The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has launched its campaign to find 14 members of the general public to form part of the judging panel of next year's Laurence Olivier Awards, the most prestigious awards for theatre in the West End. The Awards are unique in this respect, combining members of the theatre-going public with panel members officially appointed by the Society for their knowledge and professional experience.

A new panel, responsible for judging productions by the Society s Affiliate members, will be added to the judging for the first time for the 2001 Awards. SOLT s affiliate members represent highly respected off-West End venues including the Almeida Theatre, the Hampstead Theatre, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Royal Court Upstairs, the Tricycle Theatre and the Young Vic.

Interested applicants should apply using one of the leaflets displayed in all West End theatre foyers or by sending a stamped addressed envelope to SOLT. People professionally associated with the theatre industry are not eligible to become panel members.

Applicants must select one new play or musical that they ve seen in the previous six months and describe in 100-150 words why they feel it should receive an award for Best Play or Best Musical. Applicants for the opera and dance panels are asked to select a new production they ve seen in the last year and also describe why it should win an award.

Successful candidates will be given a pair of complimentary tickets for all proposed productions between 1 January and 31 December 2001, as part of the judging process. There are four independent panels for the Awards: theatre, opera, dance and affiliates. The theatre panel consists of five professional judges and eight members of the public. Of these, four are expected to cover plays and four musicals. Panellists covering plays will be required to see approximately 60 productions during the course of the Awards' year, while panellists covering musicals will be required to see approximately 20 productions.

The opera, dance and affiliates panels each consist of three professional judges and two members of the public. Opera and affiliates panellists will be expected to see approximately 20 productions during the year, while dance panellists will be required to see about 20.

The deadline for applications is 17 November 2000. SAEs for application forms should be sent to Awards Office (R), SOLT, 32 Rose Street, London WC2E 9ET. Applications can also be requested by calling +44-20-7557-6777.