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NEWS: Winner of the first Phoebe Frances Brown Award announced

21 June 2023

Olivia Mace has been named as the winner of the inaugural Phoebe Frances Brown Award – a new writing prize set up in celebration of the memory and talent of the Nottingham-born writer and actor who died in April 2022, aged 29.

The award – a partnership between Hampstead Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse – attracted 403 entrants from which five writers were shortlisted. Olivia Mace submitted a play called Pineapple as an example of her previous writing, and it really captured the imaginations of the judging panel who all praised her unique style, imagination and flair. Her idea for a brand new play, Stigma, will receive a Hampstead Downstairs commission. Mace will also receive a £1,000 bursary provided by Hampstead Theatre plus professional development support from both theatres.

Born in Northamptonshire Olivia Mace is an actor and writer. She has written The Mad Maid of Kent for Robin Linde productions which she also performed at The Vaults, as well as a one-off site-specific piece called Playing the King and an adaptation of Bleak House for Blackwell’s bookshop, both for Creation Theatre. Mace said of winning the prize:

“I am honoured and so excited to work with these two beautiful theatres. To receive an opportunity like this in honour of a creative force like Phoebe Frances Brown is a challenge to be bold, to step out of my comfort zone and explore. I hope to create something Phoebe’s colleagues, family and friends will be proud of.”

The award was set up by director Tessa Walker, Chair of the Judging Panel, who said:

“We were so delighted by the response to the award and by the extraordinarily high standard of the submissions, it was wonderful to see how much incredible writing talent there is out there. We are delighted too to have chosen Olivia to be the recipient of the inaugural award and I am so excited to work with her on her new commission. I know Phoebe would have loved Olivia’s work and I see no better way to keep her memory alive than offering opportunities like this to brilliant new writers and supporting the telling of fantastic new stories.”

Gail Brown, Phoebe’s mother said:

“I’m so thrilled that Olivia Mace has accepted the offer of the Phoebe Frances Brown Award. Olivia’s witty demeanour and enthusiastic personality shone through at the interview I couldn’t help but be reminded of Phoebe.

 “Dominic, Phoebe’s brother, and I are immensely proud of what Phoebe achieved; the fact she continues to inspire, encourage and promote new writers like Olivia and the other shortlisted writers, is a true testament to her legacy.”

Adam Penford, Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse, said: “Olivia’s writing captivated the panel with its intelligence, offbeat humour and razor-sharp precision, which reminded us all of Phoebe’s brilliance. I’d like to thank everyone who submitted their beautiful work for consideration, and our amazing group of readers, who dedicated so much of their precious time. It was a real pleasure and honour.”

Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive of Nottingham Playhouse commented:

“Everybody at Nottingham Playhouse held Phoebe in such high esteem, it is really wonderful to be able to take her legacy forward with this brilliant news. Huge congratulations to Olivia.”

The shortlisted runner-up writers were Bisola Elizabeth Alabi, Emma Anderson, Jenna Fincken and Rafaella Marcus.  The judging panel was led by Tessa Walker who was joined by Gail Brown, Adam Penford – Artistic Director Nottingham Playhouse, Rhianna Biggs – Hampstead Theatre and Siobhan Cannon-Brownlie.

The Phoebe Frances Brown Award has been kindly supported by Rodney & Zmira Hornstein, and many of Phoebe’s friends and family.

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