Three northern writers win commission to make a new piece of work for Radio 3’s The Verb

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Last year Verb New Voices went looking for talented new writers from across the North, to take part in a unique development scheme. Now Louise Fazackerley, Matt Miller, and John Hamilton May have been announced as the recipients of the Verb New Voices Award.

Verb New Voices was created by Arts Council England with the BBC, and is managed by New Writing North. The three writers will receive mentoring from partner organisations including Writing Squad in Yorkshire, Contact Theatre in Manchester, and ARC in Stockton-on-Tees, a place on an Arvon writing course, support to develop a live show, and a special commission to create a piece of work for BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, which will be broadcast this autumn.

‘New Writing North is committed to identifying and developing talent and providing career development opportunities for writers from across the North of England,’ said Anna Disley, acting chief executive, New Writing North. ‘Verb New Voices has brought us into contact with three very exciting writers, and many more who we weren’t able to select for this project, but who I am sure we will be working with in the future.’

The Verb’s Ian McMillan said about the project: ‘Verb New Voices has discovered three northern writers who definitely have something fresh and special to say and who are working towards new ways of saying it. With John Hamilton May’s gentle rhythms and fine observations, Matt Miller’s dramatic powers of urban storytelling, and Louise Fazackerley’s despatches from the heart of Wigan, all the writers are speaking with voices that ring with truth and shiver with promise. I’m really excited that they’re going to be on The Verb and I can’t wait to introduce their work to a wider audience.’

Playwright and spoken word artist John Hamilton May from Thirsk in North Yorkshire said: ‘Emerging artists are often seen as too large a risk to invest in, but Verb New Voices is the perfect opportunity to have my work nurtured and showcased on a national platform specifically developed to encourage unheard talent.’ The show he wants to develop is called The Jumble Male, which aims to explore – not answer or admonish – what it means to be young and male in the UK. ‘Mostly, I want to try and jumble up the mainstream idea of what a man should be, and how (little) a man should feel,’ he said.

Louise Fazackerley is from Wigan, and describes herself as ‘working class, educated, northern, can stand her ground on the page as well as on the stage’. She works half her week as a performance poet and workshop leader, the other half in social work. Louise’s husband is a former army medic and her father was a soldier, and for Verb New Voices she has been thinking a lot about war. ‘My partner, Daniel, came back from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder because of the deaths he witnessed,’ she said. ‘My estranged dad was a soldier in Northern Ireland. I’d like to write about some of the things related to modern warfare.’

Matt Miller is from Ryton, a small town to the west of Newcastle upon Tyne, and is currently studying creative and professional writing at Nottingham University. He performs with The Mouthy Poets and participated in the Cultural Olympiad. That philosophy is behind Miller’s proposed piece for Verb New Voices: ‘It is the knowing of place that I now want to explore: I want to use this project to explore the stories and the character of Tyneside, my home, in a way I never did while I was growing up there, and to share the experience of my discovery with others.’

Alison Boyle, Arts Council England’s literature representative, said: ‘We expected strong and distinct northern voices to come through, and they did. Of the 102 applications, what caught each judge’s attention were the artistic ideas and presentation styles – with two winning artists under 30 years old: John Hamilton May’s exploration of self-definition, re-definition, transience and the patchwork quilt of masculinity, Louise Fazackerley’s language of the forces, economic conscription, the art of Dada, and fear of Muslims, and Matt Miller’s historical and contemporary ideas about the River Tyne – including a noisy argument conducted from one pebbled riverbank to the other. Showcasing ‘live’ on Radio 3 and at venues across the North, we look forward to seeing what great art transpires over the coming months. Other artists – not just the three winners – communicated a uniqueness of voice in their applications, and we look forward to exploring how they too can be supported in their artistic endeavours.’

For more information, click here to see the full press release