Verity Bargate Award: £7000 in respect of an exclusive option for Soho Theatre to produce the winning play
In Conjunction Character 7 Prize: One writer will be offered the opportunity to develop their storytelling skills for TV drama

For 35 years Soho Theatre’s prestigious biennial playwriting competition the Verity Bargate Award has uncovered the best new play by an emerging UK writer, and launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established writers. As preparations get underway for the May premiere of the competition’s 2015 Award-winning Roller Diner, Soho Theatre sponsored by Character 7 today announced the 16th Verity Bargate Award. Sealing its position as a truly national competition, a vital outreach programme with a series of workshops and talks around UK and Ireland will take place in the lead up to submissions, open from 31 May to 5 July.

Named after Soho Theatre’s founding Artistic Director, the playwriting award for the outsider has always sought extraordinary voices and unique styles which stand out from the crowd and tell inspiring unheard stories. In search for the best first time and emerging UK playwright, the Award is open to writers with fewer than three professional productions. Dedicated to championing distinctive writing and nurturing new talent, Soho Theatre advocate early commitment to making a vital difference to the long-term career of a writer, particularly when pathways to production and theatres can feel like closed shops.

Within a few months, I’d finished my first play, inspired by life at the garage, and sent it in to the Soho Theatre in time for their Verity Bargate Award for new writers…The life-changing moment came when the Soho called to say I’d won. Matt Charman, Verity Bargate Award Winner 2004,‘How I conquered Hollywood’, Sunday Times (21 June 2015)

Partnering up with venues across the UK and in Ireland, from the Traverse to the Abbey, Wales Millennium Centre, Birmingham Rep, from late March through to mid-May Soho Theatre, led by Associate Director Charlotte Bennett, will hold a series of workshops, masterclasses and talks to encourage and ensure true national access to people of all ages and backgrounds. Submissions will be accepted from midday Wednesday 31 May and close midday Wednesday 5 July. Having received on average 900+ plays over the last two competitions, a two-month reading process will follow before an announced shortlist in September.


Judges for this year’s Award include: Stephen Garrett (Executive Chairman, Character 7), Meera Syal (actress and writer), Graeme Farrow (Artistic Director, Wales Millennium Centre), Emma Rice (Artistic Director, Globe), Matt Trueman (Theatre Critic and Journalist), Jackie Wylie (Artistic Director, National Theatre Scotland), Neil Murray (Artistic Director, Abbey, Dublin) and Ikenna Obiekwe (Literary Agent, Independent Talent). The winner, who will receive £7000 in respect of an exclusive option for Soho Theatre to produce the play, will be announced at a celebration of the shortlisted plays.

‘We have brought together a group of incredible judges from across the UK and Ireland, and a variety of roles across the storytelling industries. These leading writers, directors, artistic directors, producers, actors and agents all have strong links to Soho Theatre’s eclectic and thrilling stages, and will help us find an amazing unique show to produce, and a whole host of unheard new artists to work with in the future.’ Steve Marmion, Artistic Director, Soho Theatre

In a first for the competition, in conjunction with the Verity Bargate Award (this year sponsored by Character 7), Character 7 will be offering one writer the opportunity to develop their storytelling skills for TV drama. The writer will be drawn from the Verity Bargate longlist but chosen separately to the main award. Working closely with Character 7 founder and executive chairman Stephen Garrett and head of development Michele Wolkoff the selected writer will be awarded a grant and tasked to develop a small number of ideas with a view to optioning one of them to take to script. Character 7, behind award-winning hit The Night Manager, works with distinguished names and new creative voices to tell stories that cut across boundaries and raise the bar for television and film.

I had the privilege of funding and judging the biennial Verity Bargate Award in 2015. I was blown away by the exceptional breadth of voice, imagination and creativity on display. Now more than ever this is something we need to cherish and champion. I look forward once again to being inspired by new talents that challenge and excite. Stephen Garrett, Executive Chairman, Character 7

Of the 2015 Award (supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and Stephen Garrett), two of the six shortlisted plays have already performed to acclaim on our stages – Fury by Phoebe Eclair-Powell and Theresa Ikoko’s Girls, while the Award-winning Roller Diner, by first time playwright Stephen Jackson, will premiere at the end of May for a four week run.

Previous Verity Bargate Award winners: Matt Charman • Vicky Jones • Tony Craze • Insook Chappell • Bonnie Greer • Toby Whithouse • Diane Samuels • Shan Khan • Thomas Eccleshare • Amy Evans • Joy Wilkinson • Sean Buckley • Adrian Pagan • Fraser Grace • Judy Upton • Angela Meredith • David Spencer • Gillian Plowman • Ron Hart • Tony Grounds • Mick Mahoney • Stephen Jackson.

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