The Royal Exchange Theatre and WarnerMedia today welcomed three brilliantly talented emerging writers, afshan d'Souza-lodhi, Stefanie Reynolds and Samuel Rossiter, to their brand-new joint programme WRITERS EXCHANGE.
Designed to support writers in Greater Manchester whose voices are currently under-represented in both industries, and who have experienced barriers to forging sustainable careers, WRITERS EXCHANGE is a space in which passionate storytellers can experiment, take risks, mould, and develop their work. A unique package of workshops and bespoke development opportunities will be created with the support of expert professional mentors.
Supported by these two award-winning companies, these writers will be encouraged to cultivate stories that are important to them. Afshan, Stefanie and Samuel begin a six-month residency at the Exchange in mid-March which includes group workshop sessions, individual sessions with WarnerMedia producers, meetings with other industry professionals and dramaturgical support from the Royal Exchange to help them hone their skills for stage and screen. With an energy to generate ideas and drive ambitious stories, these three writers will draw on the talent and expertise of both organisations and professionals working across different departments.
Bryony Shanahan, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre, said:
“Building these bespoke packages with WarnerMedia for afshan, Stefanie and Samuel, three fantastic Greater Manchester writers, feels very special. This new programme is very much about breaking down barriers, it provides much needed access to knowledge and professional advice, which can often feel out of reach. It is an opportunity to share expertise with each other, and to seek advice from people working in the industry, it has been created to help these writers to sharpen their skills in both artforms. WRITERS EXCHANGE is an inspiring development space in which scripted work from the North of England can be amplified.”
Asif Sadiq MBE, SVP, Head of Equity and Inclusion at WarnerMedia International, added:
“It has been an exceptionally difficult time for theatre over the last couple of years, so it was really important for us to find a true partner that we could work with and help to make a difference. For the last six months, we have worked hand in hand with Royal Exchange Theatre to develop a programme that gives opportunities to under-represented communities and really helps individuals who might previously have had obstacles and barriers in progressing their careers. Seeing it come to life with our first three very talented writers is fantastic and what better place for them to start than in the iconic Royal Exchange Theatre. We are looking forward to helping afshan, Stefanie and Samuel on their journey and helping to give them the new opportunities to thrive.”
About The Writers
Afshan (she/her) was born in Dubai and forged in Manchester. She is a writer of scripts and poetry. Her work has been performed and translated into numerous languages across the world. afshan is currently a LabFellow for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. afshan has been commissioned to write and direct a short film for Channel 4 (An Act of Terror) and a radio play for BBC Sounds (Chop Chop). In 2021, afshan was a Sky Writes writer-in-residence for Rotherham, a partnership between Sky Studios and New Writing North. She is also currently developing a TV series with Sky Studios.
Afshan said of being part of this project:
“The barriers to writing as a queer, South Asian, Muslim woman living in Manchester are many. Schemes like this allow for writers like me to fully focus on the craft of writing and storytelling while also connecting me with industry professionals. I am so excited to spend this attachment creating work that evokes joy and emotion as well as tapping into people’s sense of social justice.”
Stefanie (she/her) is a playwright from and living in Manchester. She has been a part of Tamasha playwrights 2017, Royal Court’s Intro to Writing 2019, and Box of Tricks’ year-long playbox scheme. She has written for Scratch nights and comedy nights in London and Manchester theatres, as well as touring her first play Scribbles at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Battersea Arts Centre. Her second play That Time We Got High was shortlisted for channel 4stories, Kudos and Royal Court fellowship and longlisted for Women’s Playwriting Award. She has written a new audio drama BABY MAMA, for Tamasha & Holy Mountain which will be available later this year.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be beginning a new relationship with Royal Exchange Theatre & WarnerMedia. Royal Exchange is the first theatre I ever visited as a teenager, and it’s such an important, special theatre to Manchester. I can’t wait to go through all the motions with them – inspiration, creativity, and of course anxiety and imposter syndrome. I’m very excited for this journey and I can’t wait to build relationships with not just Royal Exchange and WarnerMedia, but also the fellow writers on this scheme too.”
Samuel (he/him) is a trans and mixed-race writer and actor of English/Chinese heritage. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Samuel moved to Manchester after graduating from Hong Kong University in 2017 to pursue acting and writing. He is an alumni of the New Earth Manchester Writer’s Academy 2020, and was a recipient of the GM Artist Hub Reboot Fund in early 2021, which he used to write and perform a spoken word poem around the mixed-race identity. In 2021, Samuel was commissioned by the Royal Exchange to write for My White Best Friend North, which he used to explore his experiences as a trans man. He is passionate about creating work that explores the human condition and wants to push audiences to see life from a different perspective.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be a part of this scheme and am so grateful to the Royal Exchange and WarnerMedia for giving me this opportunity. I’m excited to continue developing my writing across the stage and screen, and to strengthen my relationships with two amazing organisations. It’s important now more than ever to champion voices from underrepresented groups, and I’m eager to do my part with the stories I tell.”
The writers will be based at the Exchange and will work regularly with colleagues from WarnerMedia. All three writers have some experience of working in one or both industries but do not currently have transmitted screen credits.
Writers Exchange will culminate in each writer creating a short piece for the Exchange’s DISRVPT series of work in the building for Autumn 2022.