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Cov theatre honoured for helping writers


Coventry's independent theatre company, Theatre Absolute, who are based in the Shop Front Theatre in City Arcade, have been awarded a major national writers' prize for their work.

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain have awarded the company an Olwen Wymark Award for exceptional encouragement of theatre writing over the last year.

The award ceremony was held online on 8 April, with a welcome speech by the Guild President, Sandi Toksvig OBE.

Nominated by Coventry writer Alexandra Johnson, the company's founders, Producer Julia Negus and Writer/Artistic Director Chris O'Connell, have been supporting new writing in the city for many years and since 2018 have commissioned more than 25 writers, whose work has been performed or read at the Shop Front Theatre under various artistic programmes, including Are We Where We Are and Humanistan. During the pandemic, the pair and their Projects Co-ordinator Lisa Franklin have continued to offer support, hosting writing and dramaturg workshops online and even providing writing exercises by post.

With support from City of Culture Trust, the company have also expanded their work with a writing programme called City Voices, offering workshops for writers at all levels. Some have now secured commissions on the Royal Shakespeare Company's Faith project as part of the City of Culture events for 2021.

Local writer Alexandra Johnson says, "I nominated Chris and Julia as their support for writers has been amazing. They're always there with advice, help and encouragement and they're such as asset to the writing community."

Chris O'Connell from Theatre Absolute said, "We are thrilled to receive such a prestigious national award. We've been working hard over the years to support and nurture writers and artists in the city, so this is a lovely accolade, not only for us but also for Coventry."