PART 2: Bruntwood Playwriting Competition 2011

Image of Ben Musgrave (© Marius Macevicious)

Ben Musgrave (© Marius Macevicious)

BEN MUSGRAVE…on winning the inaugural Bruntwood Prize in 2007 for his play Pretend You Have Big Buildings

How has winning the first Bruntwood Prize affected your career as a writer?
A week before the prize announcement, I had given up my job to concentrate on writing full-time. Winning the prize felt like a miraculous validation of this decision. It launched my career as a writer: all of a sudden I had representation, interest, the time to write, and, most importantly, the opportunity to work with some wonderful practitioners towards the production of my play in the Main House of the Royal Exchange. It was really extraordinary. Nick Hern published a playtext of Pretend You Have Big Buildings, and every now and again I’m in a bookshop and see a copy of my play on the shelves, which is a lovely thing. The playtext is also on the syllabus at Westminster University…

Jacket for Pretend You Have Big Buildings

Pretend You Have Big Buildings by Ben Musgrave

What advice would you give to a writer entering the prize this year?
I believe that the real value of a prize like this is that it has the potential to find the best play – on its own terms. Not the most fashionable play, or the play most suitable for a particular theatre, but the best play in its own right. In a sense, my play Pretend You Have Big Buildings, very firmly set in Romford, was entirely inappropriate for a theatre in Manchester, and it had already received a “not one for us” response from a few theatres. But there was something about it, and I think that came through. So the best advice I can give to entrants is to write the play you want to write, not the play you think the theatre wants you to write.

What have you done since winning the prize and what are your plans for the future?
It’s been hard to top winning the Bruntwood Prize! It’s also been hard to write the follow-up to Big Buildings, a play that came easily to me, and which emerged, very suddenly, with its heart and character almost fully revealed. But the big ‘Second Play’ has been slowly emerging – I hope it’ll be ready sometime in 2011. In the meantime, however, I’ve been privileged to write a couple of really interesting plays about science – one about neuroscience, and one about privacy and government databases, and I’m really proud of them both.  Last year I also had my play Exams Are Getting Easier produced at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre – performed by their youth theatre. I’m also working on a play for a really interesting company called Only Connect, and I think I’ve just been commissioned to write a play for Radio 4!

2011 Bruntwood Playwriting Competition

Today marks the launch of the third Bruntwood Playwriting Competition – the UK’s biggest (and most lucrative) award for playwrights.

It doesn’t matter where you come from in the UK, whether you’ve never written before (or you’ve written a hundred plays), or what you want to write about.

Royal Exchange Manchester logoYou’ve got until 3rd June 2011 to submit a play to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, who organise the competition. One first-prize winner will win £16,000 and the offer of a year’s attachment at the Royal Exchange; three runners-up will be awarded £8,000 each. Some of the plays will also receive full, professional productions at the Royal Exchange. In addition, four of the previous competition winners whose plays have gone on to premiere there have been published by Nick Hern Books – and we are delighted to be offering the same again for this year’s winners.

Publication of these new writers has been an excellent way for us to add four distinctive new voices, and their superb debut plays, to our list. And we think it’s helped promote the writers’ work in the wider world. As Sam Pritchard, the Royal Exchange’s New Writing Associate, says: ‘Publishing the texts of those Bruntwood winners that have been produced at the Royal Exchange has been a crucial element of what the competition has to offer writers. Nick Hern Books’ editions of the plays help launch the lives of these plays after they have been staged, and are an important landmark in the careers of winning writers.’

For the rest of this week, each of the four playwrights published by NHB will be talking about the prize and the effect it had on their careers. First up tomorrow, the winner of the first competition in 2007, Ben Musgrave, for his play Pretend You Have Big Buildings. So make sure to check back tomorrow to read his post!