Writers Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley have announced two new initiatives as part of their theatre company Burn Bright, which was set up to champion the work of women following an authorship row over a flagship Manchester International Festival play.
Burn Bright is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to “create a level playing field in the arts and provide an incredible support network and opportunities for the marginalised”.
It was set up following a row over the authorship of Tree, which ran in Manchester and the Young Vic in London and was billed as a show by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Idris Elba.
Henley and Allen-Martin claimed they came up with the show first, and said they felt “bullied and silenced” after they sought credit for their work.
Now they have announced their first two initiatives to support writers as part of Burn Bright: a networking hub for industry mentorship and a commissioned series of short plays by women to be shared over Zoom.
The Time Bank networking initiative will offer writers who identify as women the chance to connect with industry professionals willing to offer mentorship, feedback and advise.
Confirmed advisers include producer Tara Finney, writer and actor Oliver Lansley, writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, director Eleanor Rhode and screenwriter Kirstie Swain. New advisers and additional sessions will be added regularly.
The series of commissions is called Better in Person, and is inspired by the general public’s stories of conversations that would be better in person but are happening online during the coronavirus lockdown.
Writers commissioned for the series include Natasha Brown, Sharmila Chauhan, Krystina Nellis and Charlotte Jones. There will also be a joint piece by Allen-Martin and Henley.
The short plays will be aired live on Zoom on May 25.
Burn Bright plans to open up future Better in Person events for script submissions.
Henley and Allen-Martin said: "It’s taken us a while to recover, galvanise and gather our strength to launch Burn Bright – we wanted to honour our supporters properly and launch with the right team and a vision for the future.
“Writers who identify as women are still woefully under-represented on the big stages and we fear that the current climate of ‘safe bets’ and ‘big names’ with ‘tested material’ will only serve to increase the gender gap, not to mention a lack of diverse representation in stories, and eradicating working class and benefit class talents.
“We want to be the change we want to see, there’s still a long way to go and a lot of trial and error to be had, but we’re really excited to have started this journey, and would like once again to thank all of our supporters for their generosity and patience.”
They added: “It feels like a weird time to launch – with theatres unsure of when they’ll open – but the way we see it, people will always need art, so we will do what we can to make sure women are represented in what’s produced.”