BBC , British Council launch global search for new playwriting talent

On Saturday BBC World Service, in partnership with the British Council, launches the 11th International Radio Playwriting Competition with the award-winning Cigarettes And Chocolate by the late writer and film director Anthony Minghella.

The competition invites writers around the world to submit a one-hour radio play on any subject. They have five months to do so. The winning entries will be broadcast on BBC World Service in November 2009.

Marion Nancarrow, Executive Producer of BBC World Drama, says: “This is the only competition of its kind in the world – it is at the heart of what BBC World Drama does. It’s about hearing new, different stories and voices and is a reminder of what a fantastic medium radio drama is – one of the most powerful and accessible ways to tell a story. All over the world radio dramas are being recorded and writers learning their craft – from Afghanistan to Africa.Radio drama is a renowned route for writers – Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Joe Orton and Anthony Minghella (whose Cigarettes And Chocolate won a Giles Cooper Radio Award) are among those premier British writers whose first writing was for radio.”

There are two first prizes: one for writers for whom English is a first language, the other for those with English as a second language. The competition is unique in that it is only open to writers outside the UK. The winners – last year’s were from Nigeria and Canada – also receive a trip to London to see their play recorded. The competition never fails to elicit an impressive response. Last year, more than 1,200 entries were received, from Alaska to Vanuatu.

Entries are just as likely to come from established authors as from writers who are totally inexperienced. Former winners have gone on to gain further commissions for BBC World Service Drama, making the competition a potential launch-pad to a future career. Actor, singer and writer Kwame Kwei-Armah, currently writer in residence for BBC Radio Drama, is one of the judges.

Sally Cowling, Director, Drama and Dance, British Council, says: “We’re delighted to be partnering with the BBC World Service on this project again this year. There is a wealth of talent out there and this competition offers a unique opportunity to hear from new and established writers from all over the world. Our global writing workshops create a platform for writers to share their ideas, develop their skills and learn to work with the powerful medium of radio.”

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