Air-raids, game shows and mattresses. Outstanding radio plays submitted from Belgium, Nigeria and Yemen take home the prize in a record-breaking year
BBC World Service studio. Photo: Rob Thomson
The International Radio Playwriting Competition is a global competition hosted by BBC World Service and the British Council in partnership with co-producers The Open University. It offers the unique opportunity for playwrights to have their radio play heard across the globe by the BBC World Service’s millions of listeners.
This year marked the 26th competition and saw a record-breaking 1500 entries from 114 countries — from established and new writers alike. The judging panel included actor Raymond Fearon, writer and poet Sabrina Mahfouz, co-Artistic Director of The North Wall Ria Parry, and Director Theatre and Dance at the British Council Neil Webb.
The two first prizes were won by Aziz H from Yemen and Colette Victor from Belgium. Both writers will visit the UK in October to attend a prize-giving ceremony at the Commonwealth Foundation. They will see the recording of their winning radio scripts at the BBC, and both plays will be broadcast on BBC World Service in 2019.
Bode Asiyanbi from Nigeria was awarded the Georgi Markov prize. This prize celebrates the most promising script from the shortlist, in honour of BBC World Service Journalist and writer Georgi Markov. Asiyanbi will also travel to the UK to attend the prize-giving and will spend two weeks being mentored by BBC Radio Drama and BBC World Service.
"Sharing stories is a powerful way for us to connect with different cultures"
Director Theatre and Dance at the British Council, Neil Webb, gives the opening address at the 2016 prize-giving. Photo: Rob Thomson
“This competition is an important part of the British Council’s programme of developing new playwrights across the world — discovering new talent, helping global artists find new opportunities, and connecting with the UK,” says Webb. “Sharing stories is a powerful way for us to connect with different cultures, explore difficult issues and be inspired by fresh voices.”
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.
The 2018 winning plays:
English as a second language
A Broken Heart in a Warzone by Aziz H (Yemen)
A dark comedy about two audacious thieves in a warzone, who steal from evacuated houses during air-raids. However, the thieves’s luck changes when they find themselves inextricably involved in a surprising domestic drama...
English as a first language
By God’s Mercy by Colette Victor (Belgium)
A comedy drama set in an impoverished South African township. Mercy’s new occupation is seen from the point of view of her mattress. And yes, we did say mattress...
The Georgi Markov Prize:
The Journey to Fortune? by Bode Asiyanbi (Nigeria)
As the tension mounts on a popular quiz show, a panellist is surprised to find that he is able to answer the questions put to him. How? His unique experiences in trying to leave Nigeria for Europe seem to have unwittingly provided them…
Find out more:
> Meet the winners from the 2016 International Radio Playwriting Competition
> Watch a clip from one of 2016's winning plays
> Read some tips on how to write a play for radio
> Learn more about the competition from BBC Radio Drama's Marion Nancarrow