Playwright and poet Sarah Hehir, published author Mark Wallington (whose "Boogie" travelogues have been serialised on Radio 4) and first-time writer Simon Topping, were today announced as the winners of the first BBC Writer's Prize.
Rock Me Amadeus by Topping and Bang Up by Hehir have both been commissioned for Radio 4's Afternoon Drama slot, while Wallington's comedy The Joy of Adult Education has been given a pilot commission.
The judges Jeremy Howe (Commissioning Editor, BBC Radio 4 Drama), Caroline Raphael (Commissioning Editor, BBC Radio 4 Comedy and Radio 4 Extra), Kate Rowland (BBC Creative Director of New Writing), Roy Williams (writer) and Miles Jupp (writer-performer) were impressed by the overall range and calibre of the drama scripts submitted for the competition, with Howe commenting on the winning entries:
"In Rock Me Amadeus, Simon Topping takes on a challenging subject – gender identity – and explores it with a lightness of tone and a freshness of voice that makes it an utterly engaging read. It is a warm, playful piece of writing that doesn’t duck the serious issues."
About Bang Up he said, "Sarah Hehir charts the developing relationship between a young offender in a Kentish detention centre and his teacher. It is tough, warm, beautifully observed and written from the inside with real heart. It pulls you into the worlds of the two central characters in such a way that makes you really care for them both, and takes us on a surprising journey.”
Praise was not quite so forthcoming on the cailbre of entries in the comedy section, with Kate Rowland admitting, "Perhaps we were more disappointed by the range of ideas for comedy – the lack of – and maybe too many familiar set-ups."
However, the judges' praise for The Joy of Adult Education was unqualified, with Miles Jupp commenting "What I love about this script is that once you've tuned into it, it builds and builds and builds. The writer has a terrific turn of phrase, and chooses their words carefully and deliberately, throwing up so many lines that are wonderful when standing alone and hilariously funny in context. The characters are beautifully and lovingly drawn too, giving real warmth to this understated joy of a script.”
The Writer’s Prize was established to create a unique opportunity for new and established writers who want to write for Radio Drama and Radio Comedy. Over 1,200 original scripts were submitted to BBC writersroom, before the judges were handed a shortlist of 18 from which to reach a decision.
On being told of his winning entry, Simon Topping could hardly contain himself, "I'm absolutely thrilled, honoured, flabbergasted, flattered, gobsmacked and very grateful that my play has been selected. Thank you bbc writersroom and judges! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, as Kate Bush might have said (the last two wows in a deep voice)."
Sarah Hehir was a bit more reserved though no less thrilled, saying "Being selected for the Writer's Prize feels like a life-changing moment. I'm so excited about the future!"
While Mark Wallington was happy to be back on a medium so beloved of writers, "Delighted to be working in radio again. I've always thought radio is about as much fun as a writer can have."