Last Christmas, we celebrated our charitable and cultural partnerships across our great city regions that we operate in. Across 2018 we’ll be celebrating them even further by telling their stories and the impact they have on our communities. These partnerships are integral to who we are as a business, and we believe in building strong relationships with organisations across our regions to aid in our purpose of making our great city regions greater.
We don’t do this by just handing over money, we actively collaborate to form partnerships to bring about real change in the cities we’re passionate about. We bring our leadership, connections, spaces, Bruntwood colleagues and their skills, as well as financial support, to these partnerships to help create thriving communities that grow and develop together – now and in the future.
One of our longest standing partnerships is with the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, with the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. When you think of Bruntwood, the first thing you think of probably isn’t playwriting, and while our core business focuses on the property industry, we are also committed to investing in arts and culture within our cities. That’s why, for the past 12 years, we have been growing the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting as we hope to help make our great communities greater.
To Bruntwood, investing in the Prize makes good business sense, bringing new art to our cities, making it a more attractive place for businesses to base themselves; attracting workers and helping them to grow.
This national playwriting competition came to life to help encourage and uncover new writing, as well as to build a platform for new talent across the UK. Since the launch of the Prize in 2005, the competition has received over 11,000 entries, granted 22 prize winners, 23 productions and awarded £208,000.
All plays entered into the prize remain anonymous - with the pseudonyms of many being a great talking point - so that all writers are judged solely by their submission, whether they are an established or first-time playwright. Scripts must be original and unperformed, giving Bruntwood and the Royal Exchange Theatre access to great new plays and fantastic writers.
“Through giving back to the city, we believe we can make our great city of Manchester a more vibrant place to be, attracting more visitors and more businesses.
“Although its birth was in Manchester, we’ve managed to grow the Prize into something much bigger than it originally was and we’re proud to have put Manchester on the international map,” said Kate Vokes, Director of Culture at Bruntwood.
We spoke to James Fritz, winner of a Judges Award at the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting with his play, Parliament Square. James won a Judges Award at the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015, after first being exposed to theatre at a drama club when he was a teenager.
The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015 wasn’t the first time James had entered the Prize, previously submitting a script in 2011. “[That] felt like my first complete piece of work, which was a huge stepping stone at the time. I think that’s just as important as getting shortlisted or winning, in a way,” says James. Although his first entry didn’t make the longlist, this didn’t deter him. James wrote a draft of Parliament Square in just four days, developed from a very different version of a play that he had worked on a year earlier. “I think the thinking that went into the previous play helped me write the first draft of the Bruntwood draft so quickly.”
After winning the Judges Award, Parliament Square entered into development with a team of experts at the Royal Exchange Theatre, a huge learning curve for James. “[Parliament Square] has changed so much over the last couple of years, and I hope I’ve become a better collaborator, and by extension a better writer, because of it,” he explains. “The Exchange trusted me to fill their amazing main space, and encouraged me to push my writing to places I never thought possible.”
Since winning the Judges Award, James has had Parliament Square performed at two of his favourite venues. “I have made collaborators and friends for life and had some incredible conversations with audiences. I couldn’t be prouder of what Parliament Square became. I'm now working full time as a playwright, and winning the Judge’s Award was a huge part in helping me get there,” he says.
Of course, entering a script to the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting can be a difficult task. We asked James what his advice is to anyone thinking of entering the Prize, replying “finish your play, don’t worry about it being perfect and don’t try and second guess the readers. You have no idea what’s going to be the idea that connects with people, so write what appeals to you,” says James. “Your instincts are the most important - if you stay true to them then your vision will shine through.” The age old saying of ‘you have to be in it to win it’ is appropriate here. “Submit whatever you have, even if you think it’s rubbish. It’s an anonymous process so what do you have to lose.”
The Prize is now the UK’s biggest playwriting competition, sharing new talent from across the country, but also helping to grow new writers. Together with the Royal Exchange, we make sure that we provide budding writers with events and opportunities to grow their talents and learn more about the theatre industry.
To date, 23 winning productions have been staged in 37 venues across the UK, with another Judges Award winning play, the Almighty Sometimes by [Kendall] Feaver, due to premiere at the Royal Exchange Theatre next month.