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Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme: Zia Ahmed


Writer and poet Zia Ahmed (cred. Alex Nicolaou)

We’re delighted to announce that Zia Ahmed will be on attachment with us in 2017 as a recipient of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme.

We worked with Zia earlier this year when, alongside Tamasha, we commissioned him to write a short play about where he calls home, North West London, for our COME TO WHERE I’M FROM series. The short play which was first performed at Tricycle Theatre on Monday 27 June moved us in such a way that we knew we had to work with Zia again.

Joint Artistic Directors James and George said:

“We’re thrilled Zia’s singular talent has been recognised by this prestigious award and that we get to hang out with him for the next year as a result. We’ve been Zia fans for a few years as audience members for his singular spoken word performances. The originality of Zia’s writing, his flair for storytelling, his linguistic dynamism, his natural dry humour combine in one of the most original voices we’ve heard, and we can’t wait to see what he writes over the next year. We’d like to thank the panel for backing Zia, and look forward to supporting him over the next year and welcoming him to Team PP.”

We caught up with Zia on the news:

“I am chuffed to bits to have been picked as one of the writers on the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme.  

The bursary will afford me time and space to progress to the next stage of my writing. To be in residency at Paines Plough makes this even more exciting and it feels like the perfect place to develop as a writer especially after being part of Come To Where I’m From where local stories met national + global + personal met political to create a wide ranging, moving and changing map of the UK.

I’m looking forward to spending the year with Paines Plough and immersing myself in this world. Whether spoken word or theatre, for me it all comes down to stories and I can’t wait to start exploring all the different ways of telling them.”

You can listen to Zia’s COME TO WHERE I’M FROM, and 130 other short audio plays, for free on our app available for download here.


Rehearsals begin for SIXTY FIVE MILES

We’re four days in to rehearsals on what will be our first production of ‘Programme 2012’ – Matt Hartley’s SIXTY FIVE MILES.

From the rehearsal room here at PP HQ, we’ve spent the majority of the week exploring the world of the play – Sheffield, Chesterfield and Hull in 2005 – as well as establishing what we know of the characters’ back-story: the situation that exists before the play starts. Having read slowly through the play, we now have around 12 pages of information that we know to be true of the characters, the relationships and the situation in the 30 or so years leading up to the beginning of the play’s story. To accompany that, we have about twice as many pages of questions relating to the same time-period that we will need collectively to answer over the next week or so of rehearsals. This process helps us as a company to objectively assess what is known and unknown and, with Matt, to jointly build up a clear shared understanding of the time, places, events, relationships and characters that exist before the play begins.

It’s a method rooted in Stanislavsky’s approach to text that is brilliantly broken down in to rehearsal activities in Katie Mitchell’s new book on theatre directing, The Director’s Craft.

Having the chance to direct this beautiful, funny and tender play is a true privilege. When I worked for Paines Plough as an Assistant Director under Roxana Silbert, I directed a reading of a very early draft of the play. At the time, Matt was a member of Paines Plough and Channel 4’s Future Perfect group. Future Perfect was an annual scheme that ran for four years, attaching 6 playwrights each year to Paines Plough and Channel 4, including Nick Payne (ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG), Katie Douglas (DIG), Penelope Skinner (THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN), as well as Matt himself. There’s something thrilling about now directing the play, having begun a relationship with it at its inception.

We are co-producing the play with our friends at Hull Truck Theatre as part of their 40th Anniversary Season – a real honour after having worked with Sheffield Theatres this year on Roundabout in the culmination to their own 40th Anniversary Year.

SIXTY FIVE MILES opens at Hull Truck Theatre on Wednesday 1 February 2012. You can book tickets here.