Since 1973, the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival has helped launch the careers of Simon Stephens, Christopher Shinn, Alia Bano and Leo Butler (among countless others). Ahead of its 2012 run, festival organiser Clare McQuillan tells Stevie Martin why we should start getting pretty excited…
What’s the Young Writers Festival all about?
To put it simply, the Young Writers Festival is a celebration of young British talent. We put out a call for play submissions last spring and, of the 300 entries, picked Vera Vera Vera by Hayley Squires and Goodbye to All That by Luke Norris to be staged throughout the festival. The aim is to showcase the best and most original young voices, but we also wanted to transform the Royal Court into an interactive playground of inspiration and creativity for everyone.
Aside from the two plays, what other events can we expect over the eight weeks?
We’ve got several In Conversations with… [events] to reveal what it’s really like to be a playwright – Leo Butler (Lucky Dog and The Early Bird) will be in conversation with Hayley Squires, and April de Angelis (Jumpy) will be with Luke Norris. We’ve also got the After Dark series kicking off once the final curtain’s fallen, featuring a spoken word night on 28 March and a music night on 16 March. Both will be held in the bar, which will stay open late, and are completely free.
On top of this we’re staging readings of plays from young writers picked from last year’s submission process and an education project we did last summer, running two workshops (Quickfire: How To Write a 100-Word Play with Leo Butler and, for children, How to Make a Play with Nick Payne), reading plays written by children in a series called Saturday Shorts, and a building tour following the journey of a script.
It all sounds hugely inspiring – are there any opportunities for budding writers during the festival?
Yes – the 100-word play is open to everyone and there are no rules other than the word count! Anyone can submit their play from the first day of the first production (23 February) via email or we’ll build boxes people can post them into. We’ll keep putting them up during the festival, covering the walls, the bar, toilet doors and we even want to print them on beermats and the backs of the tickets.
Also, we hope many young playwrights will be inspired to get penning plays for our Young Writers Programme – we’ve changed the submission dates to 1 March right through to 1 June.
Finally, do you have any tips for young playwrights?
To start with, write what you hear in your head and don’t worry about what you think theatres want. Listen to your instincts instead of writing because of current trends or fashions. Another thing I’ve found useful is something Simon Stephens said, [which] I’ve sort of adapted. He said playwriting is a craft, so learn the craft. Look at how other people do it, see what you like, see what you don’t and examine why you feel the way you do. Watch the classics, new writing, spoken word, dance. Learn from everything to develop your craft but, above all, never be scared of that voice in your head.
The Royal Court Young Writers Festival runs from 23 February to 14 April. Find out more.
We’re looking for a young arts writer to report back from the festival – apply now!