Poet and pub singer Vicky Foster, and comedy writer Ian Martin scoop top awards for audio drama writing

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
2020 winners of the Imison and Tinniswood Awards announced by Patricia Cumper at the star-studded BBC Audio Drama Awards ceremony.

Award-winning playwright, producer, and director Patricia Cumper has announced the 2020 winners of the two Society of Authors’ audio drama awards – the Imison, for best original script by a writer new to radio, and the Tinniswood, for best original audio drama script – at the BBC Audio Drama Awards ceremony, hosted by Meera Syal this evening (2 February 2020).

Poet and pub singer Vicky Foster has been named 2020 winner of the £3,000 Imison Award for her radio play Bathwater, a ‘mesmerising … powerful, gripping’ exploration of domestic violence. The Award is presented annually to celebrate the best original script – this time for scripts broadcast in the UK between 1 October 2018 and 31 October 2019. The judges, all members of the Society of Authors’ Scriptwriters Group, were Stefan Buczacki, Jamila Gavin, Nell Leyshon, David Morley, Barney Norris, Hannah Silva, Sean Grundy and Elizabeth-Anne Wheal. The prize of £3,000 is sponsored by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation.

The 2020 Tinniswood Award of £3,000 went to comedy writer Ian Martin (The Thick of It, In The Loop, The Death of Stalin) for The Hartlepool Spy, a ‘hilariously, delicately told … tale of moral corruption’. The Tinniswood Award is presented annually to the best original script – this time for scripts broadcast in the UK between 1 October 2018 and 31 October 2019. The judges were Patricia Cumper, Robert Bathurst and Rhiannon Tise. The prize is sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society.

Vicky Foster (right) with presenter Patricia Cumper | Photo © Tricia Yourkevich / BBC

Imison Award winner…

WINNER – BATHWATER by Vicky Foster | Produced by Sue Roberts, BBC Radio Drama, 44’, BBC Radio 4

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Bathwater explores poet Vicky Foster’s real-life experiences of what happens when violence spills over into family life. What’s the impact on a son of having a violent father he never really knew? How does society view those whose partners are violent? ‘Do I walk like him? Do I talk like him? Is my body the same shape?’

The judges said: ‘It was mesmerising. Incredibly powerful, gripping and a well-written piece that handles domestic violence in an unconventional way. Bathwater is thoughtful and explores inherited trauma well and has beautiful moments. It has great use of the medium and lovely use of language with some memorable phrases. The writing sucks you in, the characters are strong, and it is an intriguing, arresting piece of poetic drama, that explores the way trouble is passed on. It puts an isolated, overlooked world on the airwaves and it does so in a way that makes you really feel for the people it documents.’

Vicky Foster is a poet and pub singer from Hull. Her poetry collection, Changing Tides, is published by King’s England Press. She is the host of Women of Words, which is an event for female performers of poetry, prose, drama, and song.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – BY GOD’S MERCY by Colette Victor | Produced by David Hunter, BBC World Service, 53’

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The judges said: ‘Impressive, beautiful, quality writing and a real nugget. This is a well written piece and Colette Victor is one to watch. By God’s Mercy is highly original, clever, ingenious, powerful, and timely. It has good dialogue that paints the scenes well.’

Colette Victor is a South African author who immigrated to Belgium in 2001. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the UK Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition. Head over Heart went on to be published by Chicken House the following year. Her adult novel, What to do with lobsters in a place like Klippiesfontein, was one of the runners-up in the 2013 Dundee International Book Prize. Both books are translated into German. Colette has always worked with people from disadvantaged communities.

Ian Martin (right) with presenter Patricia Cumper | Photo © Tricia Yourkevich / BBC

Tinniswood Award winner…

WINNER – THE HARTLEPOOL SPY by Ian Martin | Produced by Sam Ward, BBC Studios, 45’, BBC Radio 4

Click here to listen (not currently available)

THE HARTLEPOOL SPY is a comedy-drama on the themes of xenophobia, groupthink and fake news, based on the North East’s most beloved folk tale: how the people of Hartlepool hanged a monkey as a French spy.

1804: Britain is at war with France. When an enemy warship is wrecked near Hartlepool, the town worthies – corrupt mayor Tucker Palmer (Toby Jones), his wife Mrs Palmer (Monica Dolan), narcissistic Revd. Ferrier (Vic Reeves) and opportunistic landowner Lady Embleton (Gina McKee) – squabble over the loot. Until they spot the shipwreck’s sole survivor: a monkey. A coach arrives, bearing Cavendish (Michael Palin), a spy hunter from the Admiralty who puts Hartlepool under lockdown and arrests the monkey, noting its “Gallic” demeanour. The monkey must stand trial for espionage. Tucker will be witness for the prosecution, and Ferrier will defend. It will be a fair trial. But Cavendish has his own reasons for ensuring the monkey hangs.

The judges said: ‘The Hartlepool Spy is a tale of moral corruption, of self-interest defeating the interests of justice; it is based on a true story and yet the author’s research is worn lightly. It is hilariously, delicately told; the characters are both comic and chilling. Ian Martin’s exciting dialogue fizzed along; it is completely engaging.’

Comedy writer Ian Martin was a writer for the BAFTA-winning political satire The Thick of It, starting a long-running association with producer Armando Iannucci, which continued with the Oscar-nominated In The Loop. Martin was a writer-producer on HBO’s VEEP (for which he won two WGA Awards and an Emmy) and a co-writer for the BAFTA-nominated feature The Death Of Stalin. He is a writer and supervising producer for the forthcoming HBO space comedy Avenue 5. Martin is the author of several books including Epic Space and The Coalition Chronicles, and has written for the Architects’ Journal, the Guardian and the New Statesman.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – HOME FRONT: A FRAGILE PEACE by Katie Hims | Directed by Jessica Dromgoole, BBC Radio Drama, 75’, BBC Radio 4

Click here to listen (not currently available)

The judges said: ‘Beautifully written and incredibly evocative. Celebrating the unique qualities of radio drama. The reader/listener is completely immersed in the world of these characters. A superb finale to an excellent series.’

Katie Hims’ first radio play The Earthquake Girl won the Richard Imison Award. Recent work includes King David, Black Dog, Poetry in Motion and Black Eyed Girls, as well as adaptations of the Martin Beck novels. Katie has been writing for Radio 4’s Home Front since it began and has been lead writer for four seasons. Her stage play – Billy the Girl at Soho Theatre for Clean Break – led to an attachment to the National Theatre Studio and a subsequent commission to write a National Theatre Connections play, Variations. She has just finished adapting Middlemarch for Radio 4 and has a commission with Unicorn Theatre.

Supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB)

The Peggy Ramsay Foundation seeks to perpetuate Peggy Ramsay’s ideals, by directly helping dramatists at very different stages of experience in ways which it is determined to keep as quick and unbureaucratic as possible.

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit organisation started by writers for the benefit of all types of writers. Owned by its members, ALCS collects money due for secondary uses of writers’ work. It is designed to support authors and their creativity, ensure they receive fair payment and see their rights are respected. It promotes and teaches the principles of copyright and campaigns for a fair deal. It represents over 100,000 members, and since 1977 has paid around £500 million to writers (alcs.co.uk).

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) is a trade union representing professional writers in TV, film, theatre, radio, books, comedy, poetry, animation and videogames (writersguild.org.uk).

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