Late last year, BBC World Service, in partnership with the British Council, launched the 12th International Radio Playwriting Competition. Writers from around the world are invited to write a one-hour radio play on any subject.
Anyone interested has up to February 15 2011 to write their play and the winning entries will be broadcast on BBC World Service in autumn 2011. There are two first prizes: one for writers for whom English is a first language, the other for those with English as a second language.
Last year, for the first time, English as a second language entries overtook the first language entries. In its twenty second year, this biennial International Radio Playwriting Competition is unique in that it is only open to writers outside the UK. The winners in the 11th edition were Efo Kodjo Mawugbe and Erin Browne from Ghana and USA respectively, who also like other previous winners, received a trip to London to see their play recorded.
Efo Kodjo’s piece was titled The Prison Graduates and it revolved around four men, who try to make their way in the world after their release from prison in Ghana. They explore their many options – only to choose the one that might have surprised them all. This is a surreal, post-colonial fable – where Woza! Albert meets Samuel Beckett.
Erin’s piece was called Trying and it revolved around two sisters Lena and Chels, who are getting by just fine, awaiting the arrival of Chels’ baby. Then Lena goes on and falls in love with the girl in the bookshop.
Last year, more than 1100 entries were received. Entries are welcome from published authors as well as from writers who are totally inexperienced. Former winners have gone on to write again for BBC World Service Drama, making the competition a potential launch-pad to a future career.
Other regional prize winners during the 11th edition were: Europe— Csaba Székeley (Romania) for Do You Like Banana, Comrades, Asia Pacific— Anna Bennetts (South Australia) for Shift, South Asia— Meher Pestonji (India) for Feeding Crows, Russia and the Caucuses— Vasil Bassa Janikashvili (Georgia) for On the Latch, all representing English as a second language.
“It’s a privilege to be involved in running this competition,” Marion Nancarrow, Executive Producer of BBC World Drama said during the launch. “It’s unique in the entire world in not just in actively seeking new work from outside the UK, but also for recognizing the huge skill required to write a 60-minutes play in a second language. The last competition saw second language scripts outnumber those we received in the English as a first language category. We’d love to see even more scripts – in both categories – to enable even more stories, from more parts of the world, to be heard.”
Entrants retain the copyright in their entries but grant to the BBC a non-exclusive license to broadcast their entry across all media, as well as use it on any online platforms. The 60-minute radio drama is for up to six characters. There are two categories: one for writers with English as their first language and one for writers with English as their second language.
The two winners will go to London and see their play made into a full radio production, which will then be broadcast on the BBC World Service. They will also each receive a £2,500 (about KES 300,000) prize and there are also prizes for the runners-up.
The play must be in English, unpublished and must not have been previously produced in any medium.