BBC World Service has launched its 50th season of African radio drama “BBC African Performance” with the announcement that the 2010 anniversary competition will be judged by the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka.
The Nigerian writer, poet and playwright believes the BBC’s season of African radio drama penetrates Africa’s borders ‘in one fell swoop’: “They are listening in Zimbabwe at the same time as in Sudan, in South Africa, in Nigeria, in Sierra Leone. And this is definitely a crushing of boundaries in a way that even the written word on its own may not have.”
When, back in 1960, the late BBC producer John Stockbridge was asked to devise some kind of drama for African listeners, he came up with a series, a soap opera set in London. In it, actor Yemi Ajibade played the role of a social worker moving around England and settling quarrels.
Another early play aired on the BBC African service was Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo’s “Anowa”. Now a grandmother of African literature, Ama Ata Aidoo was 26 when her play was broadcast on the World Service – a story of a woman who turns down a young man, considered a good catch by her parents, only to elope with an undesirable candidate.
Drama Producer, BBC World Service English for Africa, Jenny Horrocks says: “Looking back at five decades of African drama on BBC World Service, the output is sounding rather different now from the early days. Since then, drama on the BBC African Service has grown into a competition designed to encourage new African writing from BBC listeners from across the continent. One thing remains unchanged: it continues to bring to the fore themes that reflect the concerns of the people from across the continent, their experiences and their aspirations. We are looking forward to new brilliant entries from our audiences.”
Listeners have until February 15, 2010 to enter their play which must be half-an-hour long when read aloud, and must have no more than six main characters. Shortlisted plays will be read by Wole Soyinka who will make the final decision. The winners of BBC World Service’s African Performance 2010 competition will be announced on March 1, 2010.