Nancy Medina Announces Five-Year Commitment to New Writing

27 Mar 2024
(top left clockwise: Wonder Boy, Dear Young Monster, Outlier, The Colour of Dinosaurs) 

Nancy Medina today outlined her ambitious plans that will support the development of new British writing at Bristol Old Vic. This includes the beginning of a new initiative that will make a five-year commitment to three writers –made possible in its first year thanks to an award from the Genesis Foundation – and the return of a dedicated Literary Department which will focus on supporting writers, stories and script development.

Theatres have been managing through constant crises for the last four years. Funding cuts, the legacy of the pandemic, and the increased costs of making work have chipped away at the sector’s appetite for risk and our ability to commit to new writing – the very life blood of what we do.
In 20 years’ time, we don’t want to be looking back asking where all the new British plays are. So, we are intentionally refocusing our support on writers; developing new voices for the stage that speak to new, diverse audiences, with stories that reflect the world as it is today. We will commission and develop work that enthrals existing and new audiences alike, making a lasting contribution to a new canon of British plays which speak to Bristol and Britain.” Nancy Medina, Artistic Director

This shift marks an evolution of Bristol Old Vic’s artist support activity, moving away from the long-running Ferment programme into a new model that aims to make clear how artist development work is intrinsically linked to every other aspect of Bristol Old Vic’s programme. This transformation marks the conclusion of Nancy Medina’s first full year as Artistic Director and sets the 258-year-old theatre’s creative agenda for the next five years.

The Literary Department will focus its support on writers through a range of opportunities; from new commission strands and writers’ residencies, to partnerships with other organisations that aim to deliver specific support within the wider creative ecology in Bristol, the South West and nationally.

These opportunities include:

Bristol Old Vic’s flagship The Five Year Commitment supports three writers at different stages of their careers: one legacy, one mid-career, and an early-career writer. 

Ben Atterbury, Literary Manager said: “The South West and the rest of the UK continues to produce amazing writers whose work can be seen on stages and screens all over the country. However, there are challenges when it comes to consistent and long-term commitment in a landscape where often writers are working in the short-term; we want to give writers the opportunity to build their craft and their voice over time and within the holding of a singular place.”

Inspired by the long-term commitments made by residencies in theatres such as the Signature in New York, Bristol Old Vic’s The Five Year Commitment will give three writers the time and space to build their craft by putting their work into a dialogue with audiences. In addition, the theatre will use its programme resources over those five years to support the space between those commissions; connecting them with each other and ensuring they feel embedded and at home at Bristol Old Vic. (Full details of how the writers will be selected will be published later this year). 

In its first year, this commitment is made possible thanks to the £25,000 Genesis Foundation Prize, awarded to Nancy Medina this year. It is the only prize to subsidise outstanding mentoring of artistic talent and, through its prize funding, to give winners the means to invest further in their work. 

Speaking today, John Studzinski, Founder & Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, said:
“We are delighted to reward Nancy with the Genesis Foundation Prize 2024. We first recognised Nancy’s talent as a director in 2017 when she received the Young Vic’s Genesis Future Directors Award: this continued support shows our belief in Nancy’s work and in her value as a mentor to other artists. We were impressed with her ambitious plans for The Five Year Commitment at Bristol Old Vic and hope this programme will show how vital it is, perhaps now more than ever, for the creative industries to hold space for writers, to nurture them and invest in their long-term literary development.”
(Images from Diverse Artists Network, Theatre West, Beyond Face, MAYK and Saikat Ahamed)

Also announced today is the restructure of Bristol Old Vic’s Associates Scheme, providing tangible support for a fixed two-year period. The first cohort of Associate Companies are Beyond Face (providing opportunities for artists of the Global Majority to live, work and thrive in the South West theatre sector), Diverse Artists Network (a development agency for diversity in the arts), Theatre West (a new writing company supporting female-identifying writers), and MAYK (producers & supporters of contemporary and experimental work).

Bristol Old Vic’s aim is to provide support that enables them to continue delivering vital activity that enriches the cultural life of our city and region, beyond the bricks and mortar of Bristol Old Vic’s building. By creating bespoke relationships with each Associate Company which respond to the particular needs of their organisation, these collaborations aim to expand the breadth and depth of that offer for artists in the city at all stages of their careers and across multiple disciplines.

Two Associate Artists will also join Bristol Old Vic for a rolling two-year programme. Year One involves the Associate Artist engaging with the creative functions of Bristol Old Vic, while Year Two will allow the Associate Artist to focus on the development of their own practice.

The first Associate Artist announced is Saikat Ahamed and open recruitment for the second Associate Artist will take place in Autumn 2024, with further details published later this year.  

Saikat said:I am beyond honoured to be asked to be an Associate of Bristol Old Vic. Aside from my love of the building and the people therein, I’m excited to be part of the changes that Nancy and her team are putting in place. The longer I spend in the industry, the more apparent the need for change becomes; to be more inclusive, more reflective not just of the society we see but also the society we want and to accept that this ‘agenda’ does not diminish artistic excellence but rather goes hand in hand with it. I want to be part of that change; after nearly 25 years as an actor, it may well turn out to be the most important role I’ve ever had”.

Bristol Old Vic will continue to develop and commission new work and original drama for its stages, working locally and nationally to support ideas that centre writing and writers.

This strand includes The Peggy Ramsay Foundation/Film4 Awards Playwright Florence Espeut-Nickless who joined Bristol Old Vic in early 2024 as Writer in Residence and a new commission from Zodwa Nyoni, made possible through the generous support of the Peter Shaffer Charitable Foundation. These specific projects sit alongside a number of other plays and adaptations currently under commission and being developed by the theatre. In addition, co-producing grants and seed grants will continue to be offered to artists and companies in the South West and across the UK to develop and present work with support from Bristol Old Vic.

A new rolling submission process will allow all artists to submit ideas for consideration.


In recognition of the value and impact that residencies can have on artistic processes, Bristol Old Vic also begins a new partnership with long-term collaborators Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking to offer writing residencies throughout the year. These residencies will give writers time and space away from the day-to-day to rest, investigate their practice and explore new ideas or ways of working.

More details, including the process through which writers can apply, will be published in Summer 2024.


In order to encourage and support early career writers to take bold next steps with their practice, Bristol Old Vic will be inviting a group of emerging playwrights to take part in a new free programme hosted by the theatre and lead by industry professionals, scheduled across several weeks in Autumn/Winter 2024. 

Writers will be selected via an open submissions process, with further details in Summer 2024.


Bristol Old Vic’s Artists Forum initiative for all South West artists evolves with a new energy. Alongside a programme of support that includes workshops and meet-ups, the refreshed initiative will include subsidised theatre tickets and more opportunities to present work at Scratch events.


Nancy Medina said:“I hope this new approach to artist development makes clear our ambition to become a leading venue for new British writing and a home for writers in Bristol and the South West region. I’m incredibly honoured to receive the 2024 Genesis Foundation Prize which enables us to begin this work in earnest. 

Today’s announcements also recognise the rich expertise that exists in other areas of the South West’s creative ecology. In partnership with our new Associate Companies and Artists, we are renewing our commitment to supporting that ecology, and a broad spectrum of artist development opportunities. Together we can support the future of British playwriting and theatre-making; regionally focused with national ambition.”

Bristol Old Vic Chair Bernard Donaghue said:This is an extraordinary and uncertain time in British Theatre, but it’s absolutely the right time to be bold. Bristol Old Vic is committed to developing new work and theatre that responds to the world around us. This will enrich the experience of established and new audiences, and contribute to the building of a new repertoire of works for the whole nation. Alongside the government’s recent and very welcome commitment to continuing with Theatre Tax Relief, The Genesis Foundation Prize is a huge endorsement of Nancy’s work and wonderful way of marking her remarkable first year at Bristol Old Vic.”


L-R: Ben Atterbury (Literary Manager), Nancy Medina and Tanya Follett (Literary Producer)

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