The Gathering: Special Episode – 37 Plays – in conversation with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Blackpool Grand Theatre and Northern Broadsides.

Welcome to The Gathering, a podcast for artists and creatives from Arts Lancashire.

This is a special episode created in association with the RSC, Blackpool Grand Theatre and Northern Broadsides.

It’s a widely held opinion that Shakespeare may have first performed some of his most famous plays, not in London, but Lancashire.

In Elizabethan times, Lancashire was a much larger county that it is today, and it is believed that in his teenage years, Shakespeare came to live with relatives at Houghton Tower near Preston and later, also at Rufford Old Hall in Rufford. It was there that a young William Shakespeare, or William Shakeshaft, as he is referred to in the will of his Uncle, Alexander Hoghton, that Shakespeare began to write and perform.

At the same, a short distance away in Prescot, which was once part of Lancashire, was the only purpose-built indoor theatre outside of London. And it was there that the first ever performances of William Shakespeare’s Richard III and Love’s Labour’s Lost are supposed to have taken place.

Fast forward some four centuries and Shakespeare’s connection to the North of England is stronger than ever. Earlier this year, Shakespeare North Playhouse opened in Prescot. And now, to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s first folio, the Royal Shakespeare Company have launched 37 Plays, a national new playwriting project.

In Lancashire this is being led by Blackpool Grand Theatre in association with Northern Broadsides a theatre company from Halifax, The Old Electric in Blackpool and the Lowther Pavilion Theatre in Lytham.

In this special episode of The Gathering, Alex O’Toole, Chair of Arts Lancashire, speaks to the RSC’s Head of National Partnerships, Robin Belfield, Blackpool Grand Theatre’s Creative Learning Producer, Jo Cleasby, and Northern Broadsides Resident Director, Hallam Breen, to find out more about the opportunity, what the judges are looking for, and how Lancashire writers can get involved.

Could you be the next Shakespeare?

The 37 Plays competition submission window begins 1 January 2023 and closes on 31 January 2023.  The chosen 37 plays will be announced in April 2023.

Anyone living in the United Kingdom may enter a play and there is no fee to enter.

Your play must be predominantly in English, with a translation provided for any text not in the English language.

For more information about how to enter, visit the 37 Plays website.

To access local mentoring support for your play contact Jo Cleasby at

Click to read a full transcript of this episode.

Some of the things we talk about in this episode:

  • Why the RSC thinks it’s important to capture the stories of our nation in this way.
  • Who can enter and what sort of stories judges are hoping to receive.
  • What local support is on offer to help you write your play.
  • Tools and tips to help you write your play.
  • What will happen to the 37 plays selected and their writers.


Contributors to this episode:

Robin Belfield – Head of Partnerships, Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

Jo Cleasby, Creative Learning Producer, Blackpool Grand Theatre

Hallam Breen, Resident Director, Northern Broadsides


Links mentioned in this episode:

37 Plays

37 Plays Podcast

Royal Shakespeare Company

Blackpool Grand Theatre

Northern Broadsides

The Old Electric

Lowther Pavilion Theatre

Shakespeare North Playhouse

Arts Lancashire