Conway McDermott and Sarah Tarbit beat off competition from nearly 350 entries from underrepresented talent from across the North of England to win the Box of Tricks and Sky Studios inaugural Screen/Play Award.
Both will be awarded £10,250 to write a 70-minute stage play, and a 20-minute screenplay inspired by a single central idea to be developed with support from the two partners throughout 2021.
Conway McDermott is a trans non-binary writer from Liverpool. They describe their work as genre fiction, using fantasy, history, sci-fi and mysticism to “create a fuller landscape of worlds and stories for weird working-class queers to inhabit”.
For Screen/Play, Conway will develop The Priestess, a trans coming of age story that crashes into a psychosexual horror full of dark humour.
“All you can hope for as a writer is to connect to others through your ideas, and to find a common truth in stories. It’s a great feeling to know that my pitch resonated with the panel,” says Conway McDermott. “Suddenly these new really exciting creative partnerships are rolling into my life, and I am so excited for what they’re going to bring, and desperate to rise to the challenge of it!”
Sarah Tarbit is from Ashington, Northumberland, which is one of the most deprived areas in the country. Her work documents life in the region and often calls for social and political change. In 2020, she was Highly Commended for the Sid Chaplin Award and had two short plays produced by Live Theatre in Newcastle.
For Screen/Play, Sarah will develop You Belong Here, exploring the effects suicide can have on a community and the people left behind.
“I can’t thank Box of Tricks, Sky Studios, and the rest of the judging panel enough for believing in me and seeing value in my story,” says Sarah Tarbit. “It means validation – not just for me as a writer, but for working-class stories and stories from underrepresented groups as a whole.”
Launched last year to unearth exceptional Northern talent from communities currently underrepresented on stage and screen, the Screen/Play Award will see both writers this year develop a brand-new play for Box of Tricks and a short screenplay with Sky Studios.
Following online interviews with six finalists, the two winning writers were selected by a panel of leading industry figures made up of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’s Mina Anwar and Melissa Johns from I Hate Suzie and Coronation Street, writers Chris Bush, David Judge and Temi Wilkey. They were joined by Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder, Joint Artistic Director, Box of Tricks, and Donna Metcalfe who is a Script Executive at Sky Studios.
In addition to developing new scripts with the two winning writers, Box of Tricks and Sky Studios will support the 15 shortlisted writers through a tailored package of masterclasses – offering an invaluable opportunity to explore their craft and the world of screenwriting with industry experts
“In partnership with Sky Studios, we set out to uncover exceptional Northern talent and to celebrate creativity at a time of adversity,” says Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder and Adam Quayle, Joint Artistic Directors, Box of Tricks. “Reading submissions for the Screen/Play Award has highlighted for us the wealth of talent we have here in the North but that far too many of those voices still go unheard and their stories go untold.
“We want to unlock doors and create opportunity and we’re delighted to champion Conway and Sarah as they uncover the stories they want to tell.”