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Business partnerships at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre

  • Date: 22 March 2013
  • Area: North
Bruntwood Prize. Image shows head-shaped word infographic. Main words: SHOW US THE WORLD INSIDE YOUR HEAD

The 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. Credit:

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester has a track record of successfully attracting private investment. It recently announced the launch of the Royal Exchange Theatre Hodgkiss Award, made possible by the support of local businesswoman and philanthropist Sue Hodgkiss. It is also currently accepting entries for its well-established Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, born out of the theatre's partnership with property company Bruntwood. A further example of how the Royal Exchange has sourced alternative investment is the refurbishment of its corporate lounge which has just been transformed, at no cost to the theatre, by 5plus architects and interior designers.

Royal Exchange Theatre Hodgkiss Award

Royal Exchange Theatre Hodgkiss Award is the only scheme of its kind in the North that celebrates the unique collaboration between a writer and director. This new award for emerging theatre directors will provide those with a passion for new work a significant platform to develop it.

The award offers a theatre maker of outstanding promise the chance to direct a new piece of work - by a writer of their choice - in a production fully supported by the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2014.

Applications to the scheme are open from 8 April until 18 May. Five candidates will be shortlisted and will be asked to attend an interview and work-sharing day on 29 June at the theatre and the successful director will be announced that evening.

Actor Christopher Eccleston and award-winning playwright, Rona Munro will be joined by Bush Theatre Artistic Director, Madani Younis and Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, Sarah Frankcom on the judging panel, alongside Sue Hodgkiss herself.

Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is the UK's biggest playwriting competition and the 2013 competition - with a total prize fund of £40,000 - is now open for entries.

Writers have until 3 June to submit their scripts which, unlike other competitions, are entered anonymously. For aspiring playwrights to established masters of the art, the Bruntwood Prize discovers, promotes and produces the very best new writing for theatre and is unrivalled in its support for playwrights.

The winner of the 2013 prize will receive £16,000, and there will also be three Judges' Awards of £8,000 each.  All four award winners will have the chance to develop their play with the Royal Exchange, with a view to production. In addition, leading theatre publishers Nick Hern Books will publish all winning plays that receive a production at the Exchange, ensuring that the plays reach an even wider audience and have the opportunity of a vibrant afterlife in the amateur performance sector. 

Since its launch in 2005, over 5,000 scripts have been entered, £120,000 has been awarded to 11 prize winning writers and six winning productions have been staged. In support of writers around the country, the prize took to the road in autumn 2012 when four former prize-winning playwrights participated in the Bruntwood Prize Roadshow. They travelled 2,747 miles across the UK, delivering 25 workshops in 13 cities where they met over 400 aspiring writers

Bruntwood - a family-owned and run property company - is a major supporter of the arts, seeking out and supporting the new and the innovative, from the world premieres of Manchester International Festival to new writing talent through The Bruntwood Prize. Bruntwood's partnership with the Royal Exchange is long standing. With a shared commitment to encouraging new writing, they worked together to launch North West playwriting competition Write in 2002. Following its success they expanded its reach to writers across the UK through The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

Commenting on the Bruntwood Prize, Michael Oglesby, Chairman of Bruntwood, said: "With continued cuts to arts funding, competitions like the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting are now more important than ever. As we discovered last autumn with the Bruntwood Prize Roadshow, there is a huge appetite for playwriting in this country. New plays are vital for sustaining our theatres and stimulating their audiences. We are proud to be working in partnership with the Royal Exchange for the fourth cycle of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting that has launched the careers of some exceptional playwrights."

Refurbishment of corporate lounge

The development team at the Royal Exchange worked to secure in-kind sponsorship from 5plus architects and interior designers to refurbish the theatre's corporate lounge on a shoestring budget. It is hoped that the improvements will encourage more companies to sign up as corporate sponsors by providing them with a better place to entertain corporate guests invited to attend productions at the theatre.

With help of design advice from 5plus, the team also secured help from paint manufacturer Farrow & Ball, carpet supplier Shaw Contract Group and lighting supplier Litecraft. The value of the transformation was in the region of £12,000 and the project included uncovering an old fireplace, boarded over during a previous renovation.

Fiona Gasper, Executive Director, Royal Exchange Theatre said: 'These fantastic partnership projects demonstrate the importance of our relationships with individuals and businesses in supporting our artistic ambitions to work with emerging artists and new writers.'

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester is one of the leading theatres in the UK and is one of our national portfolio organisations. It produces a repertoire of up to 12 productions a year in its 760 seat permanent theatre in the round and its 90 seat Studio. You can find out more about its work and its programme, as well as about the Royal Exchange Theatre Hodgkiss Award and the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, by visiting its website, by signing up to its Facebook page and by following its Twitter site.