Open call: International Radio Playwriting Competition 2020

Tags: Opportunity Writing

Are you a promising writer living outside the UK? Would you like to have your story heard by the world? You're invited to submit your scripts for the 27th International Radio Playwriting Competition

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The International Radio Playwriting Competition, hosted by BBC World Service and the British Council, offers the unique opportunity for playwrights to have their radio play heard across the world by the BBC World Service's millions of listeners.

Whether you're an established or a completely new writer, the competition welcomes scripts from anyone outside of the UK. The radio dramas can be on any subject you like, as long as they are 53 minutes long.

This year the two first prizes can come from either the English as a First Language or the English as a Second Language category. Both winners will receive a cash prize of £2,500 sterling, travel to London to attend an award ceremony, and see their plays recorded before they're broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Last year we received over 1,500 entries from a record 112 countries. Writers from Zimbabwe, USA, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Malaysia, Egypt, Kosovo, Iceland and Russia all made the shortlist.

"Write your play. Just write it, this is such an opportunity"

2018 winnersLast competition's winners Bode Asiyanbi and Colette Victor receive their prizes from BBC's Marion Nancarrow at an award ceremony in London. Photo: BBC

"This competition is an important part of the British Council’s programme developing new playwrights around the world, discovering new talent, helping global artists find new opportunities, and connecting with the UK", says Neil Webb, Director Theatre and Dance at the British Council. "Sharing stories is a powerful way for us to connect with different cultures, explore difficult issues and be inspired by fresh voices. We look forward to reading the inventive scripts for this year's competition."

The two first prizes from the last competition were won by Aziz H from Yemen and Colette Victor from Belgium. Bode Asiyanbi from Nigeria was awarded the Georgi Markov prize – a prize celebrating the most promising script from the shortlist, in honour of BBC World Service journalist and writer Georgi Markov.

Victor's play By God’s Mercy is a comedy drama set in an impoverished South African township and seen from the point of view of a mattress. Aziz H's A Broken Heart In A Warzone is a dark comedy about two audacious thieves who steal from houses when their owners flee to air-raid shelters during frequent bombings.

Entering the competition can be a life changing experience. Previous winners have left their jobs to pursue careers in writing — including Virginia Jekanyika, who won the English as a Second Language category in 2013 with her play The Cactus Flowers and moved to the UK to study creative writing.

“I don’t care if you’ve got three jobs and five children, write your play." said Kwame Kwei-Armah, who was a panellist for the 2008 competition. "Just write it, this is such an opportunity. You can come to London, you can have your play looked at by the BBC, you could have your play broadcast to millions on air.” So, if you have a compelling story to tell, don't miss this opportunity to have it broadcast globally." Information about how to apply is below. We're excited to read your stories.

Your story heard by the world


At a glance:


What is the prize?

The two winners will have their plays recorded and broadcast on BBC World Service. They will also receive £2,500 sterling and a trip to London (including airfare and accommodation for one person) where they will attend an award ceremony. we’re delighted to also be awarding a Special Commendation in the name of the writer Georgi Markov, for the play with most potential on the shortlist.

Who is eligible?

Entry to the International Radio Playwriting Competition 2020 is open to anyone over the age of 18 (as of 31 January 2020), who is not normally a resident of the United Kingdom. Both new and established writers are encouraged to apply. There are two categories for entry. One is for entrants who speak English as a first language, the other for entrants with English as a second language. The BBC may require proof of eligibility for the second category.

You can find all the competition rules here

How do I apply?

Entrants should write a radio play of approximately 53 minutes' length on any subject of their choice. The play must be written substantially or entirely in English. Your script should be accompanied by a short synopsis, of no more than 400 words, which outlines the complete story of the play. You can apply by the following methods:

In order for your entry to be accepted it must be accompanied by a completed copy of the entry form which can be downloaded here.

Read all the information about how to apply before submitting an application.

When is the deadline?

The competition closes on 31 January 2020. Entries must be received at your British Council office or at the BBC in London by 23:59 (GMT) on 31 January. If you are applying via post please allow at least seven working days for international post to arrive in the UK. 

What should my play be about?

The play can be on any subject you like and should be approximately 53 minutes length (this is a word count of approximately 9000-10,000 words). The play should have a maximum of six central characters (although there may be up to three small "doubling" characters who don't have more than a few lines each). There must be no central roles for children.

Who is on the judging panel?

The judges are selected by invitation and usually include the Commissioning Editor of BBC World Service, the Theatre and Dance Director of the British Council, the Overseeing Producer of BBC Radio Drama and an actor, director and writer. Please watch this space for the announcement of this competition's judging panel in early 2020. Previous judges have included Kwame Kwei-Armah, Dame Eileen Atkins, Doris Lessing, Roy Williams, Sabrina Mahfouz and Indira Varma.

I have never written a radio play before, do you have any tips?

Here are some resources to help you write your script:

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