New playwriting competition opens for submissions

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at writing a piece for theatre, there’s an exciting opportunity to do just that – and your play could end up being performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Walter Swan who died in April 2014. The Trust set up in his memory has launched an annual playwriting competition.
Walter Swan who died in April 2014. The Trust set up in his memory has launched an annual playwriting competition.

A new playwriting competition, launched last October by the Walter Swan Trust, opens for submissions on February 1. The judges are looking for 20-30 minute plays requiring no more than four actors and simple staging. The competition is run in association with Ilkley Literature Festival and Ilkley Playhouse with the support of the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

There are two categories in the competition – for young people aged 18 and under and for those aged 19 and over. It is open to writers throughout the UK and the winning plays will be performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Ilkley Playhouse in late 2015. Cash prizes of £250 will also be awarded to the winners.

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Walter Swan was a talented poet, playwright, published author, teacher, director and freelance journalist who died suddenly and unexpectedly in April 2014 at the age of 59.

The Walter Swan Trust was established in his memory by his family and friends to promote creative writing and to provide opportunities for young and new writers.

As well as being a prolific writer himself, Walter was always very generous with his time in inspiring and encouraging others in their creativity – especially young people – both in writing and in theatre, about which he was passionate. He had a huge amount of energy which he channelled into a number of creative projects working collaboratively and supportively with many others. At the time of his death Walter was the creative development manager of Ilkley Playhouse where he was also artistic director for several years. Because of Walter’s passion for writing and for theatre, a Playwriting Competition seemed to be particularly appropriate as the Trust’s first activity. The intention is that it will be held annually, and over time the charity’s activities will spread into other areas of creative writing, such as poetry and short stories.

Walter encouraged all forms of new writing and was always looking for ways to engage young people with theatre. Among many other productions, he staged two 24-hour plays at Ilkley Playhouse using a group of actors of all ages who, through improvisation and workshopping, created a piece over the course of a single night and day. It was an exhausting but thrilling experience for everyone involved – and Walter was the enthusiastic driving force at the centre of it all. It was the young actors in particular who shone in the performance, their self-confidence boosted by Walter’s absolute belief in their ability. The fact that the winning plays in this inaugural competition will be performed in both a professional theatre and an amateur one would have pleased Walter – he was a great advocate of forging stronger links between the two, believing there were opportunities for both sides to learn from each other.

It is difficult to put into words how much Walter is missed by everyone who knew and loved him, but the Trust and the Competition are a fitting tribute to his great talent and generosity – and will help ensure that his creative legacy lives on.

• Further details at The competition is open for entries from February 1 to April 30, 2015.