Shortlist for the 2021 Tinniswood Award for best audio drama script announced

Christopher Douglas, Eileen Horne, Becky Prestwich, Anita Vettesse and Isabel Wright are the shortlisted writers for this year’s Tinniswood Award, which is organised by WGGB and the Society of Authors to recognise the best audio drama script of the year.

ALCS is proud to be the sponsor of this award, which will be presented at the BBC Audio Drama Awards on 26 March 2021. Previous winners include Ian Martin, Sarah Woods, Oliver Emanuel, Morwenna Banks, Mike Bartlett, and Colin Teevan. This year’s judges were Nicholas McInerny, Ian Martin and Rex Obano.

The shortlist is as follows:

Just the Three of Us by Becky Prestwich

Produced by Pauline Harris, BBC Radio Drama North, 45′, BBC Radio 4

When a grandmother is denied contact with her only grandchild, she discovers the stark truth of how her daughter’s partner is controlling their lives.

The judges said: “A gripping account of the gaslighting and coercion of a young widow turns into something quite special, as the marginalised Gran’s past illuminates the story from an unexpected angle.”

Tristram Shandy: In Development by Christopher Douglas

Produced by Gary Brown, BBC Radio Drama North, 60′, BBC Radio 4

A drama workshop is taking place at the east London studios of award-winning indie AwesomeSauce! The project is Laurence Sterne’s 300-chapter-long, absurdist satire. There is a draft script and three seasoned radio actors have been hired, for £80 each, along with a hyperactive impressionist. The director, who prefers to style herself an ‘audio drama-maker’, has set herself the task of re-inventing the moribund form of radio drama. A boxset star has been cast in the title role but his flight from Corfu is delayed, so reading in as Tristram is Rosie the spot effects woman.

The judges said: “This hilarious play takes the ultimate shaggy dog story by the scruff of the neck and shakes some new and wonderful nonsense into it. Part satire, part homage and total re-boot, it wears its knowledge lightly as we romp through the ‘recording’ of Sterne’s novel in a series of brilliant, laugh-out-loud stories that are deliciously entertaining throughout. A terrific achievement.”

This Thing of Darkness, episode 7, by Anita Vettesse, with monologues by Eileen Horne

Produced by Kirsty Williams and Gaynor Macfarlane, BBC Radio Scotland, 43’43”, BBC Radio 4

This Thing of Darkness is a seven-part serial co-written by Anita Vettesse and Lucia Haynes with monologues by Eileen Horne. It features a small cast of characters and focuses on intense, long scenes intercut with the comments and insight of a forensic psychiatrist. In a fresh approach to crime, it’s not a murder mystery but is instead a gripping exploration of why murder occurs in human society and of how victims and killers come to terms with the impact of fatal violence. In this final episode, the killer’s identity is finally revealed with devastating consequences for the victim’s sister.

The judges said: “This beautifully written play explores the psychological impact of the violent murder of a young man on his family. Through the help of a prison forensic psychiatrist, the truth of the murder is revealed, but this is a painful listen.  However, the writers skilfully take us on this journey by capturing the myriad of human emotions relating to the characters’ darkest moments. The compelling nature of the play and the sheer brilliance of the writing enables the listener to think carefully and objectively about the processes of prisoner rehabilitation.”

Shrapnel by Isabel Wright

Produced by Gaynor Macfarlane, BBC Radio Scotland, 43’30”, BBC Radio 4

Having escaped from a war-torn city, reporter Nadine assumes that she can handle anything. But she’s struggling – loud noises remind her of explosions and crowds seem full of suicide bombers. She is also coming to terms with the death of her lover Rafa, the photographer on the assignment who was killed in an explosion she believes she caused. Turning to Donna, a specialist in PTSD, she just wants to be fixed. But that means understanding that her mind is still under siege. And it also means confronting the truth about what really happened.

The judges said: “Writing at its most taut. This thrilling account of a war correspondent navigating the collateral damage of her mind is a tour de force, powerful and brilliant.”

See the full details of the shortlist here.


The Tinniswood Award was established by Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Society of Authors to perpetuate the memory of Peter Tinniswood as well as to celebrate and encourage high standards in radio drama. Find out more about the award here.