Helping to put new writing centre stage

Young writers discussing some of the entrants in the competition at a Script Yorkshire event. Picture: Amy CharlesYoung writers discussing some of the entrants in the competition at a Script Yorkshire event. Picture: Amy Charles
Young writers discussing some of the entrants in the competition at a Script Yorkshire event. Picture: Amy Charles
An organisation that encourages scribes in the region celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. Nick Ahad looks at Script Yorkshire.

As the adage goes, everyone has a novel in them. I recently read a quote that added “that doesn’t mean it should always be let out”.

That acerbic attitude has no place in the ethos of Script Yorkshire, which encourages anyone to unleash their creativity. As the name suggests, the organisation encourages people to allow their stories out through the medium of a script.

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It has been doing this, successfully, for a quarter of a century and celebrates the milestone later this month with a special event at the Theatre Royal Wakefield.

Over 50 budding playwrights submitted their work for a county-wide competition which will see five shortlisted scripts performed by a professional company of actors on the stage of the Theatre Royal Wakefield. A panel of judges will present awards on the night.

Sharon Oakes, co-chair of Script Yorkshire, says: “We are run by volunteers – so in other words, by writers, for writers.

“We decided to run a special competition for our 25th anniversary. We thought it was something worth celebrating.”

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Oakes, who shares the role of chair of the organisation with playwright Jonathan Hall, isn’t the only one who thinks there is something worth celebrating in the milestone.

Patrons Alan Ayckbourn and David Nobbs have both been encouraging in their support of the organisation which runs workshops around the county for would-be scriptwriters of all levels. Nobbs, creator of Reginald Perrin, will be a judge on the panel at the event.

He says: “I have been a member since it began and I am now proud to be one of its patrons. “I don’t do a lot except go to celebrations and enjoy what every writer needs – company.

“There are an amazing number of writers in Yorkshire and there is an astonishing amount of work going on, particularly in fringe theatres.

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“There are some great ideas around and through Script Yorkshire writers can access a most impressive range of courses on various aspects of the craft of writing.”

No-one is saying that everyone who passes through the doors of a Script Yorkshire event will go on to create a character as enduring as Reginald, but what the organisation does, say those behind it, is give everyone the tools and opportunity to make the most of their writing.

As well as holding workshops and organising local competitions, Script Yorkshire has strong links with the theatres in the region, with the organisation recently securing the help of Sheffield Theatres artistic director Daniel Evans in setting up the city’s branch of Script Yorkshire.

Originally begun under the name of Yorkshire Playwrights by Jude Kelly, the organisation provides networking, opportunities and training for writers of all levels. It now boasts many high profile members who work as professional scriptwriters across Yorkshire. Those in the industry see the value of the work it does.

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Alan Ayckbourn says: “I send my congratulations on reaching 25, along with my thanks for all Script Yorkshire does for writers in the county.”

While local branch script competitions are run regularly, this is the first time a county wide competition has been run and those behind the production of the five finalists’ scripts are high quality.

Dominic Leclerc, who has directed Coronation Street, Shameless and Emmerdale, is going to the bringing the plays to stage and the writers say seeing their work on stage is a vital learning tool.

Andrew Crowther, a competition finalist who will watch Leclerc’s take on his script at Wakefield, says: “Why did I enter? Because I needed a deadline and it gave me a poke with a pointed stick to start writing something I’ve been wanting to write for months.

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“I want to get some idea of whether or not what I’ve written works. I think the event is a chance to show what real talent there is in 
the region that doesn’t always get the opportunity to speak up.”

Adam Hughes, another finalist, says: “I wanted to be involved in a competition that celebrated local writing. 
Script Yorkshire is a pioneer and it is an honour to be a part of a competition that celebrates the work of local writers.”

Oakes says: “It’s probable that not many people have heard of us, unless you’re plugged into writer’s circles and yet we’ve been here for 25 years supporting our region’s scriptwriters.

“We’d like to shout a bit louder and help as many scriptwriters in our region as we can, at whatever level. We have so much writing talent in Yorkshire, it deserves to be seen and heard.”