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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
New writers offered Fringe prize
Willy Russell
Russell's career began at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1972
Writers Willy Russell and Tim Firth are offering new playwrights a 5,000 annual prize to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Russell, who wrote Shirley Valentine, and Calendar Girls writer Firth are behind the WR Foundation Award.

Anyone who has written a new play or who cannot afford to stage their work at the Fringe will be able to apply.

"In helping to set up this award I'm hoping to help real writing talent to emerge," said Russell.

'Brutally practical'

Both writers began their careers with plays that were first staged at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Russell's first show was Blind Scouse at The Rifle Lodge in 1972 while Sam Mendes directed Tim Firth's fist show Hexen, a play about witchcraft in Cheshire, 20 years ago.

Russell said: "Talent, artistry, creativity, tenacity and strength of character - all essential qualities in the process of making a play.

"But the inescapable fact is that theatre is also a brutally practical business - especially when it comes to money. No money, no show."

Calendar Girls
Firth has written films such as Calendar Girls and Blackball
"In 1972, I blagged, begged and borrowed until I had enough - just enough - to produce my first Edinburgh show," he added.

"Without the faith of those who invested in a very fledgling talent I might have eked out my years as the worst hairdresser in the world!"

David Pugh, producer of The Play What I Wrote and Art, will administer the award, honouring one piece of writing each year.

He said: "If in giving this award it enables someone else to produce a new work then we would be delighted!"

Russell and Firth are performing at this year's Fringe Festival as The Singing Playwrights, appearing at the Pleasance Grand from 21 August.

The WR Foundation Award joins a host of awards presented at the festival, including the Perrier Comedy award, the Scotsman Fringe Firsts and the Stage Awards for Acting Excellence.

  • Applicants should contact David Pugh Limited on 020 7434 9757.

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