In August 2014 women writers based in the East of England were invited to submit a proposal for a short text of 4,000 words or half an hour long exploring the life of one woman and her relationship to place. The woman could be famous or non, contemporary or historical, fictional or factual. The place had to be within the East of England. The text could be in any form, eg. script, prose, poetry, or a combination of forms.
Fifty writers entered this open competition, hoping to win paid time to develop their proposal for inclusion in Words And Women’s second anthology of writing and to perform an extract of their work on International Women’s Day in the Fusion Digital Gallery, Norwich, March 2015.
The proposals featured swimmers, vagrants, mothers, clubbers, writers, prostitutes, teenagers, witches, a composer, a lepidopterist, an ecologist, even a station mistress. Many concentrated on historical figures. The most popular locations were Norwich and Cambridge. The coast featured heavily and The Broads. The difficulty of living in isolated small communities was a frequent theme.
It was hugely difficult for the judges to decide. But here are our four winners:
Congratulations to Jenny Ayres, Tess Little, Thea Smiley and Lilie Ferrari.
Jenny Ayres: Jenny is a north Hertfordshire based writer, actress and mum. After studying at The Central School of Speech and Drama, Jenny was invited onto the Royal Court Young Writers Programme and in 2005 won the London Lost Theatre Festival with her one woman show ‘The Fourth Photo’. Jenny then travelled to Milan and Budapest, where she was commissioned to write two short films, before her first short story, ‘…but that’s who you are’, was published in 2007. Jenny continues to write for the stage and screen today, most recently working as Writing Director for a community based theatre project entitled ‘Through a Child’s Eyes’ in conjunction with Letchworth Arts Centre. Jenny’s piece, ‘Trouble and Strife’, will explore the vital, but often unknown, work of the Hertfordshire railway women of World War Two. In the face of grueling manual work, frequent prejudice and nightly bombing attacks women worked to maintain our railway lines, not only keeping the country moving but changing the world of women’s work forever. From train sets to train drivers – the railway is a man’s world…until war comes.
Lilie Ferrari: Lilie Ferrari worked in the South of France and California before gaining a Master’s degree in French Literature. She then went to work at the British Film Institute in the Television Unit, taking a particular interest in popular drama and soap opera. From there she went to the BBC as a Script Editor and subsequently began her career as a full time writer. She was co-creator and writer for the long running medical drama series The Clinic for RTE, and has written episodes of Peak Practice (Carlton), Dangerfield (BBC),Casualty (BBC), Berkeley Square (BBC), Holby (BBC) and numerous episodes of EastEnders (BBC). She co-created storylines for 60 episodes of the returning series of Crossroads, winning the ITV commission for Carlton Productions. She has also storylined for Family Affairs (Channel 5), and Playing the Field for Tiger Aspect/BBC. Lilie has worked as a soap consultant in Finland and France as well as advising on a proposed new soap opera for Saudi Arabia. She has also had four novels published, and is currently working on her fifth. Her proposal is based on a real woman called Jane Sellars, who was sentenced to hang in Norwich in 1631. Looking at research around issues of vagrancy at the time, she would like to give Jane a voice, and tell her story.
Tess Little: Born in Norwich, Tess studied history at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Her research focused on les femmes tondues – French women punished after the Liberation for collaborating with Germans in the Second World War. During her studies, Tess wrote non-fiction articles for student publications, and her short story ‘The Stitches’ was published in a student anthology. She has worked as a freelance journalist and previously gained experience at the New York Times in Paris, Ralph Appelbaum Associates in New York and Thomson Reuters in London. Tess’s proposal, ‘Beyond the Britannia Barracks’, will explore the story of Anguish, a nineteen-year-old prostitute repeatedly detained at the Norwich prison on Plumstead Road in the 1880s. Based on archival research, the life of Anguish will be written into a fictional monologue. Voices of her cellmates – arsonists, thieves, drunkards and child abusers – will permeate the script, weaving together prison storylines. From pavements to courts and cells, the plethora of characters at Plumstead Road epitomised lives of countless impoverished women living in the East of Victoria’s Britain.
Thea Smiley: Thea lives in Suffolk with her husband and three sons. A recent UEA graduate, she writes prose fiction, and plays for radio and the stage. Her first play was performed in 2012, and in 2013 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. In Boudicca of the Bungay Straight a ceaseless wanderer, and ‘lady of the road’, delivers a monologue in which she becomes increasingly convinced that she is the re-incarnation of the warrior queen Boudicca. On Sunday 12th October we will post the judging report and also the names of our 12 commended writers who have won a place on The Tough Room workshop run by poet Hannah Jane Walker.
Many many thanks to everybody who entered.
We will be publishing news of our 12 highly commended winners who will all have places on a workshop, ‘The Tough Room’ led by performance poet, Hannah Jane Walker.
Thank you to everyone who entered.
See our blog for more details: http://www.wordsandwomennorwich.blogspot.co.uk