Daniel Ward wins George Devine Award

Published: 29 November 2020
Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

Dan Ward
Dan Ward in The Canary and the Crow Credit: The Other Richard

The debut play of Daniel Ward has won him the 51st George Devine Award with a prize of £15,000.

The Canary and the Crow uses grime, hip-hop and classical music in a tale of seeking belonging in a divided society, winning over the judging panels for its "dynamic fusion of theatre, spoken word and grime, creating a playful and compassionate exploration of the journey at its heart. The play is so confidently itself from beginning to end, which makes it both joyous to read and incredibly moving."

Ward took the central role of The Bird when the play ran at the Brighton and Edinburgh Festivals and at London's Arcola Theatre prior to a COVID-cancelled tour. The Bird is a working-class black boy who attends the prestigious grammar school.

Ward said, "to sum up what it means to win this award is so, so difficult. I am honoured, delighted, humbled and feel incredibly unworthy to have my name sit alongside the prestigious list of previous George Devine winners. I am thankful to everyone that has contributed to the creation of this piece, too numerous to mention, so please excuse me for not going into an expansive list. Please know that I hold everyone in my heart.

"In a year when the arts and theatre has faced such turmoil, I am thankful to the artists who continue to bring such creativity, light and inspiration to the world. I pray that light continues to shine into next year and beyond. There are writers who made the shortlist for the George Devine award who have personally inspired me, so thank you.

"I am a black man. The Canary and the Crow is a story that centres the lived experience of a black man. In 2020, what that means has taken on much greater significance. I wrote this play to highlight the often difficult to articulate experiences of black people navigating society. When it was staged, the response was far more positive than I could have ever imagined, but what was particularly special was the black and brown people who approached me, telling me how much it resonated with them and thanking me for championing their stories. Honestly, I felt that was reward enough. The George Devine award is a very welcome, but very unexpected bonus.

"I humbly accept this award not only for myself but also on behalf of those black and brown people who have been often overlooked and undervalued.

"Simply put, winning this award, in this year, for this story means everything."

The judging panel was made up of former Royal Court artistic director Ian Rickson, actress Patsy Ferran, director Elayce Ismail and producer Amy Powell Yeates with former winners Charlene James and Roy Williams.

Other former winners include Diana Nneka Atuona, Richard Bean, Alice Birch, Theresa Ikoko, Rory Mullarkey and Lucy Prebble.