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Playwright Winsome Pinnock: ‘Writers should not appropriate other people’s stories for own gain’

Winsome Pinnock. Photo: Bronwen Sharp Winsome Pinnock. Photo: Bronwen Sharp
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Playwright Winsome Pinnock has urged writers not to appropriate other people’s stories to benefit their career.

The comments were made during a panel event at London’s Royal Court on September 7 celebrating the 40th anniversary of theatre company Clean Break, which works with women who have experience of the criminal justice system.

Pinnock said: “I was given these guidelines when I was commissioned to write for Clean Break [that said] when you are researching the play you will talk to women in prison, but you will not take their story.

“I thought it was so important that I would not take their story, because I’m a playwright, and every play I write will do something for my career and there’s something about not using someone else’s story in that way, that you’re not ever going to appropriate someone’s story.”

Winsome argued that writing should be about “inspiration not appropriation”.

She added: “I’m so mindful about who tells someone’s story, especially if it’s a story that hasn’t been told before.”

Playwright Tanika Gupta echoed her comments, adding: “It’s about the art of writing, you’re basically a magpie, you write a story that is based on many people’s experiences [rather than using one person’s story].”

Writer Sonya Hale also raised the issue, arguing that “too often in theatre, plays are written about issues by people that just don’t know anything about them”.

She added: “[For example] plays that are written by men that are about innately female stuff. It’s so important that women, and women of colour and working-class women are given a platform and the time, encouragement and finance to learn the skills to [tell their own stories].”

Zawe Ashton and Lucy Kirkwood among Clean Break patrons

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