A competition dedicated to the memory of Cornwall's best-loved playwright has been won by a man whose work was described by judges as "very much in keeping with Nick Darke's voice and ethos".
Kieran Lynn, who walked away from the award ceremony at University College Falmouth with £7,000 in cash and the endorsement of the theatre world, was one of eight shortlisted writers.
Set up by Jane Darke following the death of her husband, Nick, the competition is designed to encourage and reward the best writing for stage, radio and film. This year's £6,000 first prize – which will be used by Kieran Lynn to complete his script for production – was boosted by £1,000 by an anonymous donor.
Kieran was named as the winner for his stage play, Wild Fish, at the ceremony held at the Tremough campus's Performance Centre. The judges described it as "fascinating, sophisticated, witty and formally elegant and very much in keeping with Nick's voice and ethos".
Trained as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Kieran worked as a playwright since his graduation. His plays have been performed at the Hampstead Theatre, Liverpool Everyman, Dundee Rep Theatre, Old Red Lion Theatre, Arches Theatre, Glasgow Citizens and Theatre 503. His play Bunnies – which was revived by The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter – was the winner of a Peter Brook Empty Space Award, and will transfer to London's New Diorama Theatre later this month before embarking on a UK tour. His most recent play, An Incident At The Border, transferred to London's West End.
"In my few years as a young writer I have found that it is very easy to get your plays read and reported on," he said. "I have found that it is easy to get involved in development workshops and rehearsed readings. I have found it easy to get involved in short play festivals and themed evenings. What it is not easy to do, and what may be the most crucial part of being a professional writer, is getting paid. Almost all of the writers I know have other jobs and so are only able to write after a day job has drained their energy and best efforts. The Nick Darke Award will enable me to dedicate more of my time, more of my energy and more of myself to writing – and I will be grateful of the opportunity for the rest of my career."
Kieran will use the prize money to assist in the completion of his play to industry standards before submitting the complete script in March 2013, with a performance at University College Falmouth's annual summer festival. He also received a trophy based on the coastline of the North Cornwall – where Nick Darke was born, lived and worked – designed by Two Design and produced at UCF's Design Centre.
Wild Fish follows the story of Jakob Halvard, the owner of a large commercial fishing company. After being shipwrecked in a storm and spending 40 days lost in the middle of a great lake, he decides to cease catching in order to let fish stocks on the lake recover. In doing so he becomes the enemy of Horsten Oswald, his ambitious and ruthless business manager, and a target of the local businessmen who rely on the fishing trade for their livelihoods.
The award ceremony was attended by the shortlisted writers, friends and family of the late Nick Darke, readers of the submitted entries, as well as supporters within the film, writing, theatre and radio worlds. They were treated to an update of the Nick Darke Archive, which is held at University College Falmouth, a reading of last year's winning script, CUB by Rachel Tillotson, feedback from the judges and music by University College Falmouth band, Vagabond And A Box.
The other shortlisted writers were David Bottomley, Tony Clare, Sarah Hehir, Fiona Mackie, Andrea Montgomery, Francis Turnly and Polly Wiseman.