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Short plays written by the four finalists were performed by a talented group of actors, and directed by John Young from Storyhouse, in the venue’s Garret Theatre, to a group of judges and an audience who all played an active part in voting for the winner.

The inspiration for scriptwriting competition came from Alexis Redmond MBE, the presiding High Sheriff in 2018. Alongside her husband, legendary screenwriter, Phil Redmond CBE, who was also a judge, she recognised a new, exciting direction that the Prize could move in, to support a new writing form. The University of Chester was supported by Storyhouse, on this new path.

Joining Phil, the judges were Dr Si Poole, Senior Lead for Cultural Education and Research at Storyhouse and Programme Leader for the MA in Creative Practices at the University; Artistic Director of Storyhouse, Alex Clifton and Celyn Jones, critically acclaimed and award-winning actor and screenwriter.

Chosen by the judges as the winning entry, A Taste of Paradise, is about Heena, who despite being alone (except for the coconut, obviously) finds the island less lonely than marriage to an abusive husband. But can she really make a life there and claim her own, weird freedom? And will things work out with Colin, the coconut? Is the relationship ‘Bounty-ful?’ It was written by Cathy Bryant, from Disley in Cheshire who now lives in Cadishead, Manchester. It is the first play she has written, although she has previously won the Marple Prize for Humorous Poetry and the Wergle Flomp Prize for Humorous Poetry.

Accepting the prize from the current High Sheriff of Cheshire, Mark Mitchell, Cathy told the audience that the idea had come to her after getting into a discussion on social media and thinking that she would “get into an argument with a coconut if I was stranded on a desert island!”

She added: “I’d never written a play before but I thought I would have a go. I’m in complete disbelief – especially to receive this from one of my childhood heroes, Phil Redmond.”

The runners-up were Julie McKiernan’s Counting Trees; Elis Shotton’s Cornbrook (which won the audience vote) and Nick Fogg’s Back in the Closet.

Si added: “What an absolute pleasure it was to be involved in such a remarkable evolution that the Cheshire Prize for Literature has undergone this year. It truly is growing from strength to strength; we had a huge number of entrants this year, which perhaps speaks volumes for the tremendous amount of cultural activity the city has seen since the University and Storyhouse began their fruitful collaboration all those years ago. Here’s to many more years ahead! Something tells me we’ll see more of the Scriptwriting prize.”

Now in its 16th year, The Cheshire Prize for Literature has gained both a local and national reputation for publishing high-quality work and attracting eminent guest speakers for the Awards Evening. The impact of both the Prize and the array of prolific guests encourages large local audiences on to the University campuses and beyond.

The competition is open not only to individuals who live in Cheshire, but also to those who have other connections with the county, through work and study. It attracts up to 250 entries per year, locally, regionally, and occasionally nationally and internationally. All are anonymised for judging.

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