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Polly Thomas and Joe Sumsion recognised for their commitment to new writing

The Dukes Theatre artistic director Joe Sumsion. Photo: Steve Pendrill The Dukes Theatre artistic director Joe Sumsion. Photo: Steve Pendrill
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Radio drama producer Polly Thomas and Dukes Theatre artistic director Joe Sumsion have been recognised for their commitment to new writing.

The pair have been honoured as part of the 11th annual Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards, set up by playwright Mark Ravenhill to celebrate support for new writing. Each of the winners were nominated by members of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain – which runs the awards – and were chosen for their personal commitment to new writing projects and schemes.

Other winners include director Mared Swain, artistic director of Cardiff’s the Other Room theatre Kate Wasserberg, and the founder of Gloucester Scriptorium, Jarek Adams.

Thomas was nominated by playwright and academic Dan Rebellato for her work on his BBC Radio 4 adaptation of 20 Emile Zola novels.

Rebellato said: “Over the last year, while I’ve worked on a very large-scale, high-pressure project… she’s been a model of support and tact, offering both a sounding board and clear-sighted creative input.”

Writer Debbie Oates nominated Sumsion, who has been in charge of the Dukes in Lancaster since 2008.

She nominated him for his work in establishing the theatre as a centre of encouragement for writers.

“At a time when many theatres feel they must play safe and work with tried and tested existing plays, Joe has been working hard for seven years to reposition the Dukes as a centre of encouragement for writers,” Oates said.

She added: “Writers are valued, encouraged, developed, supported and ultimately, produced, and this is down to the drive and vision of Joe.”

Swain and Wasserberg were jointly nominated for their support in developing Alun Saunders’ first full-length play, A Good Clean Heart, while Adams’ work supporting new writing in Gloucestershire saw her nominated by Andrew Thorn.

The awards are named in honour of playwright Olwen Wymark, a former chair of the WGGB theatre committee, who died in 2013.

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