2020 Visit the Festival

The 6th UK International Radio Drama Festival will take place from 23 – 27 March 2020 in Canterbury, Kent.

Canterbury Cathedral

The listening venue is Eastbridge Hospital, 25 High Street, CT1 2BD.

The venue is entered through a low Gothic door, and only a 10 minute walk from both Canterbury West and East train stations – and even closer to the beautiful Cathedral. If you’re curious to see the venue before the Festival, take the 360° Tour online!

All listening sessions are free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

No matter your experience in audio drama, if you can commit to listen to the whole programme during the Festival, we would encourage you to sit on the jury and vote for the best audio drama to win! If this is something you’d like to do, please contact [email protected]

Eastbridge Hospital entrance

Let us know if you’ll join us in March on Facebook or Eventbrite 🙂

2019 Audience Award

The jury have voted – and the audience too!

Congratulations to “Travelling in Africa” by Georgian Public Broadcasting!

This is amazing play! Come on Everybody, listen to it and you will get what I mean.”

I like story telling in this play and the whole history is interesting as well”

2019 Jury Awards

We have the winners of the 5th UK International Radio Drama Festival

Full length

1st place: Die Toten Von Feuerland/The dead of Tierra del Fuego

Andreas Ammer and Ulrike Haage, NDR Kultur, Germany (German/English) 

On May 11, 1830, the sailors of the research vessel “HMS Beagle” exchange with the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego the young Orundellico of the Yamana tribe for a mother-of-pearl button. The 15-year-old gets the name Jemmy Button. Captain FitzRoy decided to take four of the young Fuegian hostages all the way to England “to become useful as interpreters, and be the means of establishing a friendly disposition towards Englishmen on the part of their countrymen.” Like many stories also this one does not go well…One year later, Fitzroy returned the three surviving Fuegans home. He took with him a young naturalist, Charles Darwin. Haage and Ammer do not talk about what they know or suspect anyway. But perform a revival ritual without moral gravity: An essential part of the radio play are original sound recordings of the Yamana people. The radio play – based on the diaries of Darwin and Fitzroy – tells of the consequences of being uprooted and became a model for Michael Ende’s children’s book character Jim Knopf a century later.

Why the jury voted for it: First of all this was a great true story from history that no one on the jury had ever heard. It felt like you were listening to something important. The acting was first class, the soundscape and pace of the drama suited the subject matter perfectly. There was an inevitability to the tragedy that unfolded that was Greek in nature. Within a few minutes of this piece starting you felt in safe hands. Great radio drama.

2nd place: ZRTVE Radia Bum Bum/The Victims of Radio Boom Boom

Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and TV, University of Ljubiana, Slovenia (Slovene)

The Victims of Radio Boom Boom are an original adaptation of the cult drama from 1975 by Dušan Jovanović titled Victims of Fashion Boom Boom, that is still considered as a turning event in the history of staging and dramatics.  

More than forty years later, students of the 4th year of drama acting and theatre and radio directing made an original adaptation of the text, where we wanted to draw attention to the message that is already given in the original proposal: the history of our civilization is nothing more than a repetition of violence, destruction, suffering and disgrace.

Why the jury voted for it: A jam-packed hamper of radio drama delights. In only 20 minutes the director/producer gave us reportage, great speeches from history, and a young cast enjoying themselves immensely as they wrong-footed the listener in playful, compelling and unnerving ways. The jury said they couldn’t wait to hear what was coming next in this piece.

3rd place is a tie!

James’s Story

RTE Drama on One, Ireland (English) 

The radio drama kicks off from a rather simple, but startling anecdote. Two young English art students, vacationing in a remote area of Kerry in the late 1960s, pass an old Irish farmer in a country lane. Hearing them speaking English, he calls to them and asks where they’re from. When they reply they are from London, he declares ‘I killed an Englishman once’.

The Story-Poacher creates small fleeting scenes, which play out on the landscape of the village. Sometimes he is discontented with these and discards them like early drafts. He is, in effect, writing his drama before our very ears and making us complicit. In the end, however, even he is caught short by the local Kerry people, playing themselves in the production, who have an altogether different and ‘deconstructing’ take on James’s Story.

Why the jury voted for it: A very ambitious radio drama with scenes in English and Gaelige plus interviews with real people handled in a very entertaining and intriguing way by David Zane Mairowitz. The character of the Story- Poacher dissects what a story is and in the process brings up questions as to the nature of storytelling and the reliability of memory. This play touched a chord with many members of the jury and stimulated much discussion.

Mono; Wie Mein Bruder Wahrend Eines Konzerts Von “The Who” In Einem Ohr Taub Wurde / Mono; How My Brother Became Deaf In One Ear At A Concert By The Who

David Zane Mairowitz, Germany (German/English) 

It’s TRUE. It happened during the song « Baba O’Reilly ».

My brother still goes to rock concerts, although he’s over 75, a septuagenarian teenager. During the day, he sells spare parts for lifts. He’s been doing the same work for fifty years, without more than a few weeks holiday, and without the merest promotion. Everyone wonders why, at 70, he doesn’t just retire. But he’s still strong, still mobile, why should he stop ? My brother and I haven’t been speaking to each other for years. This isn’t because of any great animosity between us, but mostly because our worlds split apart a long time ago. And suddenly, he calls, he needs my help. His new boss is trying to fire him because of his infirmity and he needs someone like me, who knows how to use words, to represent him at a labour tribunal.

Of course, Mono loses his case, and now sets off –his unwilling brother in tow – to get his ‘revenge’ on The WHO. This takes him to Camden Town, for a final showdown with Roger Daltrey (playing himself) which reveals unexpected and surprising results.

Why the jury voted for it: Just a great story, great soundtrack plus an appearance by Roger Daltry himself ! Essentially a tale of brotherhood, the character of the Fabulist echoed the Story – Poacher in James’ Story and made the listener complicit in the storytelling process. 53 minutes of thoroughly entertaining radio drama.

Short form

1st: One of our exercise books is missing 

Darrick Wood School, UK (English)

11 year-old Danny’s bag is packed, ready for school. But there’s a problem – one of his exercise books is missing. And turning up without his Geography book means only one thing: detention. Can the contents of Danny’s school bag really help him to get out of trouble?

The piece plays to the advantages of the audio medium: the action takes place in the dark and gives a voice to a series of inanimate objects.

Why the jury voted for it: All week we talked about the importance of getting a younger audience involved in radio drama and this piece does that brilliantly. A fun, inventive story with some excellent acting by the young cast. A drama that appealed to everyone on the jury.

2nd: Heruvim 

Radio Romania Bucuresti FM, Romania (Romanian)  

A radio drama about the words and logic of a group of cynical or petty adults, something without meaning for a child from a different universe.

Why the jury voted for it: This piece was moving in the extreme. A terrible situation seen from three separate viewpoints with the last of these being a deaf boy. The jury felt this was like a mini Greek Tragedy moving inexorably onwards towards a precipice. The use of soundscape was raw and shocking.

3rd: Jakou kávu máte rád? / What Kind of Coffee Do You Like? 

Czech Radio, Czech Republic (Czech)

Part of a project called Minute plays, which is being broadcast in Czech Radio since 2012. In this project, plays anywhere from one to five minutes long are introduced to the listeners, and they sometimes include poetic dramatization. What Kind of Coffee Do You Like? questions whether a person’s coffee preferences might reveal something about them.

Why the jury voted for it: A beautifully realised 2 minutes of comedy. The jury felt this was a breath of fresh air, being one of only a few comic pieces in the competition. The humour was adult, sassy and ironic set in a situation everyone could envisage easily.

Congratulations everyone!! 


2019 NEWS – We’re going paperless!

UK International Radio Drama Festival

UK Radio Drama Festival Goes Green

The UK International Radio Drama Festival is the first major international radio drama festival to go paperless. Each year, we print, transport and recycle some 75000 sheets of paper, providing participants in the festival with access to English language translations of the works in other languages and written scripts in English of the works in that language to support participants whose first language is different. Those translations and texts are a vital part of the festival, ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy the plays they are hearing to the full.

This year, our festival is breaking new ground and going paperless. With the generous support of festival entrants, we are providing participants with e -readers, pre-loaded with the scripts. The e-readers will remain the property of the festival to protect authors’ rights and to ensure that casual drop-in audience members and fully committed jurors alike have quick and easy access to the translations.

Announcing the move, Jonathan Banatvala, the Festival’s Artistic Director said: “A paperless festival has been an ambition since we first started five years ago. It’s a very different approach to that used by most festivals but – just as we were the first to provide access to the festival plays online and to introduce an audience award – we are also very proud to be making this innovation. It’s clearly important that an international festival does everything it can to keep its carbon footprint low.

2019 Jury Chair Announced

UK International Radio Drama Festival 2019
Press Release

Acclaimed UK radio drama actor to chair 2019 Jury

Jonathan Keeble

We are delighted to announce that Jonathan Keeble will be chairing the jury for the fifth UK International Radio Drama Festival. Jonathan combines his audio work with a busy theatre and TV career. He has featured in over 700 radio plays for the BBC appearing in everything from Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes to Dr Who as well as playing the evil Owen in The Archers. Much in demand for his voicework, this ranges from the Voice of God in the Sistine Chapel to The Angel of Death in the film Hellboy 2 with all stops in between. A multi award-winning narrator, Jonathan has recorded over 600 audio books.

Making the announcement today, the festival’s Artistic Director, Jonathan Banatvala said “I can think of nobody who better represents the breadth and depth of radio drama than Jonathan Keeble. It has been my privilege to work with him as an actor on a number of projects including our first bilingual piece and I know at first hand how fully Jonathan understands radio drama as an art form and how much he appreciates the limitless possibilities it offers. I am delighted that he will be joining us in this fifth anniversary year to chair our jury.

2019 Press Release

UK International Radio Drama Festival
“The Greatest Admiration in the Universal World”
Press Release

2019 Poster

The fifth UK International Radio Drama Festival takes place in Canterbury from 18 – 22 March 2019. The festival presents five days of live listening to radio/audio plays drawn from 18 different countries and presented in 15 different languages.

This year’s theme – celebrating our fifth anniversary – takes as its theme “your best ever work” and has attracted over 60 entries ranging in length from a couple of minutes to a full hour.

Entries come from national broadcasters and from independent producers and span a wide range of genres. Listening sessions take place throughout the day from Monday – Friday. We listen together in glorious mono, recreating the experience of the 1 million plus daily UK audio drama listeners, many of whom enjoy their audio drama in the car or in the kitchen. Listening sessions are free and members of the public are very welcome on a drop- in basis. For those who cannot make it to Canterbury, all plays included in the festival are available to hear via our website. An English language script is available to live and online listeners for all plays; reading in English whilst listening in another language is an experience very similar to watching a film with

The festival jury makes two awards – for the best full- length entry; and the best short form (under 7 minutes). In addition, anyone who has heard the work may vote for the “audience award” in an online poll. The jury is made up of professionals and audience members; anyone who can commit to the full week of listening is welcome to put themselves forward to join it.

Speaking about the festival, its Artistic Director, Jonathan Banatvala said:
This is a very special festival. It constantly surprises and delights me – whether that is a perfect two minute gem or a totally immersive hour long soundscape. But it is the opportunity for everyone – professional or audience member alike – to talk to each other about the work they have made or heard over a cup of tea which makes it so unusual.

In addition to the listening events, we will be welcoming Gillian Reynolds , Radio critic of The Sunday Times, to an evening in conversation with Kate Chisholm of the Spectator at Waterstone’s book store on Wednesday 20 March at 6.30pm.

We are delighted that this year’s festival has sponsorship from the Writer’s Guild and the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society . We are very grateful for their support.

Wederick de Backer (Belgium), winner of the 2018 UK International Radio Drama Festival Award for ALMANAK

2019 Visit the Festival

The 5th UK International Radio Drama Festival will take place
from 18 – 22 March 2019 in Canterbury, Kent.

Canterbury Cathedral

The listening venue this year will be Caffè Nero, 44 High Street, CT1 2SA.
The café is a 10 minute walk from both Canterbury West and East train stations – and even closer to the beautiful Cathedral.

Everyone welcome, admission free!

Caffè Nero on the High Street

2018 Audience Award

Our Co-Chair Brian announces the winners in the Audience Award

Thanks to everyone for voting and Congratulations to the winners!

Here are the citations – the collated views of the voters:

First Prize

Wederik de Backer (Belgium) – for Almanak

From the anecdotes of inhabitants of the Brugse Poort district in Ghent – a line of stories, some very earthy, some nightmarish, and some absurd, into which the listener is drawn, as if eavesdropping

“ Went to a live listening of this play, it was stunning ”

“ Almanak has an entertaining weirdness that makes it different from anything that I’ve heard. Kudos to Wederik De Backer ”

“ I just loved the idea behind the piece ! “

“ Almanak is also a great radio drama ! “

“ I vote for Almanak because of it’s natural ! “

“ *read this like Trump ‘All great, so great, yes, really great’ “

Second Prize

RTÉ (Ireland) – for Surviving Ireland

Devised, written and produced by Aidan O’Donovan & Colm Tobin, who also both perform in it, a very clever, witty mockumentary about a retreat to detox from the use of smartphones

“ Surviving Ireland is a great listen “

“ funny guy, funny book, great show “

“ Loved this. Stumbled across it when it was on and it had me hooked. Would happily listen all over again “

“ Brilliantly wrote words in proper order and very funny “

Third Prize

RTÉ (Ireland) – for From Eden

A traumatised young man and woman meet when each comes to hole up in an unused bathroom above a party: first joshing, then gradually revealing their highly personal, painful stories – outstanding writing by Stephen Jones

“ .. a beautifully poignant look at real human experience and interaction “

“ Brilliant writing Very moving. I laughed out loud and cried “

“ Superb play, performed beautifully by 2 wonderful Irish actors “

“ .. a play you could go to a number of times and still find something new “

“ .. a beautifully written play, funny, sad, thought provoking, thoroughly enjoyed it “

2018 Jury Awards

And the Winners are…

First prize Full length

Wederik de Backer (Belgium) – for Almanak

First prize goes to Almanak, created by Wederik De Backer from his detailed exploration of the archives and neighbourhood of a building used by generations of inhabitants of the Brugse Poort district in Ghent.

From the anecdotes of real people living in this specific place is weaved a line of stories – some very earthy, some nightmarish, and some absurd, but in a true-to-absurd-life way – into which the jurors found they were drawn, as if eavesdropping. The stories unfold simply as in real life, with evocative silences between people, and time for the listener to be absorbed into the acoustics of real spaces from which these stories emerge – the very same spaces in which this drama was actually recorded.

Also true to life is the wonderful, tragicomic unfathomability of the thoughts and actions of these people and their problems, which soundscapes echo either unobtrusively at apt moments within the lifelike pace, or with occasional heightened flashbacks, before returning to a poised stillness.

Issues and thoughts on life emerge, such as who belongs to the community (people who didn’t, now do; and the new newcomers don’t); bittersweet advice from old to young about getting on with living their life – even if young and old, amusingly, all struggle to remember the same well-known aphorism on the subject, and all fail to quite correctly quote it.

Second Prize

RTE (Ireland) – for From Eden

This drama of a traumatised young man and woman meeting when each comes to hole up in an unused bathroom above a party is writing of such great quality that it deserves to become a modern classic – for radio and in its stage version: offering exceptionally varied opportunities and challenges to even the most experienced actor; engrossing if not enthralling to any audience. The writer, Stephen Jones, himself plays the young man.

It gives the lie to the notion that anyone can write dialogue: this is beautifully nuanced, so various in the different levels of interaction. Within the confined space and short space of time, the two characters, quite naturally and believably, try out layers of humour to find a common wavelength, then, gradually reveal more – still amidst some joshing – about their highly personal, painful stories.

Some of the jury discerned a meaningful subtext in the songs, just audible from the party downstairs; but apart from that, and a few very brief sound effects very deftly placed, all we needed – and all rejoiced in – was this great script.

Third prize

RTE (Ireland) – for Surviving Ireland

Devised, written and produced by Aidan O’Donovan & Colm Tobin, who also both perform in it, this is a particularly clever, witty mockumentary, very relevant to the lives of everyone from eight months upwards – today, and ever since the mists of the last ten years. With a recording team experienced in making documentaries, who chose to record this in MS, the technique usually used in live broadcasts, this drama totally achieves the aim to sound just like the real thing, and with this aim, is also acted, as well as produced, to perfection.

The actors not only skilfully and totally avoid each and every of the many temptations to play it up, but also create interesting, colourful, yet subtle observations on human nature – whilst still keeping the more obvious ’actor’s energy’ at bay, still making it feel like a documentary – an hilarious, brilliant achievement. The comedy in the devised script is never too obvious; and tight editing comes just at the right moments, when the comedy sails most closely to the wind, again keeping the whole idea delightfully believable.

SWR (Germany) for Eine Woche Voller Samstage

A live radio play adapted by Ulla Illerhaus from the classic German children’s book by Paul Maar, who also plays the narrator in this recording. An amazingly successful coming together of artistic talent and technical expertise. The actors create brilliantly colourful characters: the strange sprite who represents the joy, fun and freedom of a perfect, seemingly never-ending Saturday has an exceptional vocal range.

The live band, solo and ensemble, were as talented as each of the actors, individually and together: different instruments take their turn to contribute to a wide range of sounds, solo or in different combinations, providing comic or atmospheric underscoring. Spirited, gutsy musical interludes keep the pace going into the next scene.

This live play requires a demanding succession of sound effects which the Foley artist generously supplies with perfect timing. A beautifully clear recording with spectacularly successful balance and mix between sound fx – musical and Foley – narrator, actors, underlying soundscape from the band. The fact that all this was immaculately achieved in this swift, energetic live show impressed those in the jury most experienced in this field.

Short form

Sverrir Gudjonsson (Iceland) – for Ophelia’s Harp

Press release: 2018 UK International Radio Drama Festival Announce the WINNERS Press Release