ABTT Stephen Joseph Award Winner for 2022 announced!

2 December 2022

The ABTT STEPHEN JOSEPH AWARD is a prestigious award created in 2021 by the Stephen Joseph Committee of the ABTT to mark the centenary year of Stephen Joseph’s birth and 60th anniversary of the founding of ABTT, and to commemorate the life and work of this leading British theatre pioneer.

Stephen Joseph was one of the most influential theatre practitioners of the last century who established Theatre in the Round in Britain as an authentic and engaging theatre form.  He was a founding father of ABTT and the Society of Theatre Consultants.  He promoted new writing, architectural standards and technical excellence, and his ground-breaking practice has given rise to the myriad forms of theatre and open staging that are commonly used today. At the heart of his practice was the close and fundamental relationship between performer and audience.

In 2022, the second year of the competition, the Stephen Joseph Committee are proud to announce that the award has been made to THE BELFAST ENSEMBLE for their innovative approach to staging contemporary, Belfast-generated opera and other music-theatre events, for their high quality and clearly well-received production values and for their achievement in reaching and engaging new audiences. On many levels, their work embodies the spirit of Joseph’s wide-ranging legacy and the ‘inclusive excellence’ for which the award was designed.

Figure 1: ABTT CEO Robin Townley (left) with Stephen Joseph Award Winners’; The Belfast Ensemble. Award collected by Soprano, Rebecca Caine (centre) and Artistic Director, Conor Mitchell (right).

The Belfast Ensemble has been making extraordinary, experimental musical work since 2017.  The company has made a speciality of immersive, in-the-round experiences that challenge audiences; projects like ‘MASS’, a major multi-disciplinary event combining video projection and the Ulster Orchestra in a spectacular sound and light show in the Belfast Telegraph Building, have proved the power of unconventional approaches to music theatre. The company also actively contributes to its local community… represent[ing] the best of Belfast on the world’s stage; platforming Northern Irish talent, the Ensemble’s diverse portfolio showcases excellence, champions innovation and delivers for audiences every time”

To read the nomination in full, please see here.

As the winner of the 2022 ABTT Stephen Joseph Award, The Belfast Ensemble was presented with a specially designed bronze trophy, a mini theatre-in-the-round based on an early Stephen Joseph sketch, together with a certificate recognising their extraordinary achievement at the ABTT Christmas Party on Friday 2nd December at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, generously supported by ETC and LW Theatres.

Figure 2: The Stephen Joseph Award is a miniature theatre-in-the-round in polished bronze. Designed and made by SJC Member Andrew Sanders.

Special Commendations.

Figure 3: Meg Hendricks (left) and Ben Stephen (right) accepting a commendation on behalf of The Albany Community Arts Centre for the ABTT Stephen Joseph Award, presented by Stephen Joseph Committee Chair, Tony Jackson (centre).

The strength of nominations this year was once again impressive. The ABTT/SJC Adjudication Panel therefore decided to recognise the work of two of the nominees in the form of Special Commendations. In this category, they are pleased to commend the following:

THE ALBANY COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE, London, specifically for its adventurous production of Sun and Sea as part of the 2022 LIFT Festival – the outcome of a sustained collaborative effort at all levels to re-imagine the original production from Lithuania for the Albany, bringing together local volunteers, a diverse community chorus and new audiences, and exploring fresh ways of connecting audiences with the stage. *

and (for the second year running)

Figure 4: Simon Trewin (left) accepting a commendation on behalf of INK for the ABTT Stephen Joseph Award, presented by Stephen Joseph Committee Chair, Tony Jackson (right).

INK, for its championing of new writing by and for rural communities in East Anglia, for its inclusive audience reach, especially through its successful annual festivals in the region, and for its important work throughout the year in supporting actors, directors, technicians and young people through workshops, tours and networking.

Both organisations have received Certificates of Commendation at the ABTT Christmas Party on 2nd December.

The ABTT and the Stephen Joseph Committee would like to offer a huge ‘thank you’ to all the applicants for this year’s Award stating that “it was a pleasure find out more about the innovative work being created in 2022”.




*Sun and Sea was Lithuania’s national entry for the 2019 Venice Biennale, by all-female creative team – composer Lina Lapelytė, librettist Vaiva Grainytė and director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė. It received the festival’s top award, the Golden LionThe UK premiere of Sun & Sea was presented by LIFT, the Albany and Serpentine as part of LIFT 2022, Back to Earth and We Are Lewisham, presented by Lewisham Council and the Albany as part of the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture 2022.


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