ETT (English Touring Theatre) today announces the inaugural Nationwide Voices; a year-long development programme for six playwrights across the UK. Year one of Nationwide Voices is led by ETT in collaboration with Kiln Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Rifco Theatre Company, Sheffield Theatres, and Theatr Clwyd, with each venue or company offering a year-long attachment for each chosen playwright. This year the playwrights are Adam Hughes (Leeds Playhouse), Matilda Ibini (ETT), Sonia Jalaly (Kiln Theatre), Asif Khan (Rifco Theatre Company), John Rwothomack (Sheffield Theatres) and Emily White (Theatr Clwyd).
Nationwide Voices aims to connect writers with mid-scale theatres and support them through the crucial career transition onto main stages, while also enabling theatres nationwide to platform fresh and imaginative voices with a connection to their local area. These six talented writers will broaden and develop their craft through regular workshop sessions led by the award-winning playwright and Sheffield Theatres Associate Artist Chris Bush and featuring several guest speakers. They will also receive an initial seed commission, and the work they create during Nationwide Voices will be shared at a festival of staged readings in spring 2021, with ETT and partners working towards further commissioning, co-producing and touring of the plays in the future.
Nationwide Voices is made possible thanks to the John Ellerman Foundation, who have generously funded ETT to run this programme for the next three years.
Artistic Director of ETT, Richard Twyman today said “When we first conceived of Nationwide Voices the world was a very different place, and so we’ve had to adapt it to a changing landscape. But its core aim is more important than ever: to support talented, brave and imaginative writers to have their work produced on the nation’s main stages. Nationwide Voices is about forging connections between writers, venues, audiences and the touring sector to create work of national reach and relevance: celebrating remarkable voices, the diversity of our nation’s communities and the vitality of our theatres. We don’t know what the theatre landscape is going to look like going forward but we do know that more than ever we need to look to writers and the stories they tell to help reshape our world. We are deeply grateful to the John Ellerman Foundation for making this programme possible.”
Chris Bush added, “A lot of writers seem to spend years (if not decades) in a state of perpetual emergence. What makes this scheme so important is its specific aim to get newer writers creating work for bigger auditoriums and wider audiences. At the moment, everyone in our industry is understandably preoccupied with how to survive the current crisis. However, in the long term the theatre will only thrive by investing in talent and commissioning “riskier” work from artists who aren’t yet established names. If we keep looking to the same few ‘safe pairs of hands’ we doom ourselves to ever-dwindling audiences and diminishing artistic returns. Instead, our ambition must be to create work that is truly representative of our nation, by championing voices that haven’t yet been given a large national platform. Nationwide Voices has selected six of the most exciting writers from across the country, and I can’t wait to start working with them.”
Adam Hughes’ theatre credits include Joy (Leeds Playhouse), Where Do We Go Next (Bunker Theatre), West End Girls (Live Theatre), James Graham’s Sketching (Wilton’s Music Hall), Beeston (Finborough Theatre) and Marching On Together (Old Red Lion Theatre).
Matilda Ibini is a bionic playwright and screenwriter. Her theatre credits include Little Miss Burden (Bunker Theatre), Choice and Control (The Old Vic), Muscovado (UK tour); and for TV her credits include Unprecedented (Headlong/Century Films/BBC4).
Sonia Jalaly’s credits include The Boy Who Grew a Twisty Tale (The Herd Theatre), Butter (Vaults Festival), Happy Birthday Without You (Tricycle Theatre) and Women of Tackley (John Thaw Studio).
Asif Khan’s credits as a playwright include Combustion (UK tour) and Imaan Imraan (Bradford Literary Festival). As an actor his credits include Tartuffe (RSC/Birmingham Repertory Theatre), A Kind of People (Royal Court Theatre), A Passage To India (Royal & Derngate/Park Theatre), Handbagged (UK tour/Tricycle Theatre) and Twelfth Night (National Theatre).
John Rwothomack’s credits as a playwright include Far Gone (Sheffield Theatres/Kampala International Theatre Festival). His credits as an assistant director includes The Last King of Scotland (Sheffield Theatres).
Emily White’s credits include Pavilion (Theatr Clwyd). She has an MA in Theatre Writing from York University. In 2018 she won a place on Channel 4’s 4Screenwriting Course and she was selected to be part of the BBC Wales Writersroom group in 2019.
Chris Bush is a playwright, lyricist and theatre-maker. Her credits include Faustus: That Damned Woman (Lyric Hammersmith), The Last Noël (Old Fire Station), Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Steel, What We Wished For, A Dream, The Sheffield Mysteries (Sheffield Theatres), Pericles (National Theatre), The Changing Room (NT Connections 2018), The Assassination of Katie Hopkins (Theatre Clwyd – Best Musical UK Theatre Awards), A Declaration from the People (National Theatre), Larksong (New Vic Theatre), Cards on the Table (Royal Exchange Manchester), ODD (Royal & Derngate concert performance), Sleight & Hand (Summerhall and BBC Arts), TONY! The Blair Musical (York Theatre Royal and UK tour) and Poking the Bear (Theatre503).