Judges’ split prompts shared Lancaster Playwriting Prize


Pictured at the Lancaster Playwriting Prize prize announcement evening are (from left to right): Co-winner Alison Chaplin for her play ‘Dancing Backwards’, Dr Tajinder Hayer from Lancaster University, Amanda Webster who was shortlisted for ‘For One Night Only’ and Suzanne Jeans who was shortlisted for ‘An Absence Of’. Co-winner Harvey Cox (Burial Detail) was unable to attend the presentation.
Pictured at the Lancaster Playwriting Prize prize announcement evening are (from left to right): Co-winner Alison Chaplin for her play ‘Dancing Backwards’, Dr Tajinder Hayer from Lancaster University, Amanda Webster who was shortlisted for ‘For One Night Only’ and Suzanne Jeans who was shortlisted for ‘An Absence Of’. Co-winner Harvey Cox (Burial Detail) was unable to attend the presentation.

The winners of the Lancaster Playwriting Prize were split so firmly down the middle the only way forward was to split the prize.

Alison Chaplin (with her script, Dancing Backwards) and Harvey Cox (with his script, Burial Detail) shared the £1500 prize.

The 2019 Lancaster Playwriting Prize was aimed this year at professionally unproduced North West writers over the age of 55. In 2018 it was open to unproduced Black, Asian, Ethnic Minority and Refugee writers from the region.

The Prize is run by the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University working in partnership with The Dukes Lancaster.

It aims to encourage writing for the stage among underrepresented writers in the North West of England.

Entries are read initially by a team of Lancaster University students.

The final judging panel this year comprised Lucy Briers (actress, Lancaster University alumna and prize funder), Eugenia Caruso (actress and Lancaster University Creative Writing student), Dr Tajinder Singh Hayer (Lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and Prize director), Karen O’Neill (Chief Executive of The Dukes) and Nick Quinn (literary agent from The Agency: www.theagency.co.uk).

After the announcement, Lucy Briers said: “Burial Detail by Harvey Cox really excited me. Set in a neglected chapter of military history and focusing on the foot soldiers rather than the leaders, I was enthralled by the story and its relevance to the political era we find ourselves in today. It had echoes of Sargent Musgrave's Dance and Danton's Death. An ambitious and epic piece which deserves to be seen. With mentoring and another draft, I can see this play being produced at venues such as the Manchester Royal Exchange and The Royal Court. 

“Dancing Backwards by Alison Chaplin was a page turner. Domestic, naturalistic, very funny with a dark underbelly. Although this piece is short in length, the writing and characters are so engaging the panel feels it has the potential to become a really wonderful family comedy drama, and wanted it to be recognised as such. The issues of ageing, illness, betrayal, friendship and revenge are universal.”

All shortlisted writers, Alison Chaplin (Dancing Backwards), Harvey Cox (Burial Detail), Suzanne Jeans (An Absence of), Karen Rigby (Dusty Bates throws like a girl) and Amanda Webster (For One Night Only), will receive mentoring from Dr Hayer.

  • Alison Chaplin’s background is as a drama teacher and a writer of, mostly, plays for children. In 2006, she completed an MA in TV and Radio Scriptwriting where this play was created. She is currently working on a grown-up comedy/drama TV script and is planning her first novel for children, alongside running her business Arts On The Move.
  • Harvey Cox grew up in Bognor Regis, West Sussex. He read English and History before going on to teach English at schools in Abingdon and Portishead. While working in the second, a large comprehensive, he became increasingly involved in pastoral care and was able to retrain at Nottingham University to become an educational psychologist, eventually working for over twenty years with an LEA service. 

More information on the Lancaster Playwriting Prize can be found at www.lancaster.ac.uk/playwriting

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