The UK’s thriving theatre scene is renowned for its diversity, creativity, and innovation. And whether you’re a first-time playwright or an experienced scribe, entering playwriting competitions can provide an excellent platform to showcase your work and boost your career.
This guide will explore key playwriting competitions in the UK, offering insights into submission guidelines, prizes, key dates, and how to make your script stand out from the crowd.
Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting
The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is among the UK’s most prestigious competitions, based at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. It celebrates original and unperformed scripts from writers of all experiences.
This competition runs every two years and is open to all, from novices to seasoned playwrights. The organisers are particularly interested in scripts that are imaginative, dramatic, and ambitious in scope. They offer a platform for playwrights to write precisely the play they want, unrestricted by limitations.
The Bruntwood Prize has seen several outstanding plays come to the fore, such as “Untitled Fck Mss S**g” by Kimber Lee, the 2019 International Award-winning play, and “Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz” by Nathan Queeley-Dennis, which received five-star reviews.
When can I apply?
The competition runs biannually, and the last was in 2022. So, the next window for application will be in 2024. Keep up to date on their How to Enter page.
London Playwrights Hub
London Playwrights is a valuable information hub for UK-based playwrights, regularly listing opportunities, resources, and competitions. So, while they don’t offer a playwriting competition themselves, I highly recommend signing up to or bookmarking their website for regular updates – they’re often the first to announce the latest competitions around the world.
These competitions include the INK Festival – Short Play Submissions, the Santa Cruz Actor’s Theatre – 8 Tens @ 8 International Short Play Contest, and the Titchfield Festival Theatre – New Playwright Competition.
INK Festival – Short Play Submissions
This competition welcomes new short plays for stage and radio. Selected submissions are professionally produced and performed multiple times at the 5-day INK Festival.
Santa Cruz Actor’s Theatre – 8 Tens @ 8 International Short Play Contest
This contest accepts international submissions for its annual short play contest. The top 16 plays are selected by a panel of judges and performed in front of sold-out audiences at the annual event.
Titchfield Festival Theatre – New Playwright Competition
Titchfield Festival Theatre’s New Playwright Competition offers a unique opportunity for emerging playwrights. The competition seeks brand-new full-length, unperformed plays.
All genres are welcome, and the maximum length is 2 hours.
The competition is open to writers in the UK aged 16 and above. Submissions open in June each year and close on 30th September. All plays are submitted anonymously and read by an expert panel of readers appointed by the Titchfield Festival Theatre.
You can win £1000, and the play is performed at the ACORN Theatre for a week with a TFT Director and actors in a package worth £10,000.
Women’s Prize for Playwriting
The Women’s Prize for Playwriting is a unique competition that seeks to celebrate and champion the best new work from female writers at all levels of experience.
The competition encourages plays that rejoice in the depth and range of the imagination, feast on dramatic possibility, and are ambitious on all scales and subjects.
This competition is open to all female playwrights, regardless of their experience. The organisers are particularly interested in plays that are imaginative, dramatic, and ambitious in scope. They offer a platform for playwrights to write exactly the play they want, unrestricted by limitations.
Previous winners have seen their plays professionally produced and performed, significantly boosting their careers.
Papatango New Writing Prize
The Papatango is one of the UK’s most exciting and established playwriting prizes, having run since 2009. And despite being one of the country’s most popular competitions, each entry gets written feedback, which is genuine rarity.
The winning piece receives a professional production, with a professional writer’s fee and royalties. They also offer rehearsed readings for the shortlisted pieces.
The prize championed early-stage playwrights, aiming to include people typically excluded from theatre. F
Find out more about the Papatango New Writing Prize.
Bread & Roses Playwriting Award
The Bread & Roses Playwriting Award is an annual competition that seeks full-length, unperformed theatre plays that feature a cast of at least half female, non-binary or gender-neutral roles.
The competition is open to UK and Europe-based writers.
The competition is open to playwrights based in the UK or Europe. It should not require more than a cast of 7.
The deadline for submissions is usually in October.
The winning play receives a professional production at The Bread & Roses Theatre, a cash prize, and the play is published by The Bread & Roses Theatre.
Sky Blue Theatre’s British Theatre Challenge
Sky Blue Theatre’s British Theatre Challenge is an international playwriting competition that accepts submissions from 20 countries. The competition offers five winning plays a week of performances at the Jack Studio Theatre in London.
The competition accepts submissions from 1st November each year, with the closing date being 30th March. A long list is drawn up by 30th May, a shortlist by 30th June, and winners are announced by 30th July. Performance dates are confirmed later.
Winning plays receive a week’s performance at the Jack Studio Theatre, London, are developed by professional directors, performed by professional actors, and given written assessments by theatre professionals. They are also considered for publication.
WriteForTheStage Prize for New Writing
How to enter
Any theatre play performed at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival is eligible for the prize, running for the duration of July in theatres, bars, pubs, and informal spaces all over Greater Manchester.
The GMFringe is one of the UK’s most affordable fringe festivals, find out how to get your show listed here.
Many of the our previous winners have gone on to take their work to other fringe festivals around the world, including Edinburgh, Brighton, and Camden fringes.
Entering a playwriting competition can be a fantastic way to showcase your talent, gain valuable feedback, and potentially see your work brought to life on stage.
As you can see, the UK offers a wealth of opportunities for playwrights at all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or working on your first play, there’s a competition to suit your skills and aspirations. So why not give it a go? You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Remember, always read the competition guidelines carefully and ensure your script adheres to all the rules before submitting.