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Pictured: (L-R) Tom Stocks, Lumen Hirata-Smith, Sarah Teale and Amy Drake.

Today the Royal Exchange Theatre and Leigh’s Local Exchange Ambassador Group are delighted to announce the winners of the latest round of their playwriting competition LocalTALE. Now in its second year, this competition was open to anyone who lives in or has a connection to Leigh, Atherton or Tyldesley. The Ambassadors were in search of an original 10-30 minute play inspired by the question ‘How was 2020 for you?’ The winners will have their work produced and performed in the Royal Exchange Theatre's pop-up theatre the Den at Spinners Mill this summer.

We are delighted to announce that this year's winners are Amy Drake, Lumen Hirata-Smith, Tom Stocks and Sarah Teale.

Amy Drake’s winning entry is HOPE IS A FLOWER and explores the interconnected lives of two women. Set over a year, two women keep crossing paths, trying to connect - with each other and the changing world around them. Amy said… “I’m chuffed to be back on home turf, sharing stories about Leigh, in Leigh!” Born in Leigh, Amy is an actor and writer, who graduated the inaugural year of ALRA North, a drama school in Wigan. Acting work includes various regional theatres, national stage tours and an upcoming TV appearance on Alma’s Not Normal (BBC). Her writing recently received a commendation for Screenshot's Writer-Performer Award (South of the River & SISTER) and she was long-listed for the BBC Alfred Bradley Bursary 2021.

Lumen Hirata-Smith’s winning play CHILDMINDING tells the story of a university student who finds themself reconnecting to their inner child. Their meeting brings up old memories, good and bad. Together they have to overcome the things they wanted to ignore, but they can’t do it alone. Lumen Hirata-Smith is a student currently finishing off his final year studying musical theatre at college. Recently new to playwriting, his dream is to become an inclusive theatre creator, taking inspiration from his culture and personal experiences. Beyond theatre he loves to paint, play piano and cuddle with his dogs. Lumen said of winning… “I feel so overwhelmingly grateful to have my play chosen. For me writing this play was a personal experience, especially during this time. I hope this play connects to others as much at it has to me.

ON THE STREETS OF COVID is Tom Stock’s winning entry, it explores the dramatic rise of homelessness that occurred during the pandemic and what happens when during a family quiz night on Zoom a heavily pregnant Emily gets interrupted by a visitor at her door. Tom is an actor, writer, producer and poet. He is the writer of award-nominated show Netflix and Chill. Recently Tom has become a poet, having his work featuring on BBC Radio. He’s also the founder of Actor Awareness which fights for equality, diversity, and working-class talent in the arts. 

Tom said “I am absolutely over the moon about winning. I never thought that after just scraping a C at GCSE level I would ever be the winner of a writing competition by The Royal Exchange. I grew up attending the Exchange so to now be part of their programme is just a dream come true.

Sarah Teale’s entry is 25 & OVER and tells the stories of Ruby and Carol. Ruby has just turned 25. She won’t be going outside for 18 months. She has a pandemic to avoid. Carole has just turned 25. She won’t be going outside for 18 years. She has a daughter to bring up. 2 stories told over 15 minutes or 25 years, this short play asks how old is too old? How young is too young? And is 25 actually too late to start a successful pop career?

Sarah Said “I honestly can't thank the Royal Exchange enough for this opportunity! It means so much to be part of a theatre festival celebrating the town where I grew up, and I can't wait to see the rest of the plays!" Sarah is a writer physically based in London but emotionally based in Tyldesley / Manchester (where she grew up and studied). She has had work performed at Southwark Playhouse, Theatre503, and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and produces work in Manchester as part of No Door Theatre.

Suzanne Bell, The Royal Exchange’s award-winning dramaturg and LocalTALE judge said…
"We were bowled over by the submissions to this year's competition and excited to read such a broad range of responses to everything that happened in 2020. Writing a play from scratch and sending it out into the world for other people to experience is a brave act and I would like to thank everyone who submitted for the dedication, ambition and imagination they brought to their work. We are delighted to announce the four winners whose plays opened up new worlds, made us see the world in new ways and showed the power of human connection. As things begin to reopen and we hope to soon welcome audiences back into theatres, the power of imagination and human relationships is more important than ever and we look forward to sharing these stories with you."

LocalTALE has been made possible by the kind support of both the Oglesby Charitable Trust and the Granada Foundation.

LOCAL EXCHANGE is a pioneering, long-term and ambitious series of residencies designed to reframe the way the Royal Exchange makes work with, by and for the people of Greater Manchester. It has been developed to create long-lasting and sustainable relationships between communities and artists.

Each individual residency will last for at least three years and is designed to respond to the cultural ambitions of each specific community. The project always begins with the development of relationships with local partners such as Councils, Housing Associations and Arts Organisations and the formation of a local ambassador group that will work closely with the Exchange throughout the residency. The Den, the Royal Exchange’s new pop-up theatre, is an essential part of Local Exchange. During the project the Den will take up residency in an existing building within the borough, this pop-up theatre will provide a professional space for residents to make, participate in and see work. It takes the Exchange out of its city centre venue and places it in the heart of its communities.