Winners announced for the inaugural Box of Tricks & Sky Studios Screen/Play Award

Winners Announced for the inaugural Box of Tricks & Sky Studios

Screen/Play Award


“It is wonderful to have been part of such an exciting writing competition that has discovered two truly compelling, talented underrepresented voices”

Panellist Mina Anwar


Selected from nearly 350 entries from underrepresented talent right across the North of England, Box of Tricks and Sky Studios are delighted to announce that the two winners of the inaugural Screen/Play Award are Conway McDermott and Sarah Tarbit. Each writer will be awarded £10,250 to write a 70-minute stage play and a 20-minute screenplay inspired by a single central idea to be developed with support from the two partners throughout 2021.

Conway McDermott [they/them] is a trans non-binary writer from Liverpool. They describe their work as genre fiction, using fantasy, history, sci-fi and mysticism to “create a fuller landscape of worlds and stories for weird working-class queers to inhabit”. For Screen/Play, Conway will develop The Priestess – a trans coming of age story that crashes into a psychosexual horror full of dark humour.

“All you can hope for as a writer is to connect to others through your ideas, and to find a common truth in stories. It’s a great feeling to know that my pitch resonated with the panel. Suddenly these new really exciting creative partnerships are rolling into my life, and I am so excited for what they’re going to bring, and desperate to rise to the challenge of it! I am on the edge of my seat with excitement for what we’re going to make together!”  – Conway McDermott

“Conway is an exquisite, engaging gifted writer and I for one cannot wait to see how their wonderful imaginative storytelling will be nurtured to create an exciting piece of theatre and television.” – Panellist Mina Anwar

Sarah Tarbit [she/her] is from Ashington, Northumberland, one of the most deprived areas in the country. Her work documents life in the region and often calls for social and political change. In 2020, she was Highly Commended for the Sid Chaplin Award (part of the Northern Writers’ Awards) and had two short plays produced by Live Theatre in Newcastle. For Screen/Play, Sarah will develop You Belong Here exploring the effects suicide can have on a community and the people left behind.

“I’m buzzing to have been chosen for the Screen/Play Award! What an opportunity! I can’t thank Box of Tricks, Sky Studios, and the rest of the judging panel enough for believing in me and seeing value in my story. It means validation – not just for me as a writer, but for working-class stories and stories from underrepresented groups as a whole.” – Sarah Tarbit

“The world Sarah chooses to write about is rich, full of life and familiar to me. Voices I know but don’t hear and faces I recognise but don’t see, exist there. Sarah’s desire to bring what exists in the periphery into focus is what I think this award was designed for and I can’t wait to see how her pitch develops!” – Panellist David Judge

Launched last year to unearth exceptional Northern talent from communities currently underrepresented on stage and screen, the Screen/Play Award will see both writers this year develop a brand-new play for Box of Tricks and a short screenplay with Sky Studios.


Following online interviews with six finalists, the two winning writers were selected by a panel of leading industry figures comprising of the acclaimed actresses Mina Anwar (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) and Melissa Johns (Life, I Hate Suzie, Coronation Street); writers Chris Bush (UK Theatre Award-winning playwright), David Judge (writer of Box of Tricks’ SparkPlug – finalist for Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year 2017) and Temi Wilkey (2020 Stage Debut Award, The High Table); as well as Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder (Joint Artistic Director, Box of Tricks) and Donna Metcalfe (Script Executive, Sky Studios).

In addition to developing new scripts with the two winning writers, Box of Tricks and Sky Studios will support the 15 shortlisted writers through a tailored package of masterclasses – offering an invaluable opportunity to explore their craft and the world of screenwriting with industry experts. As well as the two winners, those writers include Shazia Ashraf, Mohammed Barber, Rosa Hesmondhalgh, Asif Khan, Aisling Lally, Rosie MacPherson, Lauren-Nicole Mayes, Amy Rhianne Milton, Laurie Ogden, Stefanie Reynolds, Elis Shotton, Ted Steptoe, and Christopher York.

Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder and Adam Quayle, Joint Artistic Directors, Box of Tricks, said: “In partnership with Sky Studios, we set out to uncover exceptional Northern talent and to celebrate creativity at a time of adversity. Reading submissions for the Screen/Play Award has highlighted for us the wealth of talent we have here in the North but that far too many of those voices still go unheard and their stories go untold. We want to unlock doors and create opportunity and we’re delighted to champion Conway and Sarah as they uncover the stories they want to tell.”

Vicky Wharton, Executive Producer, Sky Studios, said: “We couldn’t have asked for a better response to the Screen/Play Award. At a time of unprecedented challenge for the Arts, working with Box of Tricks has underlined for us the importance of the whole creative sector in nurturing and developing new writers. Throughout the process we have uncovered some truly exceptional new talent from the North of England, in particular Sarah and Conway who both have unique stories to tell that will resonate with audiences of both stage and screen.”


Temi Wilkey, Writer, actor and Screen/Play panellist said: “I feel so honoured to have been part of the selection process for this award and so excited about Sarah and Conway. They both represent exactly why I think this award is important, in completely different ways. Their voices are so important and so underrepresented in the TV & theatre landscape. Both of them have so much talent, so much potential and so much to say that the world needs to hear! I can’t wait to see what they both do.”

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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