Open call: International Radio Playwriting Competition 2023

Tags: 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 28th 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.

We are looking for entries in two categories: English as a First Language and English as a Second Language. The two first prizes can come from either 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. A Special Commendation will be made for the runner-up in honour of the BBC World Service journalist and writer Georgi Markov (1929-1978).

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

2018 winnersThe 26th 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 of developing new playwrights around the world, discovering new talent, and helping global artists find new opportunities', says Neil Webb Director Theatre and Dance, British Council. 'Sharing stories is a powerful way for us to connect with different cultures and difficult issues. Every competition we hear original voices with extraordinary stories to tell from all corners of the globe — including from people who wouldn’t have considered themselves playwrights before. I look forward to reading the fresh voices and inventive scripts for this year’s competition.'

The last competition in 2019/20 attracted 850 entries from 104 countries, with regional winners coming from Colombia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago.

The winner in the First Language category was The Snowman, written by Neil Flynn from Ireland. It is a lyrical monologue about an Antarctic explorer’s desperate attempts to make it back to base camp. In the Second Language category, Ainur Karim from Kazakhstan won with her comedy, The Passport, which is set against a backdrop of social unrest and a family in upheaval. Ross Mueller from Australia won the Georgi Markov commendation with The Birthday Cake, a dark comedy focusing on the wife of a white supremacist.

After delays caused by the global pandemic, the BBC is looking forward to welcoming Ainur Karim and Neil Flynn to the BBC in December to record their winning entries for broadcast on BBC World Service in February next year which will be available online to listen and download from March 2023.

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.

'Sharing stories is a powerful way for us to connect with different cultures and difficult issues'


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 2023 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?

You can apply online or by post. Find out more information here.

When is the deadline?

Entries must be received by midnight GMT on 12 February 2023. Entries received after this time will not be considered. Entrants are responsible for checking the equivalent closing time based on the time zones for their location. 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 Director Theatre and Dance  at the British Council, the Overseeing Producer of BBC Radio Drama and an actor, director and writer. 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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