WBD Access Northern Writers Programme, in partnership with Wall to Wall North and The Royal Exchange Theatre will return for 2024. This year builds on the success of the newly designed programme which began last year and was developed to create unique opportunities for talented writers from under-represented backgrounds from the North of England. The scheme is specifically tailored to writers who are new to television drama but already writing for theatre, empowering them to carve out successful careers across both stage and screen. 

Forming 2023’s cohort of talented writers are Amy Lever, Cai Odu, Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi, Matt Gurr and Olivia Hannah who have just completed the WBD Access Northern Writers Programme. Over the last six months, all five writers have been given a rare insight into how both industries work through a series of workshops and sessions, offering them the chance to develop their writing for stage and screen, with guidance and support from industry leaders and guest speakers working in both disciplines. Speakers this year included Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, It’s A Sin), Anna Jordan (Succession, YEN winner of the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting), Nora Skinner (HBO SVP, Drama), Vinay Patel (One Day, Murdered By My Father, An Adventure) and Alice Ramsey (BBC), among others. 

Alongside this, the writers were given the opportunity to write their very own original one-hour TV pilot. Each working one-on-one with a Script Editor and Executive Producer at Wall to Wall North who provided them with editorial support to take their idea from pitch, to outline, and through two drafts of a script. 

Further to this, the writers were offered two one-to-one meetings with Suzanne Bell, award-winning Dramaturg from the Royal Exchange Theatre where they had the opportunity to discuss their stage work and receive expert advice and feedback.

On hand to guide and support them for screen is Wall to Wall North’s Executive Producer Sian Palfrey (Overshadowed/Girlfriends), whilst for stage, each writer is named ‘Artist in Residence’ at the prestigious Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, supported by Dramaturg Suzanne Bell.

Sessions have been created and customised around key principles in the writing process and included a mock writersroom, masterclasses with A-List writers and industry executives, learning how commissioning works from the inside, finding the right agent for you, and how to sustain a multidiscipline career.

Sian Palfrey, Executive Producer at Wall To Wall North said:It’s been a joy to work with Matt, Olivia, Amy, Jasmin and Cai, whose voices and talents truly represent the wealth of exciting storytellers we have across the North of England. To see their writing and confidence grow, to know they have felt championed and empowered to forge sustainable careers in both television and theatre, has been an unforgettable experience.

We are thrilled to be bringing the programme back for 2024, and to be continuing our partnership with The Royal Exchange Theatre and Warner Bros Discovery. We look forward to working with more incredible Northern writers this year and helping them tell the stories they want to tell and that demand to be heard.”

Suzanne Bell, Dramaturg, Royal Exchange Theatre said: “I am delighted to be able to celebrate the achievements of the five brilliantly talented writers that we’ve worked with and mentored for the past 6 months as part of the 2023 WBD Access Northern Writers Programme. Writing talent in the North of England is thriving and these writers are proof of that. It has been a pleasure helping them to shape their stories and watching them sharpen their skills as brilliant writers for both the stage and screen. We are thrilled to build on the success of the scheme so far and develop the partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery Access and Wall to Wall North to deliver it again in 2024, offering even more writers from the North an opportunity to hone their skills. In the current climate writers need a range of avenues and opportunities to forge a sustainable career and this scheme, which explores the nuances of writing for the screen and the stage, is a fantastic example of how the industry can work together to champion and support writers into a varied and rewarding career.”

Jenifer Sobol, Senior Manager – Pipeline Programmes, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion said: “It has been an absolute pleasure seeing the writers from WBD Access Northern Writers’ Programme evolve from stage to screen through expert guidance from Wall to Wall North and the Royal Exchange Theatre. We’re so proud of the fantastic 2023 writers and are looking forward to welcoming this year’s cohort - targeted initiatives like this are vital to ensure those in the creative industries are able to build long and diverse careers.”


About the Writers

Amy Lever

Manchester born, Amy Lever is an award-winning writer, actor and theatre-maker. She is passionate about creating work around coming-of-age, human connection and the contemporary British (specifically northern!) Jewish voice. Whilst studying Psychology at Cambridge University she wrote her first play, Life Before the Line, which won the Cambridge University Edinburgh Fringe Fund - a prize in which one piece of new writing is fully funded at the Edinburgh Fringe. It went on to receive five-star reviews, sold-out shows and subsequent accolades (Varsity’s Top Shows 2022, MasterClass PYP Longlist, BOLD Playwrights Longlist). She has since been named Runner-up for the Alpine Fellowship Prize For Playwriting (2023), selected for a script development scheme with Channel 4 and New Writing North and shortlisted for the Shelagh Delaney New Writing Prize. Amy is over the moon to continue her writing journey following her completion the WBD Access Northern Writers Programme.

Cai Odu

Cai Odu is a Leeds-based writer with Northern English & Nigerian heritage. Cai focuses on building worlds and telling stories within underrepresented cultures, locations and histories, usually revolving around family relationships and conflicts. In addition to his success on the WBD Access Northern Writers Programme 2023, Cai’s scripts have made it to the top 7% on Coverfly, as well as the semi-finals and shortlists in established international script competitions and programmes. After years of writing for TV & Film, Cai aspires to write unique stories across all entertainment formats, including stage, literature, and gaming.

Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi

Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi is a British-Iranian writer from West Yorkshire. Her first full length play Allah In the Walls was developed on the Catalyst Programme at the North Wall Arts Centre and went on to be shortlisted for the 2022 Bruntwood Prize. In 2023 she participated in the Bush Theatre's Emerging Writers Group which culminated in a rehearsed reading of her play This Abyss. Previously, she developed the play The Magic of Wild Heather for the National Theatre’s Public Acts which went on to be performed at Cast Theatre in Doncaster. She has participated in the BBC’s Northern Voices Scheme, Sheffield Theatre’s Bank Cohort, and Tamasha Theatre's Developing Writers programme. Her most recent play was Here and Here and Here, commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre and performed as part of their Sokhan Begoo night in support of the women of Iran.

Matt Gurr

Matt Gurr is a writer from Penrith, Cumbria. His debut play Souvenir won Theatre Royal Haymarket’s Pitch Your Play prize, receiving a performance at the theatre, and was also shortlisted for the Hope Mill Theatre Playwriting Prize and the University of Lancaster Playwriting Prize. His second play Cowboy was developed with the support of Colchester’s Mercury Theatre and Harlow Playhouse and was performed at the King’s Head Theatre as part of its ‘A Queer Interrogation’ season. He was previously part of the VAULT Festival’s Writers programme and Mercury Theatre’s Playwrights Development scheme.

Olivia Hannah

Olivia Hannah is a scriptwriter based in the North East. Her first full-length play, Braids, was written with the Royal Court Writers’ Group (North) and long-listed for the Alfred Fagon Award. In 2021 it was performed as part of the BBC Radio 4 Lights Up! Festival and had its stage debut at Live Theatre in Newcastle. Olivia was a member of BBC Northern Voices 2020, for which she wrote the pilot for Influence, an anthology series about social media. In 2021, she received an Eclipse Slate award to develop Keep The Faith, a play about Black diaspora music and the Northern Soul scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Her second play Shit Life Crisis was longlisted for the inaugural Paines Plough Women’s Prize for Playwriting and is in development with Silent Uproar. A screen adaptation of Braids is in development with Public Display of Affection Films and the BFI. The WBD Access Northern Writers Programme saw Olivia pen a new psychological thriller with a genre twist, My Name Is Layla.


Editor’s notes:

For further information, images or interviews please contact Abigail Johnson

abigail.johnson@multitudemedia.co.uk / 07496836436

Submissions will be open from Thursday 29th February 2024 at 9am via https://www.warner-access.com/programs/wbd-access-northern-writers-programme

Images can be found here.


About Wall to Wall

Wall to Wall has been supplying innovative, hugely popular, award-winning programming around the world since 1987. The hallmark of Wall to Wall’s productions is a commitment to quality, innovation and brilliant story-telling - and many of the company’s shows combine elements from different genres, whether in pioneering living history projects or in the many factual and drama formats they have made over the years. Wall to Wall Media has a strong track record in delivering successful global shows, with several long running hits including New Tricks and Waterloo Road (a co-production with Rope Ladder Fiction for BBC One and BBC iPlayer) and multi-award winning single dramas The Girl and The Windermere Children.

Based out of Manchester, Wall to Wall’s Northern hub, Wall to Wall North launched following the return of Waterloo Road (a co-production with Rope Ladder Fiction for BBC One and BBC iPlayer) in February 2022. The ambition for this scripted expansion, spearheaded by Executive Producer Sian Palfrey, is to develop and produce high end drama with a northern skew, and invest in and champion both the next generation and established storytellers in the region and beyond.


About Royal Exchange Theatre

Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre Company transforms the way people see theatre, each other and the world around them. Our historic building was taken over by artists in 1976. Today it is an award-winning cultural charity that produces new theatre in-the-round, in communities, on the road and online.

Exchange remains at the heart of everything we make and do. Now our currency is brand new drama and reinvigorated classics, the boldest artists and a company of highly skilled makers - all brought together in a shared imaginative endeavour to trade ideas and experiences with the people of Greater Manchester (and beyond).

The Exchange’s unique auditorium is powerfully democratic, a space where audiences and performers meet as equals, entering and exiting through the same doors. It is the inspiration for all we do; inviting everyone to understand the past, engage in today's big questions, collectively imagine a better future and lose themselves in the moment of a great night out.

The Royal Exchange was named Regional Theatre of the Year in 2016 and School of the Year at The Stage Awards 2018.


About Warner Bros. Discovery Access

At Warner Bros. Discovery we believe in authentic, meaningful connection—to each other, to culture, and to our consumer. That’s why we empower fearless storytellers who bring our world into focus – and create cultural touchstones with the power to draw us together. Through best-in-class talent development programs, mentorship, placement opportunities and industry exposure, WBD Access serves as a powerful conduit connecting under-represented talent to our content and brands. For more information visit https://warner-access.com/