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Live Theatre Supports Theatre-Makers Through Bursary Awards


Live Theatre today announces its thirteen bursary awards with eight full bursaries of £2000 and a further five seed bursaries of £1000.

Live Theatre’s bursaries are aimed at supporting exciting and innovative approaches to story led theatre making. Bursary winners were selected through an open call-out that launched in spring 2020.  The winners demonstrate outstanding and imaginative theatrical ideas with something new and unexpected to say.

Live Theatre has made a decision to commit to additional support of the freelance sector, increasing its awards to a total of 13, up from seven last year.  

As well as £2000 cash and the opportunity to have their work performed at Live Theatre, often as part of the annual Elevator Festival, bursary recipients receive dramaturgical, production and marketing support, access to space for research, development and rehearsals plus new for 2020, the support of a partner mentor.

The seed bursary winners will each receive £1000 to spend on any aspect of their project, rehearsal and R&D space at Live Theatre and dramaturgical, production and marketing support from Live Theatre’s team.

£2000 bursary winners for 2020 are: Adam Donaldson, Caitlin Evans, Isabella Leung, Lucy Nichol with Chris Connel, Alison Scurfield, David Tuffnell, Max Emerson and Rob Ward and Kerry Wright.

Seed bursary winners are: BRASH THEATRE, Rebecca Glendenning-Laycock, Madeline Gould and Tilly Branson, Mhairi Ledgerwood and Lydia Marchant with Tom Bellerby.

Bursary winner Adam Donaldson said: I’m so excited to get the chance to develop my idea at Live Theatre. Live Theatre has such a strong track record of supporting stories rooted in the North East and I’m grateful to have the chance to collaborate and bring a little-known part of our history to life. When you sit in a room and map out an idea, it’s sometimes/often/always difficult to imagine a life for it beyond those four walls. This bursary ensures that the page will make it to the stage…what a privilege!

Kerry Wright commented: “The bursary will be invaluable, and it means the world to be able to tell my story unrestricted and give a voice to people often forgotten in society.” 

The bursaries are a key step in Live Theatre’s ambitious and open artist development programme Live Elevator. Dedicated to increasing the opportunity and support for early career and independent theatre artists in the North East and across the UK, Live Elevator is an investment in long-term relationships with theatre makers and the outcomes include bold, diverse and contemporary new plays.

Graeme Thompson, Live Theatre’s Creative Producer said: “It’s so vitally important right now that theatres do all they can to support artists and the creation of new work. It is because of this that this year we are offering 13 bursaries, using the resources and skills Live have to enable artists to keep working and making new plays. So, when this is all over, new voices and new stories will still be heard at Live Theatre. These 13 bursaries represent a huge range of diverse but incredibly exciting new stories. I can’t wait to see how they develop and share them with an audience.”

Alison Scurfield whose play Intergalactic was first performed at Queer and Now Scratch Night said: “I was so excited to hear I’d been selected as a bursary winner. Seeing my short play performed at the scratch night made me realise the potential this story has for development and I can’t wait to dive back in and explore these characters further. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Live Theatre so far and I’ve learnt so much. I can’t wait to further my relationship with them.” 

This year’s bursary winners are:

  • Adam Donaldson for The North Star
    A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Adam is a performer and writer. Adam’s debut play Journos twice went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and his first short film won the Ideastap BAFTA film showcase in 2015.  The North Star looks at the life of Frederick Douglas who was born into slavery and became a major American social reformer. His freedom was bought by two Tyneside women. Exploring the North Easts attitudes to racial equality.
  • Caitlin Evans of Shybairn Theatre Company for Your (insert here) Won’t Save Us
    Caitlin, a director of Shybairn Theatre Company, is a theatre-maker from Newcastle and graduate of MFA Advanced Theatre Practice at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Her play is an examination of the environmental movement and how it is dominated by middle class performative actions. What will save us, bamboo toothbrushes or Extinction Rebellion? And who pays the price until then?
  • Isabella Leung for A Bouffon Play About Hong Kong
    Isabella is a bilingual and multi-disciplinary performer, theatre-maker and writer, born and raised in Hong Kong and based in the UK. Her work focuses on devising, movement and comedy. A Bouffon Play about Hong Kong (BHK) will be an imaginative retelling of the history of Hong Kong, an exploration of its intricate relationship with Capitalist Britain and Communist China, spoken from the perspective of the abandoned outcast. With parallels to other global protest movements such as BLM.
  • Lucy Nichol with Chris Connel for The 27 Club 
    Lucy is a writer, PR consultant, published author, podcaster and mental health campaigner.Chris is an actor and presenter. A regular at Live Theatre his work has taken him to Broadway and to venues across the UK. The 27 Club is set in 1990s Newcastle after the death of Kurt Cobain a young woman contemplates the death of icons while dealing with her spiralling mental health. Exploring mental health crisis and its origins.
  • Alison Scurfield for Intergalactic (petals and constellations)
    Alison Scurfield is a writer from North Yorkshire. Her first short, Flushed, was performed at Live Theatre in 2019 as part of 10 Minutes to… Stake a Claim. Intergalactic (Petals and Constellations)was first performed at Live’s Queer and Now Scratch Night in February 2020 and is the story of two young men finding a connection through their shared experience of grief. Feel good coming of age story exploring LGBTQ+ relationships in the North East.
  • David Tuffnell for Our Karen - Rainy Days And Mondays
    David Tuffnell is a graduate of LAMDA and is co-founder of Teesside Theatre Company Less Is More. Our Karen – Rainy Day and Mondays will explore themes of body image, body dysmorphia, disability and LGBTQIA+, using Karen Carpenter as a central point around which each of the characters’ stories revolve.
  • Max Emmerson and Rob Ward for I Would Love It If We Beat Them
    Rob Ward wrote and performed Gypsy Queen which was performed twice at Live Theatre. Max Emmerson is the producer of Box Of Tricks. I Would Love It If We Beat Them is set in Newcastle 1996. A veteran left-wing labour councillor battles for his seat against a young women inspired by new party leader, Tony Blair. Set against the back drop of Newcastle United's infamous season it explores and foreshadows changes in left-wing/socialist politics in the North East.
  • Kerry Wright for Thyme Cafe
    Originally from Canterbury, Kerry is a writer and theatre-maker based in Bradford. Thyme Cafe is a comedy about a young woman growing up after her parents are imprisoned. The piece aims to give a voice to lower and working-class people underrepresented in the arts and explores contemporary social issues such as the welfare state and the prison system.

Seed bursary winners are:

  • BRASH for Ankles. BRASH, is a bold, educational theatre company for young people, making sex education relevant, political, and unafraid. Ankles is a based on the real experiences of Newcastle East End girls to resist the stigmatisation of their ankles in a political climate of global victim blaming culture. A show to mobilise young people to fight against sexist discrimination in their own lives.
  • Mhairi Ledgerwood for Swimmers 
    Mhairi has had several short plays performed including Parklife at Live Theatre. Mhairi was part of the Royal Court Writers Group (North). Swimmers tells the true story of the UK's 1912 woman's Olympic swimming team. Their gender and class struggles told through a contemporary framing and with reference to the Me Too movement.
  • Rebecca Glendenning Laycock for Chained Reaction. Becky has been involved in the most recent 10 Minutes to… at Live Theatre with her audio play Sheltered and is a member of Bonnie & The Bonnettes. Chained Reaction uses storytelling, dark comedy, and devastating honesty to explore power, grief, the strength of friendships, and how exhausting it is to exist in a patriarchal world where women are consistently on the receiving end of violence.
  • Lydia Marchant and Tom Bellerby for Stuck. Lydia is part of the BBC’s Writers Academy, Associate Writer of The Roaring Girls and Affiliate Artist of Hull Truck Theatre. Tom is a theatre director and was previously Associate Director of Hull Truck Theatre and Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse. Stuck is set in a school in a northern, working class town which is placed in Special Measures. Based on the real-life experiences exploring the impact on a generation of young people and society as a whole.
  • Madeline Gould and Tilly Branson for Women In Water. North East writers, new to Live Theatre. Women In Water is a lyrical semi-autobiographical journey through two women's experience with water. Its joys and its dangers. Exploring mental health and body image.

Bursaries are part of Live Theatre's Creative Opportunities programme, supported by the John Ellerman Foundation.

All bursary winning shows will be in development with Live Theatre over the next 10-12 months. There will be regular updates shared across digital platforms as part of Live Wired, giving a first look of these future productions. For more information on the winners and their plays see

  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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