A Northampton-born writer has been named the winner of a major new award being presented by the town’s Royal & Derngate Theatre.
Melanie Spencer will now receive a commission and residency at the R & D over the next 18 months.
The Royal & Derngate-HighTide Award is a new honour designed to commission and develop a play which examines life outside of our major cities.
It must be an original piece which explores, and has its roots, in those towns and rural communities that make up the majority of the population.
The two organisations will support the development of her new play which will focus upon aspects of rural life in Northamptonshire.
The winner was selected from over 150 playwrights by top judging panel on which James Dacre and Steven Atkinson were joined by Tamasha Theatre’s Sudha Bhuchar, National Theatre’s Sebastian Born, Bush Theatre’s Madani Younis, Marlowe Theatre’s Danny Lipman, North Wall’s Lucy Maycock, House’s Richard Kingdom and playwrights Timberlake Wertenbaker and Stephanie Street.
Melanie Spencer’s debut play Responsible Other played last year at Hampstead Theatre.
Also a director and founder of theatre company Made by Brick, Melanie trained at UEA, RADA and on the National Theatre Studio Directors course and has previously worked for the Donmar Warehouse, Headlong, Soho Theatre and The Gate.
She is currently participating in Channel 4’s screen-writing initiative.
Royal & Derngate Artistic Director James Dacre and HighTide artistic director, Steven Atkinson, said: “The great majority of new plays produced so far this decade have documented the urban experience.
“Responding to this imbalance, Northamptonshire’s Royal & Derngate and Suffolk’s HighTide Festival wanted to launch an initiative that would encourage playwrights to write state-of-the-nation plays that focus upon the experience of life outside of Britain’s cities.
“Melanie Spencer is a writer of exceptional potential and we’re incredibly excited to see what she’ll create across the course of her residency with both theatres.”
Judge Madani Younis added: “This is a great opportunity for a playwright to look at life and issues outside of the metropolitan.”
Fellow judge Timberlake Wertenbaker said: “There is nothing better for a playwright than the material support and encouragement of a theatre which will allow her to work on her new play under the best possible circumstances and develop what is already a strong and original new voice.”
Award-winner Melanie Spencer said: “I grew up in Northampton and also went to university in the East Midlands.
“Royal & Derngate is the first theatre I ever went to and is, in many ways, responsible for my decision to pursue a career in the arts.
“This is a singular opportunity for me to work in close partnership with two ambitious institutions that I very much admire. I am extremely privileged, very grateful and eager to get going.”