This award, established in 1994, perpetuates the memory of Richard Imison to acknowledge the encouragement, support and friendship he invariably gave to all writers, and particularly those working in the medium of radio.
The purpose of the Award is to encourage new talent and high standards in writing for radio, and it is awarded for the best original radio drama script by a writer new to radio.
Bill Nighy, patron of the Award, says:
'Acting on the radio was my apprenticeship when I was young and if anything should threaten BBC Radio 4, I would have to consider leaving the country. Radio is an essential part of our cultural identity and radio plays are mysterious and cool.'
The Imison Shortlist 2013
We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2013 Award:
- Fresh Berries by Catherine Johnson
- Hangdog by Cat Jones
- The Loving Ballad of Captain Bateman by Joseph Wilde and Tim van Eyken
Fresh Berries by Catherine Johnson
Produced by Marion Nancarrow, BBC Drama, BBC R3
Natalie is 14 and lives with her Nan. Nan is busy with her own life and didn’t expect to have to look after Nat. But that’s OK, because Nat has her new boyfriend, Justin, who’s like 25 and who’ll always take care of her. So Nat’ll do anything for Justin. Anything. Because he loves her. That’s why, when he’s in debt, she does something she doesn’t want to do. Because she loves him too.
The judges said: Fresh Berries is a brave and unflinching exploration of the ‘grooming’ and subsequent sexual abuse of vulnerable young teenage girls by older men. The writer deals with such sobering subject matter with great compassion, sensitivity and wit: the play has obviously been very carefully researched, and yet it wears its research very lightly, knowing that it has to work first and foremost as a drama. What most impressed the judges about this radio play was the impeccable characterisation and sparky dialogue of the teenage protagonists, Natalie and Georgia. Never gratuitous, never patronising, and never offering an easy way out, this play is a must-listen for teenage girls, their parents, teachers and carers. Catherine Johnson is an accomplished young adult novelist and screenwriter, and with Fresh Berries proves herself adept at another medium.
Catherine Johnson has written nearly 20 novels for young readers. She also writes for film and TV including Bullet Boy, Holby City and Rough Crossings. Last year she was part of the BBC Writers’ Academy. She is currently working on a film set in London in 1971 and a book set in Paris in 1793.
Hangdog by Cat Jones
Produced by Sharon Sephton, BBC Drama, BBC R4
An up-and-coming detective who's a stickler for the rules has his certainties tested by the brutal realities of everyday prison life when he investigates the suicide of a young inmate. Why does this particular suicide warrant investigation at such a high level and who is really to blame for Hangdog's death? This gritty drama goes behind prison doors and looks at the unusual process of the investigation of a prison suicide.
The judges said: Hangdog was an accomplished first radio play that demonstrated a very clear understanding of the craft necessary to bring the imagined world to life. The prison setting was convincingly constructed, allowing for the listener to be fully immersed in the unfolding story. This was a claustrophobic drama that combined elements of the traditional whodunit to keep us questioning the motivation for a prison suicide, drawing in prison staff as well as fellow inmates. The characters were well-drawn and believable and the dialogue had the authentic ring of truth, the use of prison jargon adding richness to the play and helping to define the divide between the ‘guilty’ and the ‘innocent’. Ultimately, there was a pleasing ambiguity about the play, leaving the listener to act as arbiter and pass judgement on the actions and culpability of the central characters.
Cat Jones won the BBC’s 2011 Alfred Bradley Bursary for Glory Dazed. It was staged at Edinburgh Fringe Fest 2012 winning the Holden Street Theatre Award, toured Adelaide where it won Critics Choice 'Best Play' and returned to Soho Theatre, Upstairs. Cat is the winner of the 2013 Pearson Playwright Award and is under commission to the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. She has written episodes for Waterloo Road and Doctors and her original TV project Bang Up has been optioned by Kindle Entertainment. Cat has just been commissioned to write a short film for BBC Three. Cat is the founder and former artistic director of Second Shot Productions, a film and theatre production company, run as a social enterprise within the walls of HMP & YOI Doncaster. In 2011 she received a Butler Trust Award for her work in prisons.
The Loving Ballad of Captain Bateman by Joseph Wilde and Tim van Eyken
Produced by Julian May, BBC Drama, BBC R4
The Loving Ballad of Captain Bateman follows the arc of the ancient song but within a contemporary narrative. In Afghanistan the wounded British soldier, Captain Bateman, places Sofia and her father, in a dangerous dilemma. Sofia and Bateman overhear each other singing and first warm to one another through song. Their contemporary love story is illuminated by Tim van Eyken’s performance of the old ballad, and music he has composed for these characters. The music is integral rather than incidental, working with the text and soundscape to drive the narrative. As in the ballad, the story returns to Britain, where Afghans seek succour and shelter and wives, lovers and families wait and worry about the soldiers they care for.
The judges said: This strikingly accomplished play weaves together two war stories - one ancient, one modern - with great flair and daring. Both tell of a British soldier going to war in a far-off land, being near-mortally wounded, then rescued by his captor’s daughter, who dangerously compromises herself and her father in doing so. The old tale is embodied in a ballad (with haunting new score), the new in gripping and entirely convincing war scenes in Afghanistan. Moral dilemmas – the girlfriend back home, an accidental shooting in Sanghin, the Pashtunwali code of honour – come to life in spare, witty dialogue. A virtuoso use of sound, from malfunctioning Bowmans to tinnitus, brilliantly dramatizes conflicting wavelengths. At the end, love seems to conquer war and geography... though the lovers’ ridiculing of each others’ fairytales has suggested we shouldn’t take fairytale endings too seriously.
Joseph Wilde's first play Famous Last Words was performed at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe and was nominated for a NSDF Fringe Prize. In 2010 his play Zulu Wedding won the Script Space competition at Tobacco Factory Theatre Joseph is currently on the Young Writers Programme at the Royal Court Theatre.
Tim van Eyken won the BBC Young Folk Award in 1998 and joined Waterson: Carthy before making his solo album Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves. Tim was Song Man in War Horse and is currently playing Evans in the national tour of Birdsong. He, Joseph Wilde and Julian May are working on projects using traditional music and folk culture to create contemporary drama.
The Imison Award is judged by members of the Society's Broadcasting Committee: John Taylor (Chair), Ruth Brandon, Lucy Caldwell, Christopher William Hill, Alison Joseph, Annette Kobak, Michelle Lipton, Jane Thynne, Stephen Wakelam and Elizabeth-Anne Wheal. The prize of £1,500 is generously donated by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation.
The winner will be announced at the BBC Audio Drama Awards on Sunday 26 January 2014.
The prize of £1,500 is generously donated by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation.