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Lyric life

The Bill Cashmore Award – #Lyric125

For our 125th birthday we’ve been looking back at some of the people and work that have made the Lyric. Today we are looking forward and announcing the 2020/2021 winner of the Bill Cashmore Award – Alfiah Brown.

The Bill Cashmore Award is an exciting collaboration between the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Sasha Bates, widow of playwright, actor and entrepreneur, Bill Cashmore. The Award in Bill’s name enables young and emerging artists to transform a fledgling idea from the page to the professional stage. The open application process saw 45 applications, with 21 invited to perform a scratch performance, before the one winner was decided. The winners are offered the training, resources, mentorship and budget needed to help them write, develop and produce a show to headline the annual Evolution Festival.

Sasha Bates:
‘In 2019/2020 our first winners – Eve Cowley and Elin Schofield – leapt at the opportunity offered by the Award, using it to produce the phenomenal Screwdriver, a tragi-comic tale set in a prison, expertly showing us the reality of a world too easily stereotyped and misunderstood.

This year’s winner – Alfiah Brown – is a natural successor. She is a talented visionary with the desire and the ability to use theatre as a way of changing the world by moving hearts and minds. Confronting and exploring attitudes to identifying as mixed race in a black and white world, Alfiah’s play Pick’n’Mix will be an exciting and timely journey through contemporary Britain with all its racial distinctions, contributing to a much-needed and long overdue conversation about race and British society.

Both Screwdriver and Pick’n’Mix were chosen because they embody the spirit of The Bill Cashmore Award, promising plays that are contemporary, relevant and of course, entertaining. Our winners are chosen, in part, because they have demonstrated a commitment to theatre and to storytelling matched with an ethos of hard work and dedication to the craft. With this core belief at its heart, and its long history of nurturing and developing young talent, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre is the natural partner for the Bill Cashmore Award.

Alfiah Brown – Bill Cashmore Award Winner 2020/2021:
‘I am a 24-year-old London based dyslexic writer/poet, visual director, performer and facilitator and have recently graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Over the years as an artist, I have grown to use my dyslexia to my advantage in conjunction with my ability to write, perform, facilitate and create work that covers a wide range of themes, stories, topical issues, and positive messages through sensory and visual based concepts/ ideas. Mental health & wellbeing, particularly amongst the black community is at the forefront of most my work.

Everything isn’t as black and white as it seems at least not in my case. Growing up mixed raced, there’s a lot of feelings and situations you experience in regards to your environment that impacts the making and understanding of your identity that it is quite frankly impossible for others to understand. Having a dual heritage background can make you feel like a misfit or a bag of Pick’n’Mix.

The inspiration behind my show, Pick’n’Mix is derived from my personal truths and lived  experience as a mixed- raced woman. The plays often surrounding and written around the mixed raced identity places a heavy focus on the mixed-raced identity as “confused” or “out of place”. As mixed- raced woman myself who grew up equally with the culture of my black and white family, I was inspired to write the play Pick’n’Mix  to push the opposite agenda of typical mixed- raced storyline and instead analyse the co- existence and performance that  black and white create towards the environmental and social relationship that attribute to the experience and dynamic of the mixed-raced identity.

Pick’n’Mix delves and explores into deep themes through the eyes of a young mixed-raced woman. Through her eyes, the play gives insight to a ray of topical issues often endured via the mixed- raced identity in an uncommon multidimensional spoken perspective using poetry and abstract style of direction. Pick’n’Mix flows through cultural and racial code switching an eternal and external dialogue of identity processing, creating a space where both an black and white audience are taken aboard on a journey to understand and process the story of a young mixed- raced females upbringing and day to day environment in modern day society.

I feel truly blessed to be commissioned for my first ever play as the second Bill Cashmore Award winner within the same year of completing my degree.

It is truly such an honour to be given the opportunity and I am utterly thrilled to start working and being supported alongside such great talented people at The Lyric Theatre for the duration of my upcoming residency. A truly special thank you to Sasha Bates for making  this beautiful award happen and seeing with potential within me and my work.’

Eve Cowley and Elin Schofield – Bill Cashmore Award Winners 2019/2020:
‘When Screwdriver won the inaugural Bill Cashmore Award it was a huge step-change for us. It allowed us the time to dedicate ourselves to one project for an extended amount of time and enabled us to get an experienced creative team on board to realise our ideas. We were welcomed into the Lyric building, given access to every department from production to press, participated in masterclasses with brilliant artists and were encouraged and supported every step of the way by Sasha and the Lyric team. The Bill Cashmore Award has been invaluable, as it has given us the time and space to research and create and above all, it has given us the confidence to keep making work.’

Rob Lehmann – Director of Young Lyric:
The Bill Cashmore Award at the Lyric is one of the unique ways in which the Lyric encourages and champions a young person’s journey from participant to professional. We are delighted to have worked with Eve and Elin on Screwdriver and cannot wait to see how it develops in the future. Equally as we begin to plan for next year, Pick’n’Mix remains more relevant now than ever before. We are delighted to be working with Alfiah throughout her first year of graduation and continue to work in partnership with Sasha Bates who provides ground-breaking opportunities for the next generation of talent within West London.’