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Primary Head's comedy script wins £10,000 Liverpool Hope playwriting prize

A primary school headteacher has scooped the prestigious £10,000 Liverpool Hope playwriting prize for his comic tale of a disastrous school Ofsted inspection.

Colin Dowland’s script ‘Headless’ was selected from over 200 entrants to win the third playwriting prize. 

Dowland, who is head at Woodridge Primary School in North London, said his job was the perfect inspiration because “in a school something ridiculous happens every day”.

“When you write on a page you think it’s funny yourself but you’re never sure if anyone else will think it’s funny,” he said.

“So I’m delighted the judges thought it was and picked it as the winner. Every day is funny when you work in a primary school.

“The day of the Ofsted inspection is also the most terrifying of a school’s life so it was great source material.

“I have a passion for writing but along with my busy job it means spending hours away from my family.

“To get this prize makes it all worthwhile. I’m very grateful.”

Dowland is also a published children’s author and newspaper columnist and had his sitcom, The Alternative Route, shortlisted for the BBC Laugh Track initiative.

The judging panel for the 2019 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize was made up of highly respected writers, reviewers, producers and academics; including author Frank Cottrell Boyce, actor Les Dennis, playwright John Godber OBE and senior Hope lecturer John Bennett.

The competition is a collaboration between the University and Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre.

Along with the £10,000 prize, Dowland’s comedy will now also be considered for production by the Royal Court.

‘Headless’ tells the story of ‘the most difficult day in the life of a school’, an Ofsted inspection, when its headteacher is found drunk, unconscious and locked in a toilet.

Without him, and amid compromising revelations of a dominatrix, an illicit affair and a wayward gap student, the school’s staff decide that the inspection must go ahead without him.

Speaking at the award ceremony Liverpool Hope University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerald Pillay said “artists are our future”, and that he was pleased to be able to support the arts through the prize, which is the second biggest in the UK.

He added that he took “great joy from the Royal Court’s renaissance” and praised the work of chief executive Gillian Miller and executive producer Kevin Fearon.

At the event Professor Pillay was also made the first honorary patron of the Royal Court in recognition of his support to the theatre. He joins the Royal Court's first patron, the Oscar winning actor Dame Judi Dench.

To qualify for the prize, which is awarded every two years, scripts had to be original, unperformed and funny.

Since 2015, The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize success stories include winners and highly commended writers who go on to have their plays commissioned at theatres and auditoriums across the UK.

In 2017 writer and actor Simon Bradbury won for his play The Last Act of Love of J B Moliere.

Highly commended finalist Gerry Linford’s comedy play from 2017, now entitled The Miracle of Great Homer Street ran last year at the Royal Court starring Les Dennis.

Gerry followed this up with his second play, Yellow Breck Road, which ran at the Royal Court earlier this year.

Comedian and writer Katie Mulgrew, the winner of the first Playwriting Prize in 2015, had her play Omnibus commissioned in 2017 at The Unity Theatre, while plays by the runners-up for that same year ran at the Park Theatre in London and the Capstone Theatre in Liverpool.

Published on 14/05/2019