WGGB New Play Commission Scheme brings “lifeline to writers” post-Covid

A new scheme is being launched to ensure 15 new commissions for playwrights across England in 2022.

The New Play Commission Scheme (NPCS), led by WGGB in partnership with HighTide Theatre, UK Theatre and the Independent Theatre Council, has been designed in response to the decline in new theatre commissions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research demonstrates that the pandemic has been devastating for playwrights. A survey of UK Theatre members and other theatres revealed that new commissions have declined by a third between 2019-20 and 2020-21. A poll of WGGB members found that 74% of playwrights had lost income due to the pandemic – representing 40% of their annual earnings – and that 50% believed they would not be working in theatre in two years’ time. The NPCS will address the loss of new voices from under-represented groups and writers based outside of London (see notes to editors).

The scheme has been generously supported by Arts Council England and Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre, through the Theatre Development Trust; and has raised over £50,000 in donations from major producers, actors, and writers, including the Mackintosh Foundation, Neal Street Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions; director and producer Stephen Daldry CBE; and playwrights Lucy Kirkwood, Caryl Churchill, Jack Thorne, Alan Bennett, Lee Hall, Laura Wade, Bryony Lavery and Sir Tom Stoppard. Faber have made a generous donation and will also award an additional £5,000 to the best play by an unpublished writer, which – if produced – will also be published.

Ellie Peers, General Secretary of the WGGB, said, “The last two years have brought immense challenges to playwrights and have stopped many promising careers in their tracks. The New Play Commission Scheme will bring writers and theatres together to produce new work under fair and equitable terms. We are hugely proud to be a part of this scheme.”

David Edgar, award-winning playwright, former President of the WGGB and architect of the scheme, said, “Our extraordinary times should inspire a golden age of new playwriting, not least by playwrights from communities which have hitherto been under-represented. Without positive encouragement for commissioning new plays now, great plays on great themes may be lost. The aim of the scheme is to prevent that happening.”

The scheme launches in April with online submissions open at http://www.writersguild.org.uk/npcs. The scheme is still accepting donations and will increase the number of commissions available if funding allows. Organisations and individuals wishing to donate to the scheme should contact admin@writersguild.org.uk.