Creative Writing students scoop Best Newcomer Award at Greater Manchester Fringe

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

University of Salford students are celebrating after taking home the Best Newcomer Award at the Greater Manchester Fringe theatre festival. 

Creative Writing Multidiscipline students Jennifer Roberts and Charlie Hinkley were honoured last month for their work on the sell-out anthology production ‘Virtual Dust’ – a collection of five short plays performed at The Fitzgerald in Manchester.

The students' work was heralded as ‘some of the best new writing seen at the Fringe’ by a reviewer from Canal Street Online and was pulled together by Jennifer and Charlie via their new production company, Turtle Soup Theatre, which led to working with five other Salford students and talents from outside the University.

Jennifer and Charlie used an online casting call for the production, enlisting actors with professional CVs or training in prestigious schools such as Italia Conti.

The plays were Victor’s Secret, written by Theatre and Performance Practice student Joel Dyer and directed by Tom Kuzniar, supported by trained intimacy coordinator Joe Lathwood. Afterthoughts, written by Creative Writing Multidiscipline student Emma Rushfirth and directed by Comedy Writing and Performance student Will Rice. Part of the Furniture, written by Charlie and directed by Theatre and Performance Practice student Arthur Loades. Martyr, written by Jennifer and directed by Joel. Petrichor, written by Creative Writing Multidiscipline student Harry Blackburn and directed by Charlie.

Part of the Furniture was written by Charlie independently but Joel, Emma, Harry and Jennifer all met and started developing the plays during their playwriting module, taught by the University's Drama & Theatre Practice Teaching Fellow Dr Stephen M. Hornby.

Jennifer said: “I realised quickly in those classes that the plays we were presenting were too good to just be assessment pieces and our writing shouldn’t sit on our hard drives gathering virtual dust, they should exist in the real world and the Fringe festival is a great platform for new writers.”

Stephen said: “I was delighted to see the quality of the work they produced with a huge team, no money and very little time.

"Jen and Charlie have managed to link up students from across courses and programmes to stage public work in a big regional festival and create not just a critical and audience success, but also a nascent network of our skilled students working together professionally. A huge achievement and an inspiration.” 

David Savill, Creative Writing Multidiscipline course leader at the University of Salford said: “I was absolutely knocked out by the quality of writing and performance in Virtual Dust.

“All the writers produced witty, polished, energetic and thought-provoking dramas. Moreover, the achievement of the production, media campaign and the direction was phenomenal.

“Playwriting tutors Stephen Hornby and Mike Heath have done a great job in nurturing the talent but, in the end, it’s the passion and drive of the students we have to respect. This is exactly the kind of ambition, success and skill we want all of our students to emulate.”

The win follows Arthur and Will being named as part of the cohort for the New Adelphi Performance Graduate Scholarship Programme for 2023-24.

Jen Roberts and Charlie Hinckley

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