Freelance writer and dramatist Sarah Hehir won The Writers Prize this month with a script originally written for the Nick Darke Award, which is funded by Falmouth University. Sarah entered the award in 2012, and was one of eight shortlisted by a panel of professional industry judges. This experience seems to have paid off, as Sarah was chosen as one of three finalists from 1,200 scripts to have their work commissioned for Radio 4.
Sarah's winning script Bang Up was described by judge Jeremy Howe as "beautifully written, moving and insightful".
Bang Up tells the story of Emma, a woman teaching literacy in prison, who recognises a kindred spirit in Lee, a prisoner whose naïve and arresting writing leads her to make changes to her otherwise mundane life.
Everything goes well until Lee meets with a face from the past that shatters his resolve and sends his life hurtling into disorder.
Sarah Hehir lives in Borstal Village with her family; originally from North Lincolnshire she was drawn in by the Medway Towns with its bleak and beautiful sights and underground creative arts and music scene. After studying Drama at Manchester University she fell in love at a Manchester City game and moved to the west coast of Ireland where she set up collaborative play writing workshops in Limerick to engage hard to reach teenagers.
Inspiration for Bang Up came after her return to England, where she started to teach at the Rochester Young Offenders Institute.
Her passion has always been for writing, and she became particularly interested in the exciting potential of radio drama following an Arvon course in 2008. She is currently a freelance writer and dramatist, and her most recent work includes a devised piece of physical theatre with Needlefoot Dance Company.
The Nick Darke award, designed to unearth talent in scriptwriting, served as a platform for Sarah's recent success.
She said: "The deadline for the Nick Darke Award 2012 gave me the impetus to start writing. Bang Up came from of an idea that had been brewing in my mind for a while; the environmental angle added shape and atmosphere to the central theme of isolation."
"Being shortlisted for the award was an amazing boost to my confidence as a writer. After the Award Ceremony, I stayed in touch with several of the other writers on the shortlist; we read each other's work and provide feedback and encouragement."
The Nick Darke award and The Writers Prize are examples of the many opportunities available to upcoming writers across the UK. The Nick Darke award's £6,000 prize is designed to give a writer the opportunity to focus on their work, whilst the Writersroom team, who created the Writers Prize, work constantly to create new schemes to find original writers for TV Drama, TV and Radio, Films and Children. The 2013 Nick Darke Award is now open to aspiring writers, and changes have been made to the submission criteria to enable easier application.