Paines Plough Enters Its 50th Year

Joint Artistic Directors of Paines Plough, Charlotte Bennett and Katie Posner. Credit Rebecca Need-Menear
Theater Martin Cid Magazine
Theater Martin Cid Magazine

This year Paines Plough celebrates 50 years of supporting ground-breaking, innovative and thrilling new writing. The touring theatre company dedicated to developing and producing playwrights has commissioned over 500 writers and developed and produced more than 400 plays since its inception in 1974. 

Some of the ground-breaking writers supported by Paines Plough over the years include Zia Ahmed, Alice Birch, Mike Bartlett, Miriam Battye, Nathan Bryon, James Graham, Anna Jordan, Sarah Kane, Dennis Kelly, Duncan Macmillan, Chloë Moss, Vinay Patel, Nathan Queeley-Dennis, Simon Stephens and Kae Tempest.​

Announced today as part of Paines Plough’s 50th year is Kelly Jones My Mother’s Funeral: The Show. Exploring the experience of being a benefit class artist and different approaches towards trauma stories, Jones’ new play asks us: if death is unifying, why are we not all afforded the same dignity? Directed by Charlotte Bennett, the production is co-produced by Paines Plough, Mercury Theatre, Belgrade Theatre, Landmark Theatres, and Royal & Derngate, Northampton. My Mother’s Funeral: The Show will preview at the Belgrade in Coventry on 25 – 27 July, before a run at Paines Plough’s pop-up theatre Roundabout at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, ahead of a UK tour. Paines Plough’s 2023 new writing commission, Miriam Battye’s Strategic Love Playwhich previewed at the Belgrade last year, went on to enjoy an award-winning sell-out run at the Fringe and a subsequent UK tour. The show, directed by Katie Posner, will transfer to Soho Theatre’s Main House this year, running from 22 May – 15 June.​

Continuing Paines Plough’s long-standing relationship with Coventry, from 2024 onwards the company will find its new home at the Belgrade Theatre in the West Midlands city. As a touring company with activities across the UK, this new home strengthens Paines Plough’s national reach by deepening relationships with their existing co-producers, the Belgrade Theatre, while also opening up opportunities for new collaborations in the Midlands and beyond.​

Katie Posner and Charlotte Bennett, Joint Artistic Directors of Paines Plough commented: “This year is a landmark year for Paines Plough as we turn 50 at a time where we remain one of the last subsidised new writing touring theatre companies in the UK. With programming priorities being forced to shift and costs increasing, the landscape for new writing is more challenging than it has ever been. In this context, we’re proud to even be here to talk about a fiftieth year, and to continue to be an advocate, a voice and a thriving platform for writers and the future of new writing around the country. Our fiftieth year will be about future-proofing our longstanding commitment to writers, who remain at the beating heart of everything we do. We will move to our new home in Coventry, previewing our thrilling new play by Kelly Jones there as a ‘see it first’ opportunity for Coventry audiences, before it transfers to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We can’t wait to also welcome the return of last year’s runaway success Strategic Love Play, and continue with our Tour the Writer and writers-on-attachment activity; all of which supports new, bold, brilliant work to be created, just as the company has done in the last 50 years, and which we intend to do in the 50 years to come. Thank you for being part of that journey with us, and we hope you’ll join us for the celebrations throughout the year!”

Corey Campbell, Creative Director of Belgrade Theatre, said:
“I’m very excited that our dear friends and collaborators at Paines Plough are coming to Coventry,  both for the wider region, and the city and the theatre. Coventry will receive a contemporary writing theatre company who are incredible at what they do – they are incredible dramaturgs, and incredible at developing talent. They also look at future forms and future styles of writing, which is something that we at the Belgrade are excited about, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. We have a partnership with them currently that’s not only looking at co-produced shows, but also how we wrap around and support co-created practice. I think their practice and our practice coming together is a force to be reckoned with. We look forward to welcoming them to Coventry!”

Further details about Paines Plough’s 2024 programme will be announced in due course. ​

Please find additional comments from leading playwrights Mike Bartlett, Anna Jordan and Duncan Macmillan here on Paines Plough’s 50th year. ​

Paines Plough’s work amplifies the writers of today, and creates the space and environment for future writers to develop their craft. The Women’s Prize for Playwriting, launched in partnership with the Founder-Director Ellie Keel, is now in its fourth year. Receiving over 1,000 entries from women and nonbinary artists, Sarah Grochala’s era-hopping epic about Ada Lovelace, titled Intelligence, was this year’s winner. ​

As previously announced, Somebody Jones and Shahid Iqbal Khan have joined the company as writers on attachment for 2024. Jones, who is also the recipient of the Playwright Fellowship, was a Finalist of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Playwriting with her play How I Learned to Swim. She will receive a bursary and mentorship from Paines Plough’s Joint Artistic Directors. Iqbal Khan, whose attachment is made possible by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and the Film 4 Awards scheme, will write one full-length play and, via his base in Bury, will extend the team’s reach for seeing and championing plays across the country.​

In April, Paines Plough’s Tour the Writer will enter its second year. Through mentoring sessions, masterclasses and networking opportunities, this multi year project serves the company’s commitment to strengthen nationwide writer networks in partnership with seven theatre organisations across the country: Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, Freedom Studios/Bradford 2025 in Bradford, Mercury Theatre in Colchester, Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Landmark Theatres in Peterborough and Barnstaple, and Theatre Royal Plymouth.​

To celebrate turning 50, the company has also launched their #50for50 fundraising campaign. #50for50 aims to raise £50,000 over the year to enable Paines Plough to continue platforming, producing and touring ground-breaking new plays, and nurture the next generation of writers. There will be special events planned throughout the year to celebrate this landmark moment for the company, which will be announced in due course. You can donate to the fundraising campaign here: 

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