Eclipse Commissioned Artist: Olivia Hannah

Olivia Hannah is a Newcastle-based scriptwriter. She wrote her first full-length play, Braids, as a member of the Royal Court Writers’ Group (North) in 2018. Braids went on to be long-listed for the 2018 Alfred Fagon Award and commissioned by Live Theatre in Newcastle, where Olivia is also an Associate Artist.

Braids was scheduled for performance in April 2020, sadly postponed due to Covid-19. It was subsequently commissioned for BBC Radio 4’s Lights Up festival in 2021. In 2019, her short play Michelle was developed and performed as part of Workie Ticket Theatre Company’s Women Warriors project, working with female veterans to share their experiences.

In 2019, she received an Early Development award from the BFI to write a treatment for a Braids screenplay and is currently working with freelance producers to get the feature into development. She took part in the 2020 BBC Northern Voices scheme, as part of which she is developing a TV pilot and pitch for Influence, an anthology series about the impact of social media on offline life. In August, her second play Shit Life Crisis was long-listed for the Paines Plough Women’s Prize for Playwriting.

Commissioned by Eclipse Theatre, Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal

Olivia is exploring Newcastle’s Black history from the setting of the Northern Soul scene of the late sixties and early seventies. Starting with Martin Luther King’s visit to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University, just months before his death, the piece follows a young Black Geordie as she explores her connection to the wider Black diaspora through music. She is guided on her journey by three of her ancestors, all musicians. On the Northern Soul scene, she connects with like-minded people and finds her place in the city.

The goal is to create a piece of theatre incorporating live music that could be part of an interactive Northern Soul experience. Olivia will be working with musician and performer Hannabiell Sanders to develop the musical performances.

Two R&D sessions are planned, with a writing period in between, to explore the characters of the ancestors and their music, and their roots in different parts of the African diaspora. The second will bring the whole cast together to develop the piece as a whole before holding a sharing.

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Eclipse Commissioned Artist: Olivia Hannah