Channel 4 Announces Winners of Playwrights' Scheme Bursaries

Channel 4 is delighted to announce the five winners of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme which celebrates and supports emerging British writing talent. The initiative (formerly the Pearson Playwrights’ Scheme) awards five bursaries a year to new theatre writers and has been supported by Channel 4 since 2013. Four bursaries are supported by Channel 4 and the fifth by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation.

The Catherine Johnson Best Play Award is given to the writer of the Best Play written by one of the previous year’s bursary recipients. Francis Turnly has been awarded the Catherine Johnson Best Play Award Winner 2016 for his play ‘THE GREAT WAVE OFF KANAGAWA’.

The recipients of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme bursaries for 2016, each of whom will receive £10000, are:


Paines Plough

Kate Bowen (‘CLOSE COMBAT’)

Out of Joint

Theresa Ikoko (‘GIRLS’)

HighTide Theatre

Charley Miles (‘BLACKTHORN’)

West Yorkshire Playhouse

Carmen Nasr (‘DUBAILAND’)

Finborough Theatre (supported by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation)

The successful writers will now embark upon one-year attachments with the theatres outlined above, giving them the opportunity to meet a variety of theatre practitioners and to have first-hand experience of a working theatre. Their principal task in the next 12 months is to write at least one full-length play. The writers will also have the opportunity to submit their play for the Catherine Johnson Best Play Award in the year following their bursary.

Playwrights were nominated by UK theatre Artistic Directors, with the five winners selected by the scheme’s panel chaired by Sir Richard Eyre and including Film4’s Creative Executive Polly Stokes and Channel 4’s Head of Development for Drama, Matthew Wilson.

Polly Stokes says: “The quality of the plays this year has been inspiring and we are thrilled to be supporting Theresa, Kate, Carmen, Zia and Charley - brilliant new voices. We also congratulate Francis on his richly deserved Catherine Johnson Award. It's a great pleasure to be involved with Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme and we look forward to seeing the work these playwrights produce under the bursary and beyond.”

Sir Richard Eyre says: "I was thrilled by the talent and the diversity - both ethnic and geographic - of this year’s winners. They made me feel very optimistic about the future of theatre in this country.”

Notes to Editors

In 1973, Howard Thomas, then Managing Director of Thames Television, launched the 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 support for the scheme and it became the Pearson Playwrights’ Scheme. In 2013 it was announced it was to become the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme.

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

This year’s panel, chaired by Sir Richard Eyre CBE, included Catherine Johnson, Indhu Rubasingham, Sue Summers, John Tydeman OBE (representing The Peggy Ramsay Foundation), Dinah Wood, Nicholas Wright, Polly Stokes and Matthew Wilson. The scheme is administered by Sue Higginson OBE.

Four bursaries are supported by Channel 4 with the fifth by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation.

Each year there is an additional award – the Catherine Johnson Best Play Award. Catherine Johnson was a graduate of the scheme, having been awarded a Bursary in 1989, 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. Each year the Catherine Johnson Award is given to the writer of the Best Play judged by the same panel as above. This award is open to the writers in the year following their bursary. Only one play per writer is eligible for consideration.

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