Blooming Talent

Since 2006, Bloomsbury Festival has created an annual ten-day extravaganza incorporating all the features that make the neighbourhood so spectacular and desirable. The fashionable area is renowned for its elegant streets, nearby parks, internationally renowned museums and galleries and as a centre for scientific research, all of which has become central to the Festival’s breadth of appeal.

The Bloomsbury Festival is more than just a one-off event, however. Throughout the year it engages with the community in a variety of arts projects. Creative development labs bring together artists, academics and residents; a venture which led to two commissions in the 2020 Festival. Another scheme, Festival in a Box, ‘takes artists into the homes of people living with dementia to provide life-enhancing and joyful cultural experiences for people who are often lonely and isolated’. Now Bloomsbury Festival have announced a series of playwriting opportunities as part of their New Wave programme, which offers a year-round platform for emerging talent.

Bursaries of up to £1,000 will contribute towards the creation of three new theatre pieces that will include a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a radio play, and performances at the Bloomsbury Festival 2022. Selected scenes will also be presented at an industry event at the RADA Studios during this year’s Festival from 15-24 October.

The theme for 2022 is BREATHE, which can be interpreted in any context the writer thinks appropriate. Works might deal with environmental concerns, personal well-being, freedom of speech or any topics relevant to our times. Submissions are open to London-based students following undergraduate, post graduate and vocational programmes in theatre writing, screenwriting, creative writing or other related disciplines.

Once the scripts have been read, one will be allocated to each of three production opportunities. In the period from selection to the Festival the writers will be asked to complete a full first draft of their script. Supported by a professional director, each of the scripts will be given a private rehearsed reading, and one scene from each play will then be prepared for public performance at an event to be held during the 2021 Bloomsbury Festival at the RADA Studios.

The first opportunity consists of a £1,000 bursary combined with assisted development of the piece through workshops that will include the writer, a professional director and student performers aged 16-18 from Macready Theatre Young Actors’ Ensemble. The Macready Theatre, which is owned by Rugby School, is supporting this venture and Bloomsbury is linked through the School’s founder, Lawrence Sherriff, who invested in property in the Lamb’s Conduit area of Bloomsbury 450 years ago, giving Rugby a special relationship with the area and with Bloomsbury Festival. William Macready (1793–1873), after whom the theatre is named, was an actor and former Rugby School pupil. This award is sponsored by Cemex UK, a company committed to the UK’s climate and environmental goals, and Rugby School Department of Theatre & Performing Arts. Following further development and performances at the Macready Theatre, the production will go to Edinburgh, with an anticipated full performance at the Bloomsbury Festival 2022, but perhaps with a different cast and production team provided by the Festival.

A second script will attract a Festival Bursary of £300 and be produced as a radio play with support from professional radio producers and recorded by Bloomsbury Radio for transmission in 2022. A further £300 Festival Bursary will be awarded for a rehearsed reading of a script in 2021, with a slot for staging at the 2022 Bloomsbury Festival.

Festival director Rosemary Richards said, “Bloomsbury Festival is committed to providing new platforms for emerging talent and these writing opportunities enable us to work with new playwrights to develop their work for a variety of production platforms”.

An application form is available at: deadline for applications is Friday 18 June at 5pm.

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