A charity set up from Victoria Wood's will is funding a comedy playwrighting prize in her name.

The £25,000 award was announced on Friday (May 19) on what would have been the late Highgate comic's 70th birthday.

Sean Foley, who is artistic director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre, dreamed up the prize, which will be accepting submissions from September.

Foley, who has written and directed award winning comedies including The Play What I Wrote, Upstart Crow, and the current Spitting Image Musical Idiots Assemble, said it was a "fitting tribute" to Wood's comic talent.

Ham & High: Sean Foley, artistic director of The Birmingham Rep dreamed up the prize which is funded by The Victoria Wood FoundationSean Foley, artistic director of The Birmingham Rep dreamed up the prize which is funded by The Victoria Wood Foundation (Image: Kris Askey)

"It’s a personal thrill that the Rep is able to announce The Victoria Wood Playwrighting Prize For Comedy," he said.

"To have a new major playwriting prize in our industry is cause for celebration itself - never has the need for supporting new plays been greater - but to have this Prize dedicated to the art of Comedy, perhaps the most difficult genre of all, is ground breaking.

"A fitting tribute to Victoria Wood’s trailblazing comic talent, this will be the first major playwriting Prize for narrative stage comedy in the world, and will be open to all."

Wood herself studied drama at Birmingham University before getting her first break on TV talent show New Faces. Her first major commission came in 1978 with her comedy play Talent, for which she won an award. She went on to a stellar career of stand-up, straight acting roles and scriptwriting, from Dinner Ladies and Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, to Housewife 49.

Foley said the prize was part of a drive to celebrate "the difficult art of making people laugh" and make Birmingham a national home for theatrical comedy.

This Prize is funded by The Victoria Wood Foundation, a charity set up after the comic's death from cancer in April 2016. Many of the trustees were her friends, and meet twice a year to hand out grants of under £5,000 to support "aspects of the arts that interested her in her lifetime".

Past awards have funded a lift at Jacksons Lane in Highgate, bursaries for directors starting their careers, and workshops for children in Morecambe Bay.

On their website they state: "Our support is directed mainly towards the arts and we are particularly keen to support causes which would have interested Victoria and/or the parts of the country in which she lived." 

The winner of The Victoria Wood Playwrighting Prize For Comedy will be announced in Spring 2024 and full comeptition rules will be published on the Birmingham Rep website.