Aisha Zia is a writer and journalist based across London and Bradford. Her first piece of writing won a Special Commendation from Amnesty International’s ‘Freedom of Expression Awards’. She works as a freelance photo editor for the Financial Times and New Statesman.
Aisha’s pitch is for a play called BHUTTO – a biopic play charting the life and assassination of Pakistan’s former President Benazir Bhutto. From her time as a privileged student at Oxford University – a modern Muslim and self-proclaimed feminist – to her six year incarceration after the execution of her father, her rise to power as first female leader of the Muslim world, and her eventual assassination.
Aisha is particularly interested in the period of time Benazir spent in prison between her father’s execution and her own ascent to power – how this shaped her into the woman and leader she became – and how it informed her priorities as leader. Aisha plans to work with biographical material as well as first hand testimonies gathered by people who knew her through all phases of her life.
Christopher Hogg is a poet, academic and freelance social media marketeer. He lectures in social media advertising at Goldsmiths University, he produces guerilla marketing videos, and has given short lectures for TEDx. Chris first came to the attention of the literary team by participating in our Rapid Write Response programme. It was through this programme that he developed the idea for his pitch –The Nine O’Clock Service.
The Nine O’Clock Service is a play about the 1990s movement of the Chuch of England to engage a younger congregation and replenish a ‘dying’ religion. In Sheffield Christopher Smith, a DJ/Vicar set up a series of church raves – complete with Ecstacy and Evangelical music – with the aim of making Christ cool. Smith’s reputation ballooned: thousands queued outside his church, DJs begged to work his sermons and Chris Smith had his ordination fast-tracked. But sexual and political scandal ensured. NOS is a true story, a forgotten piece of cultural history, and Hogg wants to tell the story of the movement from the perspective of one young girl who gets caught up in the hype and the fallout from the movement. Chris aims to write an immersive piece of theatre. He says ‘my ideal audience are those people who like to dance, to play and to immerse themselves in the middle of a theatrical performance. This is not a sit down experience.’
Mahad Ali is a writer and film-maker; his films have been screened at the British Urban Film Festival and the Museum of Childhood.
In a small Conservative seaside town a young refuge – Hassan – arrives from Eritrea. He is taken under the wing of a social worker Aidan, the youngest gay son of the local MP. The two men become close friends – and then lovers. One day Hassan returns home to find Aidan dead on his floor. My Brother’s Keeper explores the politics of immigration, religion and sexuality as a small British town comes face to face with globalisation and its place in the 21st century.
Ross Willis is an administrator for the Terrance Higgins Trust. As a young, gay, deaf man brought up in the social care system, his pitch was for the play he would have wanted to watch when he was 15.
Ross’ play is called Some Sort of Fairytale. It tells the story of a young girl in foster care and her desperate search to find her lost twin sister. In her attempt to track down her sister she ends up befriending a violent gypsy and what starts out as a volatile, a nasty relationship ends up becoming the only pure thing in both of their lives.
Ross said: ‘Statistically, there’s more likelihood of a foster kid going to prison than there is the university. 80% of men in prison have been through the foster care system. That’s terrifying. We’re failing these kids. I want to write this play because I want to tell a positive story about a young person from care. Plays about underclass youth are often so dreary, so soulless, so obsessed with their suffering more than celebrating their successes. What if we saw a young person in foster care do something amazing?’
Yasmin Joseph’s relationship with 503 started when she joined the theatre’s Resident Assistant Producer trainee scheme. After graduating from the scheme she went on to become Schools Officer for the Unicorn Theatre, for whom she now works full time.
Yasmin pitched a play called J’Ouvert: a portrait of two young black girls on the cusp of adulthood, set during the J’Ouvert festival. The play was inspired by the death of Asami Nagakiya in Trinidad, a steel pan player whose carnival costume was used to justify her murder by the former mayor of Port of Spain. Just months later, in downtown New York, Tiarah Poyau was shot at point blank for refusing a man’s sexual advances during J’Ouvert festival celebrations. This play explores identity, cultural appropriation, sexual politics and the dark nature of urban carnival.