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Stephen Jackson wins 2015 Verity Bargate Award

Soho Theatre bar. Photo: Johnny Birch

Stephen Jackson’s play Roller Diner has been announced as the winner of the 2015 Verity Bargate award.

His debut play, set in a 1950s roller diner in Birmingham, has been selected as the winner from more than 900 submissions and a shortlist of six works.

The biennial playwriting award is given by Soho Theatre to an emerging writer, in memory of the London venue’s founding artistic director.

Jackson will receive £6,000 and developmental support from Soho Theatre as part of the prize, with the show also intended for production at the venue.

Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s Fury was runner-up, and other shortlisted plays included Daniel Alicandro’s Myfanwy and the Underworld, Yous Two by Georgia Christou, Theresa Ikoko’s Girls and Big Mama by Rosie Raven.

Jackson said: “I never expected to win. I know it’s a massive competition. I entered the way an unlucky gambler buys a lottery ticket – I’d got nothing to lose.”

Excerpts from the six shortlisted awards were performed at an event for the prize, which was judged by a panel including Diane Morgan, Fiach McConghail, Phil Porter, Jenny Sealey, Tanya Ronder and Stephen Garrett.

Soho associate director Nina Steiger said: “The Verity Bargate award is a unique opportunity for writers. At a crucial moment when theatres can feel like closed shops, this process opens the door to the earliest career playwrights and lives up to a promise that has been central to this company since its founding, namely that it is through production that a writer learns about their play, their process and the audience.”

Previous winners include Vicky Jones’ The One [1], Thomas Eccleshare’s Pastoral [2] and A Night at the Dogs [3] by Matt Charman.

The award, now in its 32nd year, is supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and Stephen Garrett.