Your Guide to Playwriting Competitions in 2015

Competitions can be a great way to break into the industry as an emerging writer.  Making a shortlist or winning a competition can be a huge step up in a writer’s career.  And, most importantly, a competition deadline can be great motivation to write, regardless of the outcome.

2015 is a big year for playwriting competitions, with several bi-annual playwriting competitions – including the Bruntwood and the Verity Bargate – open to submissions this year.  Need to know what’s what?  Check out our summary below!

The Big Fish

Meeresaquarium 28 by Ella Schmidt via Flickr Commons
Meeresaquarium 28 by Ella Schmidt via Flickr Commons

Bruntwood Prize
The Bruntwood Prize, run bi-annually by the Manchester Royal Exchange, is the biggest playwriting competition in the UK – both in terms of number of submissions and prize money.  2013 saw nearly 1800 submissions, and no wonder – previous winners have been awarded £16,000, with three runners up receiving £8,000 .  (Although it’s worth noting the monetary prizes are up to the judges each year, and are subject to change based on how the panel decides to divide the money.)  A production isn’t guaranteed, but Royal Exchange engages with the winning writers to develop their work, and it’s common for winners and finalists to see their plays produced.  Writers such as Vivienne Franzmann, Duncan Macmillan, Luke Norris, Anna Jordan, Alistair McDowell, Janice Okoh have gotten their start through the Bruntwood.  Top submission tip: make sure not to put your name on your script – entries are judged anonymously.  If you manage to make the longlist of 100 plays, you may receive a feedback report on your script.  If you’re new to playwriting, the competition offers online seminars and playwriting tips through their website – well worth checking out.
Deadline:  5 June 2015 at 6pm

Verity Bargate Competition
The bi-annual Verity Bargate Competition was set up in memory of the founder of the Soho Theatre, and has run since 1983.  The winner will receive £6000 in respect of an exclusive option to produce the winning play at Soho Theatre, directed by Artistic Director, Steve Marmion.  The competition is open to writers with no more than three professional credits to their name, so this is a great way to get your start, and has helped launch the careers of winners including Vicky Jones for The One, Thomas Eccleshare for Pastoral, In-Sook Chappell, for This Isn’t Romance, Diane Samuels, for Kindertransport and Matt Charman for A Night at the Dogs.

Deadline:  31 July 2015 at 6pm (note submissions do not open until 1 July 2015)

George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright

The list of previous winners of the annual George Devine Award for most promising playwright reads like a who’s who: Mike Leigh, Edward Bond, Conor McPherson, Lucy Prebble, Hanif Kureishi, Martin McDonagh, Alice Birch, Penelope Skinner, Nick Payne, Vivienne Franzmann, Enda Walsh, Richard Bean, Elinor Cook, Hassan Abdulrazzak – you get the picture, it’s enough to make a person dizzy.  This prestigious award was established in 1966 in honour of the first Director of the Royal Court, and is now administered by his daughter Harriet, and submissions are only accepted by post.  Scripts do not need to have been produced to be eligible, however the award typically goes to high-profile debut productions that have already won awards or received critical accolades, so it’s worth being realistic about your chances.  (Note: already closed for 2015)
Website: none
Deadline: 1 March 2015 (already closed)

Emerging players

Chess by Frank Black Noir via Flickr Commons
Chess by Frank Black Noir via Flickr Commons

Papatango New Writing Prize
The Papatango New Writing Prize was only established in 2009, but it has already made its mark, launching the careers of writers including Dawn King, Dominic Mitchell, and Tom Morton-Smith.  Previously run in association with the Finborough Theatre, 2015 marks the transition to a partnership with Southwark Playhouse, where the winner will receive a four week run and publication by Nick Hern Books.  This prize may not have the award money attached to some of the bigger competitions, but the combination of a guaranteed production and successful alumni has this award hitting well above its weight.
Deadline: 31 March 2015

The King’s Cross Award

The King’s Cross Award, run but the Courtyard Theatre, was set up in 2003.  The winner receives a £5,000 prize and a staged reading of their play.  This competition usually receives fewer entries than some of the bigger prizes (with 300 submissions in 2013), likely due to the £10 application fee, but has spotted a number of excellent writers.  The competition’s biggest success story is Evan Placey, whose winning play Mother of Him was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.  This biannual award is scheduled to run again in 2015, though dates and details have not yet been announced.
Deadline: 30 June 2015 – TBC

The new kids on the block

1st Grade 1973 by Andrew Kitzmiller via Flickr Commons
1st Grade 1973 by Andrew Kitzmiller via Flickr Commons

Adrian Pagan Award
The Adrian Pagan Award was established by the King’s Head Theatre in 2014 in memory of stage manager turned playwright Adrian Pagan.  In its first year, it was open to theatre practitioners who were new to write, but in 2015 it has widened the net to include anyone who has not had more than one professional production.  It’s too early to say what the footprint of this competition will be, but a guaranteed run at the King’s Head Theatre is a brilliant start for an emerging writer.
Deadline: 2 February 2015 (already closed)

 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize

The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize was set up in 2014, immediately sparking controversy and debate in the new writing community over the £20 application fee.  The competition, run by Liverpool Hope University, the Royal Court Liverpool and the Liverpool Echo offered a grand prize of £10,000 with smaller awards for runners up.  It’s not clear whether the competition is running this year because they haven’t made an announcement yet (of this year’s details or last year’s winner) and the deadline is usually in May.
Deadline: TBC

Theatre503 Playwriting Award
The Theatre503 Playwriting Award had its inaugural year in 2014, with the winner receiving £6,000 and a guaranteed production of their scripts at Theatre503.  (Although in 2014 the panel chose to make two awards due to the strength of the scripts.)  The competition  also incorporated the selection process for the 503Five, the theatre’s 18-month writer development programme. The next round of submissions for this bi-annual award will be in Spring 2016, and given the calibre of the judges involved in 2014 and the 1600 scripts submitted, it looks like this award is on track to become an important fixture on the London new writing scene.
Deadline: Spring 2016 – TBC

The Specialists

Tonight's Progress by Russ via Flickr Commons
Tonight’s Progress by Russ via Flickr Commons

Alfred Fagon Award
The Alfred Fagon award, which is supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, is awarded annually to the best new play by a writer of Caribbean or African descent.  The impressive list of winners includes Roy Williams, Rachel De-lahay, Paula B. Stanic, Diana Nneka Atuona, and Charlene James. The next submission deadline is anticipated to be in August 2015.
Deadline: 1 August 2015 – TBC

Theatre Centre Awards: Brian Way Award and Adrienne Benham Award

These awards, given to support writing for young audiences, are currently on hold as the Theatre Centre reassesses its programmes following funding cuts.  They’re still actively working with playwrights through their commissioning programs, though unfortunately they can’t say at this time what the plans will be for these awards in the future.
Deadline:  Currently on hold

Nick Darke Award
This award, given in honour of Cornish writer and polymath Nick Darke, is a £6,000 prize that supports a writer for film, screen, or radio in developing a new piece of work with environmental themes.  Unusually, the award is given to a pitch to facilitate development of the work, rather than recognising a completed script. The award is administered by Falmouth University, and shortlisted writers are invited to a special ceremony in Cornwall where the winner is announced.
Deadline: TBC – normally in April

Perfect Pitch Award
Perfect Pitch, an organisation that develops new musicals, runs this biannual award where musical creators are put into teams, with finalists being asked to write a 15 minute pitch of a new musical.  The winners receive £12,000 and guidance from Perfect Pitch to assist them in developing the musical.  The next round of entries will open in September 2015, with the award to be granted in 2016.
Deadline: September 2015 – TBC

BBC Writer’s Prize for Radio
The BBC Writer’s Prize was launched in 2013 as a way to promote and recognise excellent writing for radio. The winning script is commissioned by BBC Radio and broadcast on air (in the first year, two winners were selected). The most recent award was made in December 2014, and the next submission deadline is likely to be in September 2015.
Deadline: September 2015 – TBC

International Awards

World Map - Abstract Acrylic by Nicholas Raymond via Flickr Commons
World Map – Abstract Acrylic by Nicholas Raymond via Flickr Commons
Yale Drama Series

If you have ambitions of breaking in across the pond, the Yale Drama Series may be a good place to start.  The winner of this annual prize receives an award of $10,000 USD and has a rehearsed reading at Lincoln Centre in New York. The award has been judged by acclaimed playwrights including David Hare, John Guare, Marsha Norman, Edward Albee, and Nicholas Wright. 2009 winner Francis Ya-Chu Cowhig had her second play premiered at the National Theatre 2013.
Deadline: 15 August 2015 – TBC

Leslie Scalapino Award
The Leslie Scalapino Award is given to women excelling with innovative and experimental writing and performance.  The winner receives $2,500 USD, publication of the winning text, and a rehearsed reading of their piece, followed by a full production in the subsequent year.  The next round of submissions will be in 2016.
Deadline: 2016 – TBC

William Saroyan Prize for Human Rights/Social Justice
The William Saroyan Playwright Prize is granted by the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance in recognition of a piece that engages with themes of human rights and social justice.  The winner receives a prize of $10,000 USD and a staged reading.  The next submission period will be in January-April 2016.
Deadline: April 2016 – TBC

Your Calendar at a glance

Events Calendar by Yandle via Flickr Commons
Events Calendar by Yandle via Flickr Commons

The deadlines for these competitions are included in our weekly roundup, but you can see a quick reference for the year at a glance below.

DISCLAIMER: These dates are provided as guidelines only – always  check the individual opportunity posting from the weekly roundup on LPB or the competition website to confirm the submission date and avoid disappointment.

Adrian Pagan Award – 2 February 2015 (already closed)

George Devine Award – 1 March 2015 (already closed)
Papatango New Writing Prize – 31 March 2015

Nick Darke Award – TBC

Liverpool Hope Playwriting Competition (TBC, though seems unlikely to run in 2015)

Bruntwood Prize
Verity Bargate Award – TBC
King’s Cross Award – TBC

Alfred Fagon Award
Yale Drama Series

BBC Writer’s Prize for Radio

Perfect Pitch Award

Theatre503 Playwriting Award – Spring 2016 TBC
Leslie Scalapino Award – TBC
William Saroyan Prize for Human Rights/Social Justice – April 2016 TBC

Know about an important competition you think we’ve left out?  Let us know in the comments below!  
And please be sure to sign up to our newsletter if you want to receive our weekly round-up of all these opportunities direct to your inbox as the information becomes available. 
 (Note on images:  All images used in accordance with Creative Commons License)

4 thoughts on “Your Guide to Playwriting Competitions in 2015”

  1. Hi.
    Love the blog, it’s been a real font of information and support in recent months as I’ve been struggling to finish my first long play. I’d been aiming to submit to the Bruntwood as it seems to be the big fish as you say, but have just realised the Verity Bargate and King Cross prizes could be just as important, and all have deadlines around June and July. I know the rules on Bruntwood site state that they can’t accept scripts that are part of any other active process at another theatre, including other prizes and competitions, so presumably they wouldn’t like it if I sent the same play to Soho and Kings cross a month later. Would you have any advice on how to choose between them, for instance would it be safer to submit to Verity Bargate and Kings Cross instead?

    1. Hi, Jo – thanks for your kind words about the blog. I think this is a great question, and it’s a tricky choice I’ve been talking with other playwright friends about. I actually think this deserves a whole post of its own, which I’ll try to put together this week, time allowing! But in brief, I’d recommend reading about past winners of these competitions to get a sense for the readers’ taste, and then go with your gut about which competition you think it has the best chance of winning. (For example, if your play is wildly different than the work the Soho typically programmes, it’s probably unlikely that play would win the Verity Bargate.) Hope this helps, and good luck with your tricky choice!

  2. Christina Higgins

    Did not know about the Verity Bargate Award or the other ones. Only knew about the Bruntwood. Have signed up to the newsletter now

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