Winner of ABTT Stephen Joseph Award for 2023 announced!

11 December 2023

Created in 2021, the ABTT Stephen Joseph Award recognises innovative and inclusive theatre excellence as well as the relationship built between performer and audience member. Commemorating the life and work of leading British theatre pioneer and founding member of ABTT, the aim of the Stephen Joseph Award is to celebrate the variety of ways contemporary theatre practitioners continue to break new ground in engaging their audiences.

Run by the Stephen Joseph Committee (SJC) of the ABTT, this year’s entries were more impressive than ever. The Award Panel did however come to the unanimous decision to award New Vic Borderlines, the outreach team at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, with the Stephen Joseph Award for 2023.

Presented at the ABTT Christmas Event on the 8th December, the Award Panel noted that New Vic Borderlines’ longstanding and innovative approach to inclusive and developmental theatre, as well as the sheer range of work done to engage people in the area from disadvantaged or challenging backgrounds was key to their success in winning the Award.

Figure 1: New Vic Borderlines’ accepting Stephen Joseph Award and Certificate from SJC Chairman Tony Jackson

Their programme includes taking plays and workshops to schools and community settings and tackling a variety of socially relevant topics and without doubt merits the description of ‘innovative and inclusive excellence’ for which the award was designed. It’s also worth noting that the programme builds on a rich history of community theatre in The Potteries that largely stems from Stephen Joseph’s and Peter Cheeseman’s pioneering work at the ‘old’ Vic.

As the winner of the 2023 ABTT Stephen Joseph Award, New Vic Borderlines’ 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. A close-up of the Trophy can be found below.

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

Susan Moffatt, Borderlines Director responded to the announcement by noting: “This award is amazing recognition for the innovative and inclusive work we’ve been making through New Vic Borderlines for over 20 years. This is especially so, as our work stems directly from the ambition and inspiration of Stephen Joseph and Peter Cheeseman to reinvigorate theatre, making it accessible and relevant. We create theatre with marginalised communities, including those deemed hard to reach, providing an inclusive space for our groups to make sense of their lives, exploring creative and positive ways to understand and address the challenges they face through placing their stories centre stage. This work often takes place in front of audiences who are not typical theatre goers allowing for a collaboration of performer and audience to imagine and co-create a positive future.
Through our work, left out communities and unheard voices find a safe space to challenge pre-conceptions and make positive changes to their own lives and communities. We’re delighted and proud to have been awarded the Stephen Joseph Award and look forward to continuing to create innovative, inclusive theatre that truly does make a difference to society.”

Figure 3: Holocaust Day Memorial Project at the New Vic. Photo: Andrew Billington

To read the nomination in full, please see here.

The range and quality of submissions this year were inspiring and 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 finding out more about the innovative work being created in 2023”.

Together with New Vic Borderlines, the following submissions were shortlisted:

Please do click the links above to find out more about their amazing work!

If you are also interested in finding out more about Stephen Joseph and the ABTT Stephen Joseph Committee, please click here as we are always looking for new people to engage and become involved with our Committee.