Diana Nneka Atuona winner of the 2013 Alfred Fagon Award with Professor Gus John © Amy Dang, Afridiziak Theatre News
I’m over the moon. I really do feel like this is the beginning of something for me and for the other writers here today too - Diana Nneka Atuona
It’s the 2013 Alfred Fagon Award which is being held at London’s Tricycle Theatre and walking into the bar I find myself surrounded by theatre royalty. Pioneering playwrights and actors such as Mustapha Matura and Oscar James rub shoulders with the likes of Lucian Msamati and Winsome Pinnock. Supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Alfred Fagon Award was founded in 1996 in memory of the eponymous Jamaican playwright. As the only British theatre event dedicated to writers of African or Caribbean descent the atmosphere is one of celebration, tinged with anticipation as we wait for the winner to be announced.
The Tricycle has a long standing relationship with the Alfred Fagon Trust as it was on its stage that the first collection towards the award was made in 17 years ago. The seven nominees including Diana Nneka Atuona, Denton Chikura, Chino Odimba, Oladipo Agboluaje, Martin Edwards, Danny James and Juliet Gilkes Romero admit to being nervous but are also thrilled to have been selected.
There is an overwhelming sense of unified reverence to this occasion; a profound appreciation of the event’s greater significance. So when Diana Nneka Atuona’s play Liberian Girl is named as the winner, the announcement is met with raucous applause.
Diana Nneka Atuona winner of the 2013 Alfred Fagon Award © Amy Dang, Afridiziak Theatre News
The ceremony is hosted by renowned actor and dedicated promoter of black theatre, Anton Phillips. After thanking the Tricycle for “unfailingly rising to the occasion” and expressing deep gratitude to Tiata Fahodzi, Talawa Theatre and the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, Phillips hands over to Professor Gus John. The esteemed educationalist and author admonished the man who the event pays tribute to before greeting his fellow trailblazers including Yvonne Brewster OBE and Roland Rees. Professor John then calls a rather nervous Diana Nneka Atuona onto the stage and presents her with the £5000 cheque along with the words “So my good sister, thank you for your efforts, thank you for your hard work and thank you for what you have given to us.” The Peckham born writer emotionally dedicated the award to her brother Malcolm before thanking her family, friends and all those who had contributed to her success.
The following reading of Atuona’s Liberian Girl was directed by Talawa Theatre’s artistic director Michael Buffong. The six talented actors including Fiston Barek and Anniwaa Buachie brought the playwright’s sensitive and powerful script to life with phenomenal intensity. Managing to grab a much in demand Atuona after the reading, the Nigerian-British writer admits that she knew she had been named the winner beforehand and had been desperately stopping herself from tweeting. Asking Atuona how she feels now it’s all out in the open she replied “I’m over the moon. I really do feel like this is the beginning of something for me and for the other writers here today too.”
The 17th Alfred Fagon Awards was a momentous occasion; not only for the shortlisted writers but for British theatre in its entirety. It was a day to remember the past achievements and efforts of playwrights such as Alfred Fagon who changed the face of the industry. The importance of the award can be summed up perfectly by Professor Gus John’s inspirational quote. “Never let where you come from determine how far you can go or what you can achieve.”
Afridiziak Theatre News is proud to be the official media partner for the 2013 Alfred Fagon Award.
Download programme from 2013 Alfred Fagon Award
In pictures - 2013 Alfred Fagon Award
Diana Nneka Atuona - interview
Danny James - interview
Juliet Gilkes Romero - interview
Martin Edwards - interview
Oladipo Agboluaje - interview
Chino Odimba - interview
Denton Chikura - interview
Shortlist for 2013 Alfred Fagon Award
Afridiziak Theatre News – official media partner for 2013 Alfred Fagon Award