Irish writing talent recognised in annual Stewart Parker Awards

In memory of the 'visionary' Belfast playwright, three writers have received awards for their work adding to a 'vibrant year' for new original theatre

The 2018 Stewart Parker Awards for new playwrights were announced this week at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

Set up in honour of the late Belfast playwright, Stewart Parker, the Stewart Parker Trust seeks to encourage new writing for the theatre in Ireland. Two BBC Northern Ireland awards have also been established in Stewart Parker’s memory and form part of this annual initiative.

The Stewart Parker Trust New Playwright Bursary was awarded to Karen Cogan for The Half of It, first produced by MOMMO Theatre Company during Dublin Fringe Festival.

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(L-R) Lynne Parker and Karen Cogan

Presenting the Stewart Parker Trust Award to writer Karen Cogan, Lynne Parker (Trustee and niece of Stewart Parker) remarked:

'The Half of It is play of dark lyricism, with an unexpected approach to character and story that provokes theatre makers and audiences to imagine and invent. Karen Cogan's technique is that of a thriller writer revealing her narrative gradually; she has a gift for suspense that delivers an edgy, muscular power. You can sense an ambitious imagination ready for a bigger canvas, and that is what this award can enable her to explore.'

The BBC Northern Ireland Radio Drama Award was awarded to renowned prose writer Kevin Barry for Autumn Royal, an original work for the stage first produced by Everyman Theatre, Cork.

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(L-R) Kevin Barry and Tommy Bulfin

The BBC Northern Ireland Irish Language Drama Award went to writer Róisín Sheehy for her debut play, Snámh na Saoirse, a poetic and imaginative re-telling of a tragic drowning that unfolded off the Great Blasket Island in 1909, which was produced by An Lab, in Dingle, Co Kerry and subsequently performed at An Taibhdhearc, Galway. This award was presented by Roisin Kelleher, Assistant Editor, BBC Gaeilge, who welcomed the fact that poet and dancer Sheehy has turned to playwriting, bringing elements of these art forms to bear on a lyrical, fresh and engaging script.  

Tommy Bulfin, Drama Commissioning Editor, Northern Ireland said: 'Stewart Parker’s work is increasingly recognised and retains powerful resonances for life in 21st century Northern Ireland. These awards continue to be a fitting tribute him as one of Belfast’s most visionary playwrights.

'I am delighted to attend the awards today on behalf of BBC Northern Ireland would like to congratulate today’s worthy winners.'

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(L-R) Róisín Sheehy and Roisin Kelleher

Caroline Williams director of the Stewart Parker Trust congratulated the winners and the shortlisted playwrights in what was a vibrant year for new writing.

Stewart Parker Trust is funded by the Arts Council/An Comhairle Ealaion. For more information about the Trust visit