The competition was open to anyone who lives in or has a connection to Leigh, Atherton or Tyldesley. Created and commissioned by the ambassador team, who are part of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s LOCAL EXCHANGE programme, the competition was designed to give people the chance to showcase their talent and make their work with the Royal Exchange in the heart of their own community.
The winners will all receive support with the development of their plays from the Exchange’s award-winning dramaturg Suzanne Bell who has worked with writers including Anna Jordan (whose theatre credits include the Bruntwood Prize winning YEN and MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN for the Exchange and her television work includes SUCCESSION (HBO) and KILLING EVE (BBC)). This development work will include a rehearsed reading as the four winning writers work towards getting their plays ready for the Exchange’s pop-up theatre the Den which will take up residency at Spinners Mill next year.
Farai Nhakaniso, Leigh Ambassador and LocalTALE judge said:
"It was such an amazing honour to be part of the judging panel for the LocalTale playwright competition. I really enjoyed reading the scripts submitted by such a diverse pool of contestants from our community. Congratulations to all the winners and really looking forward to the winning plays being performed on stage at The Den next year in Leigh"
Mary Berry is a lover of drama, theatre, film and all aspects of creative writing. She leads a weekly community writing group in the local library – Tyldesley Creative Writers. A friend told her that she’d noticed the use of dialogue in her writing and suggested she should consider exploring the art of playwriting more fully. She said on winning: “I am absolutely thrilled to be one of the four winners of the LocalTALE competition. I very rarely enter my work for competitions but wanted to enter this local competition to support the outreach work of the Royal Exchange – a theatre that I go to quite regularly to see fantastic performances of great plays. To be a part of their project at the local Spinners Mill is such a fantastic opportunity to learn how to show off my play to the public. I am very grateful. My play, Green Leaves, tells the story of an elderly woman’s journey towards coming to terms with bereavement.”
Charlotte Kirton is the under 26 winner and at just 14 years old was one of the youngest to enter the competition. Her play THE TREE FROM YOU OR ME follows the story of brother and sister Lyra and Calvin after the loss of their family. It explores the importance of remembering, loss and how life goes on. She said: "When I first found out that I won, I have to admit I did cry a little. When a lifelong dream actually comes true you have to take a step back a bit. I'm so thankful for this amazing opportunity and the recognition that one of my crazy ideas is getting!"
Pegeen Murphy is a writer and actor from Bolton. However, her connection with theatre started in Leigh, as her parents were both founder members of the radical company Pit Prop Theatre. After having three children, and developing a career in social work, Pegeen has returned to theatre making in the past few years, writing, performing in, and directing various pieces in theatres around the North West. On learning that her play was one of the four winning scripts she said: "I'm over the moon to find I'm one of the winners of LocalTale, it cheered me right up!" Her play DREAMS FOR OUR DAUGHTERS is about female relationships, adoption and motherhood.
Alison Ormrod had been writing as a hobby for some time but only recently turned her attention to writing scripts. She was inspired by the competition and eager to get involved especially as it gave her the opportunity to see theatre in the local area. She said of winning: “I found the theatre’s online resources really useful and the writing workshop with Suzanne Bell left me feeling empowered and encouraged. I was surprised but delighted to learn that my play had been chosen as one of the four winners. I really appreciate that judging still took place during these strange and difficult times. My play, BATTERY LOW was intended to raise questions about loneliness and the increasing normality on our reliance on virtual company. This seems so much more poignant now as so many of us are experiencing both during lockdown.”
Inga Hirst, Director of Creative Learning and Engagement at the Royal Exchange Theatre concludes: “LocalTALE has been an inspiring competition, a brilliant way to get the community engaged with the Den and Local Exchange. It was commissioned and created by the Leigh Ambassadors who collectively decided that they wanted to spend some of their budget on a project that would have a life after the Den and would continue to creatively bring their community together. LocalTALE has been a fantastic success. It would have been quite easy to postpone this competition but at ambassador meetings we all recognised just how important it was to stay connected and to keep the work happening across Leigh and the surrounding area moving forwards during these strange times. I cannot wait to see Alison, Mary, Charlotte and Pegeen’s plays when they are staged in the Den next year.”