Theatre of Witness shortlisted for Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize

Teya Sepinuck, Artistic Director, pictured with members of ther cast of 'Release' which was staged bt the Theatre of Witness Programme in The Playhouse in 2012. INLS4412-178KM
Teya Sepinuck, Artistic Director, pictured with members of ther cast of 'Release' which was staged bt the Theatre of Witness Programme in The Playhouse in 2012. INLS4412-178KM

The Playhouse Theatre of Witness programme has been short listed for Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize.

Awarded biennially, it recognizes work that aims to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation, understanding and co-operation between the partners of the European Community.

The Prize was instituted in memory of the British Ambassador to Ireland who was murdered by the IRA in 1976 and this year a special award in memory of Londonderry Poet Laureate, Seamus Heaney, will be presented. Previous winners include the local writer and journalist Julieann Campbell and Douglas Murray in 2013, and Brian Friel in 1985 for his play ‘Translations’.

Theatre of Witness is a model of performance developed by Teya Sepinuck in 1986 that gives voice to those whose stories have not been heard in society. The true, life stories, of people from diverse backgrounds are performed by people themselves, so that audiences can collectively bear witness to issues of suffering, redemption and social justice.

Since 2009, the Playhouse Theatre of Witness Programme has been an innovative and pioneering initiative developed in partnership with Holywell Trust. From 2009 to 2014 the programme has created productions which include those greatly impacted by the legacy of ‘the Troubles’.

The winner of the 24th Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize, worth £5000, will be announced on March 19. The work eligible covers a two-year period (2013 and 2014) and has produced a wide and stimulating variety of entries.

The function of this Prize is to enhance understanding between people, which often involves re-examining the past on both an individual and a communal level. The winner will be announced at a reception at the Irish Embassy, London, on March 19, when the prize will be presented by Sir Christopher Bland.

Theatre of Witness founder and artistic director Teya Sepinuck said she was “delighted”.

“It is a testimony to the courage and innate poetry of the more than 25 performers whose life stories have been part of the Theatre of Witness portfolio of productions produced by the Playhouse and Holywell Trust. I am grateful to all who have poured their passion and commitment into making sure that these important stories of suffering and peace building have been heard.”

Playhouse director and founder, Pauline Ross, said: “For five years we’ve had the very great honour of having some of the bravest, most courageous people we’ve ever encountered come into our building and onto our stage. Through this programme they have shared their heartbreaking stories; experiences of hurt, of pain, of war, but also of reconciliation, of survival.

“We’ve now been given the further honour of seeing this programme short listed for an exceptional prize, a prize which has for decades recognized and celebrated the artistic and creative response to our darkest years. The calibre, talent and quality of company we’re in on this shortlist is testament to that.”

For more information about the Witness programme log on at www.theatreofwitness.org.