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A North East that writes its own story

New play award spearheads a new vision for Live Theatre

Live Theatre has emerged from its 50th anniversary year with a refreshed vision and mission that places the North East voice and its fight for a creative society centre stage. This comes at a crucial time for the arts in the North East following closures of arts venues and organisations across the region (The Exchange Theatre, Side Gallery, Curious Monkey).

The theatre’s new vision for “A North East that writes its own story and fights for a more creative future” is timed with the presentation of the first dedicated playwriting award for the region. The North East Playwriting Award is supported by the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust and will see one full-length play commission awarded to a North East writer with a second studio commission going to a young writer between ages 16-25.

Hundreds of plays have been submitted from across the region and will be judged anonymously by a prestigious panel that includes playwrights Shelagh Stephenson, Ishy Din and May Sumbwanyambe, experimental theatre maker gobscure and The Stage theatre critic Tracey Sinclair. The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Live Theatre in Newcastle on Thursday 14 March 2024 at 7.30pm.

Live Theatre’s Artistic Director Jack McNamara said: “Our refreshed vision for Live Theatre is about the region speaking for itself, challenging preconceptions and insisting on having a prominent voice in our culture. It is particularly urgent given the losses we have seen across our region in the last 12 months. This is a place with a unique, deeply political character, way more diverse and varied than many people realise. This award is about saying that these voices matter. And that this region will not keep quiet while decisions are made from afar.

Panelist and esteemed playwright and screenwriter Ishy Din added that “in order to develop and sustain new writing in our region it is vital to have awards of this importance.

Panelist May Sumbwanyambe, who recently won Best Play at the UK Theatre Awards for Enough of Him says that award recognition has transformed his career and profile. “As an educator, dedicated to teaching the next generation of amazing playwrights, based in the North East, I couldn’t be more delighted to support these combined awards that have huge potential to be career making/life changing for the winners and runners up”.

Live Theatre’s 2024-25 season will be announced in March 2024 and will include major new works by writers from Northumberland, Sunderland and Middlesbrough among others.

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


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