Daniel Ward has won the 51st George Devine Award for hit play The Canary and the Crow.
The writer has picked up the £15,000 prize for his debut piece, about a working-class black school child accepted to a prestigious grammar school. It was performed alongside Middle Child (with Ward leading the cast) at Latitude Festival, Brighton Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Arcola Theatre in London.
On winning, 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."
On this year's panel were previous winners Roy Williams and Charlene James, former Royal Court artistic director Ian Rickson, actress Patsy Ferran, director Elayce Ismail and producer Amy Powell Yeates.
The shortlist for this year was composed of:
When Great Trees Fall by Dipo Baruwa-Etti
Motherland by Chris Bush
Staying at Stacey's by Annie Jenkins
Does My Bomb Look Big In This? by Nyla Levy
There are no beginnings by Charley Miles
Out of Sorts by Danusia Samal
O, Island! by Nina Segal
The High Table by Temi Wilkey