinah Wood (Faber & Faber), and Nicholas Wright (Playwright).
This year’s six winners and recipients of the 2020 bursaries are;
- Wolfie by Ross Willis (Orange Tree Theatre)
- A Girl in School Uniform (Walks into a Bar) by Lulu Raczka (Young Vic Theatre)
- The Sun, The Moon & The Stars by Dipo Baruwa-Etti (Almeida Theatre)
- J’Ouvert by Yasmin Joseph – Supported by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation (Royal Court Theatre)
- Summer Rolls by Tuyen Do (Bristol Old Vic Theatre)
- Either by Ruby Thomas – Supported by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation (Hampstead Theatre)
Sir Richard Eyre (Chairman of the Panel) said: “I was delighted that this year there were six such strikingly original plays and that their writers will have a chance to work with six different theatres. I’m very grateful to Channel 4 and the Peggy Ramsay Foundation for making this possible, and to the judging panel for their patient and conscientious work. In addition, thanks to the generosity of Sonia Friedman Productions we were pleased to give Sonali Bhattacharyya an award for her play Chasing Hares.”
While Julia Oh (Senior Commissioning Executive, Film4) added: “This is an annual highlight for Film4 and we’re thankful for the opportunity to meet such cool, distinctive new writers. We applaud their creativity and wish them all the best of luck next year.”
These successful writers will now embark upon a one-year contract with the theatres detailed above in the winners list. This will offer each of them a chance to meet a variety of theatre practitioners and have hands-on experience in the inner workings of a theatre. They are also given the task of writing at least one full-length play over the next 12 months.
What’s more, the writers will also have the opportunity to submit their play for a chance to win The Sonia Friedman Productions Award in the year that follows their bursary. The 2019 winner of The Sonia Friedman Productions Award is Sonali Bhattacharyya for her play Chasing Hares, which was awarded a bursary from the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme in 2018.
Congratulations and good luck to all the writers who were recipients of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme bursaries this year, we are excited to see what the future has to hold for these brilliant, emerging, British writers.