Three emerging screenwriters from the North of England have been awarded Channel 4 Writing for Television Awards 2023 to support their development.

Each of the writers wins a £3000 bursary and a package of money-can’t-buy opportunities, including nine-month placements with independent production companies where they will develop original scripts, and mentoring with industry professionals.

The Channel 4 Writing for Television Awards were founded in 2014 as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards. They are funded by Channel 4 and produced by New Writing North, the writing development agency for the North of England. The Northern Writers’ Awards are England’s largest and longest-running writer development programme, supported by Northumbria University, Arts Council England and a range of partners.

The 2023 winners were announced on Thursday evening (21 September) at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, at a celebration hosted with North East Screen, the North East’s regional screen agency which develops and nurtures homegrown talent including writers, producers and directors. The event was attended by writers and industry professionals from television and audio, and included a showcase of new writing talent from across the North.

Harriet Ghost, an actor-writer from Newcastle, will receive a nine-month programme of mentoring and support from the Leeds-based production company, Rollem Productions (The Syndicate; Fat Friends). Harriet trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and her acting credits include Ken Loach and ITV projects. She has written for the stage and in 2020 was selected for BFI’s Script Lab and received mentoring from Aisling Bea through the BAFTA Connects scheme supporting women in TV and film.

Joe McNally is a writer from Liverpool whose debut play ‘Cosmic’ was staged at Liverpool’s Royal Court theatre in April 2023. Joe holds a Masters in Screenwriting and is a graduate of both Liverpool’s Royal Court Stage Write Development Programme and Liverpool Everyman’s YEP writers’ programme. His award includes a nine-month placement with Bonafide Films (Mood; The Last Post), where he will develop an original script.

Liz Redwood, from Southport, won the Channel 4 Writing for Television Award: Lime Pictures. She will spend her placement on the production of Hollyoaks, where she will work with members of the core writing team and shadow the script development process.Liz has completed the Liverpool Royal Court’s Playwright Programme and the Liverpool Everyman’s Playwrights’ Programme. In 2020 she was shortlisted for the Kenneth Brannagh New Drama Award at the Windsor Fringe Festival and the Sphinx Theatre programme for female playwrights. Her first professional production, ‘A Tipsy Christmas Fairy Tale’, was staged by Liverpool Royal Court in 2022.

Harriet, Joe and Liz join a growing list of television writers supported by Channel 4 and New Writing North. Previous winners include Sharma Walfall, who won the inaugural award in 2015 and has gone on to write for productions including Dreamland, Noughts and Crosses and A Town Called Malice, and Jayshree Patel, whose award led to her becoming a core writer on Hollyoaks before recently moving to EastEnders. The programme has also launched the television writing careers of Taiba Ahmad, Adam Bennett-Lea, Joshua Halm, Kemi-Bo Jacobs and Samantha Neale.  

The Channel 4 Writing for Television Awards form part of Channel 4 and New Writing North’s Talent Development Partnership, which offers year-round support and opportunities for new writers from the North, with a particular focus on supporting writers from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in the television industry. Alongside the awards and industry placements, it offers script development, writers’ roadshows and workshops, and the formation of the Northern Talent Network. 

Channel 4’s Head of Drama Caroline Hollick said: “Nurturing the next generation of talent is a key priority for Channel 4, particularly in the north, which is why we are so committed to these awards. We want to ensure that anyone who is determined to work in the creative industries has an opportunity to fulfil that ambition, regardless of their background or where they live.”

Will Mackie, Senior Programme Manager (Talent Development) at New Writing North, said: “Our flagship awards programme for screenwriters continues to grow and thrive through Channel 4’s generous ongoing support. The Channel 4 Writing for Television Awards give us the chance to identify and support three immensely gifted and exciting emerging writers. These awards offer genuine career-changing experiences and it’s enormously fulfilling for us to play a part in nurturing and celebrating new talent. So much of the success of this programme is down to the dedication and innovation of our brilliant production company partners — Rollem, Bonafide and Lime – who open doors into the world of TV for writers in the North.”

Lisa Laws, Head of Talent and Development at North East Screen said: “Huge congratulations to Harriet, Joe and Liz on winning these awards. All three are incredibly talented individuals, and in particular, we are very proud to see Harriet, a North East writer, on stage being presented with an award.

“New Writing North do incredible work nurturing writing talent across the north, and we are delighted to be co-hosting this event giving new talent the space to explore and have fun writing for screen.

“We have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline with Channel 4 to offer even more opportunities to develop talent, content and companies in the North East that we can’t wait to share!”

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