The 2016 Stewart Parker Awards for new playwrights were announced yesterday (Tuesday 12 April) at an event in the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Set up in honour of the late Belfast playwright the Stewart Parker Trust seeks to encourage new writing for the theatre in Ireland. This year marks the 26th year of the Awards.
During the ceremony the Stewart Parker Trust New Playwright Bursary was awarded to Noni Stapleton for Charolais. Written and performed by Noni Stapleton, ‘Charolais’ is an age old tale of female rivalry with a new twist: the other woman is a purebred Charolais heifer. The award was presented by Chair of the Stewart Parker Trust Advisory Committee, Willie White.
Two BBC Northern Ireland awards have also been established in Stewart Parker’s memory and form part of this annual event. The first of these presented at the event was the BBC Northern Ireland Irish Language Drama Award which was awarded to Gearóid Mac Unfraidh by BBC NI’s Irish Language Assistant Editor, Roisin Kelleher.
Gemma McMullan, Executive Producer in BBC Northern Ireland’s Drama department presented the BBC Northern Ireland Radio Drama Award to Stephen Jones for his play From Eden, a play which tells the story of Alan played by Stephen and Eva, who meet each other in a bathroom on a New Year’s Eve party.
This year the awards also noted the contribution that the late Brian Friel had made towards the trust. Chair of Trustees, John Fairleighsaid; 'Brian Friel got to know and work closely with Stewart when Pentecost was produced by Field Day and he was the first person to agree to the setting up of the Trust in the days after Stewart died. Thereafter, he was at the core of everything that the Trust set out to do to encourage writers emerging in Irish theatre. Over the years, while recognising that getting any play on stage is a collective enterprise, he guided the Trust towards always supporting the integrity of the writer in the creation of theatre. He is greatly missed, as a giant of Irish theatre also a great friend.'
Steve Carson, Head of BBC NI Productions said: 'These awards are a fitting tribute to the work of Stewart Parker, one of Belfast’s most visionary playwrights. The significance of his work is increasingly recognised and retains powerful resonances for life in 21st century Northern Ireland. Congratulations to today’s winners.'