C4 takes over Pearson Playwrights' Scheme in its 40th anniversary year


Channel 4 and Pearson are delighted to announce that Channel 4 will take over the sponsorship of the Playwrights’ Scheme which Pearson has supported since 1993. Renamed the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme, five bursaries a year will be awarded to support new theatre writers.

Over the past 40 years, the playwrights’ scheme has celebrated and supported some of the finest British playwriting talent including; Joe Penhall, Catherine Johnson, Peter Moffat, Lucy Prebble, Jack Thorne, Martin McDonagh, Nancy Harris, Hanif Kureishi, Lydia Adetunji, Richard Bean, Tanika Gupta – and the list could go on.

Each year the five bursaries are awarded to emerging writers nominated by UK theatre Artistic Directors, with an additional award offered to the writer of the best play. These are selected by the scheme’s panel, this year to include Channel 4 Head of Drama Piers Wenger, chaired by Sir Richard Eyre.

Peter Hughes, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Pearson said “Pearson has supported the scheme since 1993 and we’re all very proud of its amazing legacy. Over the last 40 years, it has helped launch some of our finest British playwriting talent. But, it’s time to breathe new life into the scheme and we can think of no-one better placed than Channel 4 to do that. So, we are absolutely delighted that Channel 4 has agreed to take on responsibility for the playwrights’ scheme and look forward to seeing it and the writers it supports to emerge and bloom.”

Tessa Ross, Controller of Drama and Film4 said “I'm truly delighted that Channel 4 has been offered this wonderful opportunity: nurturing and supporting the next generation of writers is fundamental to the health of our work in film and television. The alumni of talented writers who have benefited from this wonderful scheme is testament to its value and I thank Richard Eyre and Pearson for thinking of us as careful guardians of its future.”

The scheme will continue to be open to any theatre in the UK. Invitations will shortly be sent out to the Artistic Directors of all UK theatres inviting them to submit the work of any writer they consider to have promise.

Thames Television Theatre Writers Scheme to support and celebrate new writing in the theatre. He believed that television owed much to the theatre for its supply of creative talent. In 1993 Pearson took over sponsorship of the scheme and it became the Pearson Playwrights’ Scheme.

There are currently five bursaries, each worth £7,000, four supported by Channel 4 and the fifth by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation. The bursaries are intended to benefit individual new writers. Successful writers take up a one-year attachment which not only offers them the opportunity of meeting a variety of theatre practitioners but also gives them first-hand experience of a working theatre. The principal task, however, is the writing of at least one full-length play.

Each year there is an additional award – the Catherine Johnson Best Play Award. Catherine Johnson, was a graduate of the scheme and received the Best Play Award in 1991, she is the author of “Mamma Mia” and wanted to give something back to the scheme which supported her in the early days of her career. Her Award is open to those who have been awarded a bursary in the year following the completion of their attachment. Each year The Catherine Johnson Award is given to the writer of the Best Play [as judged by the same Panel]. Only one play per writer is eligible for consideration.

The panel, chaired by Sir Richard Eyre CBE, includes Michael Billington OBE, Catherine Johnson, Indhu Rubasingham, Sue Summers, John Tydeman OBE (representing The Peggy Ramsay Foundation), Jack Andrews MBE and Piers Wenger. The scheme is administered by Sue Higginson OBE.

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