Kevin Elyot Award
The Kevin Elyot Award was established in 2016 as an annual award of £3,000 given to support a writer-in-residence at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. It is given in memory of Kevin Elyot (1951-2014) - an alumnus of the University of Bristol Drama Department – and the influence he has had on writing and the Arts. The award has been generously funded by an endowment given to the University by members of Kevin’s family.
It is hoped that the award will, each year, enable a writer to be inspired by his work and help them develop their own practice. The Kevin Elyot Archive is held at the Theatre Collection, and comprises scripts, correspondence, manuscript and publicity material detailing Elyot’s working process from initial idea to finished product.
Each year, the award supports a promising writer, creative practitioner or scholar to begin the process of creating a new written work. The award holder will use the Kevin Elyot Archive as well as other holdings within the Theatre Collection to inspire a new dramatic work or other creative or academic outcome.
Kevin Elyot was a University of Bristol alumnus (Drama Department) who went on to achieve great success through his ground-breaking plays, adaptations and other work.
Born Kevin Lee in Birmingham in 1951, he was educated at King Edward School, and then studied Drama at the University of Bristol, graduating in 1973. He wrote from an early age, but following graduation from Bristol he first found modest success with acting and had a successful career, as shown by the number and variety of roles he played, evidenced in his archive.
It was as a writer, however, that Elyot was most successful, with hits like My Night With Reg (1994), which transferred to the West End, translated into German, Spanish and Portuguese and produced around the work. It was made into a BBC film in 1995.
Elyot also wrote original works for radio and television alongside his stage work. Throughout his career he adapted others’ work for the stage and screen, most notably Agatha Christie novels for Granada. He adapted a total of nine of Christie's works between 2003-2013, mainly Miss Marple or Poirot. He also adapted Christie's And Then There Were None for the stage in 2005.
The Kevin Elyot Archive contains material relating to his early acting career at school, university and afterwards as a professional. It charts his development as a writer, containing material relating to all his works for stage, screen and radio including many adaptations. The content relating to his plays, including the seminal My Night with Reg, demonstrates his creative process and his emphasis on the importance of style and form, throughout the archive his process is shown with the number of drafts and reworkings of scripts. Included are several incomplete or never produced works, mainly from early in his career but present throughout.
A catalogue of the archive can be found here: KE - Kevin Elyot (playwright) Archive
Winner: Ian McHugh, playwright
Quote: "For me the most striking thing about working with Kevin’s archive was its emotional pull. I came to the Theatre Collection with very set ideas about the project I wanted to embark on, and imagined I’d learn great lessons from Kevin’s style and technique… which I did. But the archive also gave me an enthralling sense of who he was as a person as much as a writer; it helped me understand why he wrote, which in turn prompted that question in myself, and changed the direction of my project towards a story which felt more necessary, more important to tell."
Winner: Jon Berry, playwright
Quote: "There are snippets in the notebooks which appear over and over, names which I became obsessed with finding more about. Biography and fiction became two slow dancers in the dark, rotating around one another catching glimpses of each-others’ faces in the lowlight. This was what drew me into writing the piece I eventually wrote, called ‘Morning’ - a play about the death of a young man that goes unrecognised by his own mother. In many ways it plays with my own past, my background and my life as a queer man in the 21st century."
Winner: Deanna Rodger, spoken word poet
Quote: "I was moved by the amount of materials in his archive, I feel that it shows the attention to detail and the respect given to each moment of his career and serves as a valuable reference for reflecting on process, which is how I aim to work with the collection. Through an examination of Elyot’s practice: his drafts, redrafts, submissions, and rejections, I hope to develop an enhanced understanding of the processes by which a writer can engage both in creative work and in rigorous analysis and reflection. This residency in the Theatre Collection is one which I hope will take my writing career to the next level, not only as an artist but also as a facilitator of writing and performance."
Winner: Erdem Asvar
Quote: "Thank you very much, I am grateful to everyone who considered my application worthy of this brilliant award! I cannot wait to join you in Bristol and start discovering (and devouring!) Elyot’s materials in the archive."
Winner: Lucy Bell
Quote: “I cannot wait to get started. I have an idea to do with the timeless time-sensitivity of women’s lives and am really interested in the ticking bomb in Kevin Elyot’s writing. I am obsessed with social history and the minutiae of how people live out their days in different social and political contexts. The idea of getting a pass card to University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection, plus time and space amongst those texts, is a dream come true."
Winner: Malaika Kegode
Quote: “I was incredibly overwhelmed and grateful to receive this award, feelings that have only grown since starting work in the archive. Forging such a tangible connection with an inspiringly boundary-breaking playwright is a truly special experience. Kevin Elyot's archive is full of wit, tension and - most of all - humanity. To handle the notebooks he's written in, to identify with the frustrated scribbles, the triple underlined plot points and studious development of characters makes me feel part of an ongoing journey. A journey that celebrates creativity, even when the very thought of writing is driving you barmy! Over my year in the collection, I will be drawing inspiration from Kevin Elyot's plays and process to write a new play that explores sex, femininity and the fractious search for identity in the digital age. I hope to channel Kevin's humour and revolutionary spirit in this story of two women's exploration of desire and connection.”