Thursday, December 14, 2006

North West Playwrights at Christmas

Christmas Party at North West Playwrights last night. Nice red wine, a lovely Christmas tree with silver baubles and a room full of playwrights gabbing about playwriting and the eternal obsession: HOW TO GET PLAYS PUT ON.

NWP was originally started by a bunch of playwrights including Dave Simpson and John Chambers (both veterans of Coronation Street and Emmerdale), as a yearly showcase of work by north-west writers, presented as script-in-hand readings at Contact Theatre. My first-ever try at writing for stage - a one-act play, Cakes - appeared in the showcase, and later I was privileged to be invited onto the judging panel. More recently, NWP has evolved into a somewhat different organisation, with a different emphasis. Headed now by a Director, Chris Bridgeman, and Deputy Director and playwright Sheila McNulty, it is geared towards nurturing and developing the careers of playwrights in a more ongoing way via not only script-in-hand performances but also workshops, training sessions and links with several theatres.

There was much talk of course amongst us playwrights of the recent debate, prompted by the Guardian's Lynn Gardner, about the frustrating aspects, for writers, of theatre 'development' schemes (which I wrote about in an earlier post). Everyone was agreed however that North West Playwrights is very different, its aim being not only to help writers develop their skills and scripts but also to find homes for their plays.

One guest was Dave Slack, co-founder of 24:7, the yearly Manchester theatre festival with an increasing profile, and a question on everyone's lips was: 'Are you putting something in for it?'. As I said to someone, 24:7 is one place where you can come from nowhere with a play, put it on unchanged by anyone else or for any theatre's philosophy, style or mission statement about 'development,' and then by virtue of having put it on, can be regarded as a professional playwright (rather than someone 'in need of development' by theatre professionals other than writers). Many theatre professionals might presume that this would make for inferior plays, but for two years running now plays from 24:7 have won prestigious Manchester Evening News Awards.

Closing date for 24:7 is 31st January.

And then it was time to go, and guess what, I'd been vain and worn my high heels, and when I went to meet John it turned out he'd had to park the car at the other side of town...

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