Popcorn Writing Awards 2023 - Winner Sabrina Ali

Dugsi Dayz by Sabrina Ali wins Edinburgh’s Popcorn Writing Award 2023

Sabrina Ali’s play Dugsi Dayz has won the annual Popcorn Writing Award 2023.

Sabrina Ali wins £3,000 of the £6,000 prize fund, along with support from theatre, film and TV production company Popcorn Group, and the BBC Writersroom.

Dugsi Dayz, produced by Side eYe Productions, is an hilarious and authentic exploration of friendship between Somali girls, and a joyful and rebellious snapshot of British Muslim culture.

The play is running at Underbelly Cowgate in Edinburgh until 27 August 2023, directed by Warda Mohamed and Poppy Clifford, designed by Raha Mahamoud and starring Susu Ahmed as Salma, Faduma Issa as Yasmin, Sabrina Ali as Munira, and Hadsan Mohamud as Hani.

The awards celebrate the best of new writing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The winner and finalists were announced at a ceremony at The Gilded Balloon Library Bar today, Thursday 24 August 2023, presented by Charlotte Colbert and Natalie Denton of the Popcorn Group, and Jess Loveland of the BBC Writersroom.

The award was presented by last year’s winner was Karim Khan for Brown Boys Swim , which is in development with Riz Ahmed’s LeftHanded Films, and is about to tour the UK including a run at Soho Theatre in October 2023.

The Popcorn Award longlist was announced on 4 August 2023. The longlist, shortlist and winners are selected by members of BBC Writersroom and the Popcorn team.

Popcorn and the BBC teamed up with 8 Edinburgh theatre venues for the awards this year: Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance, Summerhall, TheSpaceUK, Traverse and Underbelly, with Greenside joining this year for the first time.

Writer Sabrina Ali said in a statement: “Winning the Popcorn Award leaves me truly speechless. Just a year after writing ‘Dugsi Dayz,’ I never imagined I’d be at the Edinburgh Fringe, let alone accepting the popcorn award . This achievement owes everything to my incredible directors, cast and producers, who breathed magic into ‘Dugsi Dayz.’ A special shout-out to KAYD art organisation! Who took a chance on me as an emerging writer, thank you all for making this journey unforgettable.””

The Popcorn Group partnered once again with BBC Writersroom for this year’s awards, offering valuable one-to-one meetings with each of the longlisted playwrights with members of the BBC Drama Commissioning team.

Jess Loveland, Head of New Writing at BBC Writersroom said: “It’s been a real delight for BBC Writersroom to collaborate with the Popcorn Group on the Popcorn Writing Award for a second year. The calibre of plays on the longlist is truly remarkable and the bold originality of the work captures the mission of this new writing award. We want to congratulate this year’s winner, Sabrina Ali, for her tender, funny and joyful play, Dugsi Dayz. Huge congratulations are also due to our three shortlisted finalists for their brilliant and inventive work. The Writersroom team are looking forward to meeting and getting to know all the talented writers on this longlist over the coming months.”

Charlotte Colbert from the Popcorn Group said: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a pure celebration of human storytelling in all in wondrous diversity and originality. It is a world away from the formulaic algorithmic narratives – a platform for risk-taking new voices which the Popcorn Group is so happy to support in a small way. All the submissions blew us away, but we wanted to especially congratulate the winner and finalists of this year’s award: Dugsi Dayz, Lie Low, The Brief & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria and Public – The Musical.”

The prize fund of £6,000 is shared amongst the winner and finalists. The 20 longlisted writers will also be able to access BBC commissioners through the work of the BBC Writersroom.

Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s Lie Low is the first finalist – a dark comedy about a woman, Faye, who’s having trouble sleeping following a break-in at her home, a wild, dark and hilarious new play, directed by Oisín Kearney, that offers a theatrical exploration into the human brain.

Joseph Cullen and Sasha Wilson’s The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria is the second finalist, with an energetic production exploring the suspicious circumstances of the King of Bulgaria’s demise, how 50,000 Jewish people were saved from deportation and death, and how the world forgot all about it. The ensemble performs Bulgarian and Jewish folk tunes live while sharing this unique story from 20th century European history.

Stroud and Notes’ Public – The Musical received a special mention. This witty and sensitive new musical created by queer-led theatre collective Stroud and Notes features catchy bops and heartfelt ballads, and runs the gamut of contemporary concerns. It candidly explores gender identity, the clogged world of toxic masculinity, allyship, the climate crisis, social media and more as these four strangers have their patience pushed to the limit.

Past winners and finalists of the Popcorn Writing Award include Bryony Kimmings, who has recently had her project The Rapture greenlit with the BBC, and Claire Rammelkamp who is co-writing the series Immaculate with Motherland’s Anna Maxwell.

📷 Main photo: Popcorn Writing Awards 2023 - Winner Sabrina Ali

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