A new playwriting programme for the South West has been launched to address what its founders say is a historic lack of opportunities for writers in the region.
Theatre company Papatango has established the scheme – WriteWest – to nurture a playwriting “ecosystem” across the UK’s largest region, which covers Bristol, Cornwall, Dorset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
WriteWest will commission and develop new plays, train new theatre producers and nurture writers from state schools and community centres, as well as support more established talent.
The programme’s inspiration came from a Papatango survey of more than 1,200 writers, which revealed that more respondents that have participated in the company’s development schemes hailed from the South West than from Scotland, Wales and Ireland combined.
Further research found there to be significant gaps in provision for writers in the region, with large areas in Devon, Dorset and Gloucestershire lacking a single specialist playwriting programme.
Papatango said it wanted WriteWest to redress these “systemic weaknesses”. All parts of the programme will be free to participants, with travel bursaries also available.
WriteWest will provide a £6,500 commission for an early-stage playwright living in the South West to produce a new play, with mentoring and support from venues including Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Salisbury Playhouse and Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol.
Papatango has also announced plans for an eight-month producing course, which will culminate in three producers each being given £3,000 of seed funding towards producing new work in the region.
Further intentions include fostering a network of writers through free playwriting courses at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth and Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre in Taunton, and 18 free workshops in state schools across Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Bristol to inspire students to write their own plays.
In addition, 12 free workshops will be held for adults without professional writing experience, in Exeter, South Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Papatango artistic director George Turvey said: “WriteWest is the culmination of three years of planning with a multitude of partners in the culturally vibrant South West – my home region. Prompted by the discovery that a huge proportion of writers and participants entering Papatango’s opportunities hail from here, we mapped new writing provision across the region, uncovering several significant challenges.”
He said WriteWest’s work could “foster a whole ecosystem for playwriting” in the area and bring new stories from the South West to light.
The scheme will begin this month and run until April next year.
The company already runs the Papatango New Writing Prize, which offers a £6,000 commission and developmental support for a new play. It was last won by Iman Qureshi for The Funeral Director.