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  • Sue Doherty

Diversity is key at the Liverpool New Writing Short Play Festival August 2021

by Sue Doherty

The Liverpool New Writing Short Play Festival was launched in January 2021 and was open to any local playwrights and community theatre groups. A deadline was set for submission of scripts and fifteen were selected by panel of local practitioners. When I received the scripts, I was impressed by the standard of writing and the variety of styles and genres.

The venue was The Valley Theatre, Netherly, which originally was the theatre of a comprehensive school which closed several years ago. The Valley mission statement is very clear “Valley provides equality of opportunity as its most defining quality. We welcome everyone and provide the same service no matter what disadvantage or disability you may have.”

The festival ran for three evenings over the August bank holiday weekend. I must admit I did feel somewhat nervous at the prospect of a live adjudication after eighteen months of no live festivals. It was so uplifting, as I approached the theatre, to see a long line of cars waiting to park.

The fifteen groups which took part were from across Liverpool reflecting the cultural, ethnic and social diversity of the city. Most of the plays had small casts with adequate and simple sets. There was a wide variety of plays including documentary theatre, comedy, black comedy, and an imaginative retelling of Everyman. There were several examples of strong directing and acting, and what was apparent in all the performances was the enthusiasm and support of all those involved. All three sessions were sold out with great audience response.

The overall winner was Moment of Truth devised and performed by Valley Players. A powerful account of the Civil Rights Movement seen through the eyes of Rosa Parkes. This was an impressive example of imaginative documentary theatre by a highly talented ensemble company.

Drama Festivals should include companies from all backgrounds, ages and walks of life. Unfortunately, at national level there are barriers which prevent many groups from taking part. The problem is the commitment to the various rounds. The expense of travel and accommodation is an issue, but also work restrictions. Zero-hour contracts, rotas only done a month in advance, pressure of exams and childcare are just some of the factors preventing groups participating.

Festival organisers and adjudicators should create a welcoming ethos for competitors and audiences and enjoy the experience of creating and sharing together.

There isn’t an easy answer, and it will be interesting to share thoughts at the AGM later this month.

Valley Players in Moment of Truth - overall winner.

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