Kalayil lands Writers’ Guild Award

Kalayil lands Writers’ Guild Award

Women have dominated the winners' list at the Writers’ Guild Awards, with debut novelist Sheena Kalayil honoured along with British playwright Caryl Churchill.

Altogether nine of the 15 awards -run by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) - went to women. 

The gong for Best First Novel went to Manchester-based Kalayil for The Bureau of Second Chances (Birlinn General), based on a widower returning to his native India. 

Meanwhile Churchill received the Outstanding Contribution to Writing Award at the event, hosted by actor and writer Vicki Pepperdine, in honour of her “illustrious body of work and career” which has spanned over six decades since her first play, "Downstairs", in 1958. 

The winner of the Best Play went to Lucy Kirkwood for her baby-boomer themed Royal Court production, "The Children", and Sarah McDonald-Hughes scooped the award for Best Play for Young Audiences with "How to Be a Kid", a comedy about navigating family and friends.

Best Short Form TV Drama went to Sarah Phelps for the BBC Agatha Christie adaptation, “The Witness for the Prosecution”, with Best Radio Drama going to Ming Ho for BBC Radio 4 drama about a mother and daughter, "The Things We Never Said".

Sarah Kendall took home the gong for Best Radio Comedy for her trilogy of live shows, broadcast on the BBC in February, “Sarah Kendall: Australian Trilogy ‘A Day In October”.

The event took place at the College of Physicians in central London, on Monday evening (15th January), with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) as the lead sponsor.

Other prizes went to Elizabeth Ashman-Rowe and Tameem Antoniades, who claimed the Best Writing in a Video Game award, for dark fantasy action-adventure game "Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice". Meanwhile acclaimed BBC drama "Taboo", starring Tom Hardy, scooped Best Long Form Drama, with the award picked up by writing team Emily Ballou, Chips Hardy, Steven Knight and Ben Hervey.

The BBC’s dark comedy “Inside No. 9 ‘The Bill’”, written by former “League of Gentleman” stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton scooped the Best TV Situation Comedy award. Best Screenplay was awarded to Jonathan Perera for political thriller feature film “Miss Sloane” starring Jessica Chastain while Best Long Running TV Series award went to BBC drama Holby City, Series 19, Episode 2 "Rocket Man" written by Peter Mattessi.

And Tim Bain picked up the Children’s TV Episode for British-Canadian animated television series, "Counterfeit Cat: Room of Panic", while Babak Anvari was awarded Best First Screenplay for Persian language horror film “Under the Shadow”. Finally, the Online Comedy award went to Marek Larwood for his YouTube show "Showreel for One Word or Less Parts".

During the ceremony comedian Paul Merton and WGGB chair Gail Renard paid tribute to Steptoe and Son scriptwriter Alan Simpson OBE and dramatist and novelist Rosemary Anne Sisson, as well as other WGGB members who had died in 2017.

As well as the ALCS, other sponsors included Nick Hern Books, an independent specialist publisher of plays, theatre books and screenplays, as well as BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide, ITV, Company Pictures, and production studios Silver Reel and Lionsgate. 

Olivia Hetreed, WGGB president, described the range and quality of talent represented this year as “awe-inspiring” deeming the winners as “outstanding in their fields”. She referenced Churchill's influence and revealed delight at the high number of female winners.

Hetreed said: “With the always-inventive and challenging playwright Caryl Churchill taking our highest award it's especially good to see there are plenty of 'Top Girls' writing today (9 female winners over 15 awards)."