AN emerging North East writer’s new semi-autobiographical play about two teenage schoolgirls growing up in her native Middlesbrough is to be performed in the North East.

Louise Powell’s play, Grown Up Writin’ is to be performed at The Customs House in South Shields as part of its inaugural First Play Club programme.

Supported by Arts Council England, it aims to give new or emerging writers the opportunity to have their work staged. The programme’s second play is Wearmouth, by young Sunderland writer Ben Gettins.

Louise and Ben were joint winners of last year’s Peter Lathan Prize for New Writing, awards launched by The Customs House in memory of writer, director and reviewer Peter Lathan, to find new voices for drama in the region. Louise also won this year’s Sid Chaplin’s Northern Writers Award.

Grown Up Writin’ follows two schoolgirls navigating the chaos of Year 11. Kayleigh has her GCSEs to worry about, but also on her mind is her depressed mam. She relies on the support of her best friend Ruth, who is applying for a scholarship at a private school nearby.

Louise said: “I suppose I hadn’t really expected to be writing a play about being 16 in 2007, and to an extent Grown Up Writin’ is autobiographical – it was inspired by a friend I had in science class who would want to tell me all about her love life when I wanted to study and revise.

“Like Ruth in the play, I too was working toward a scholarship at a local sixth form.”

In real-life, Louise achieved her ambition and won a scholarship to Teesside High School. She went on to gain top A-Level grades, but lived at home for while studying at Teesside University due to caring responsibilities for her parents.

The Northern Echo: Louise Powell, whose play Grown Up Writin’ is to be performed at The Customs House in South ShieldsLouise Powell, whose play Grown Up Writin’ is to be performed at The Customs House in South Shields (Image: SUNDERLAND CULTURE)

She gained a First Class degree in English at Teesside University, an MA with Distinction in Medieval and Renaissance Literary Studies from Durham University and then a PhD in English from Sheffield Hallam University.

The writer, film-maker and director’s debut play was Fit for Work which was staged at London and North East theatres and she went on to write The Pitmen Flappers, a drama for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Sticking with North Eastern themes and issues affecting regional communities, Louise also created This Place is Going to the Dogs, a commission for Durham Book Festival.

Her other current commissions include pieces for Redhills in Durham and the Tees Valley Combined Authority. Louise is also Writer-in-Residence at Josephine Butler College, Durham University, and will shortly begin work on Dogpeople, a combined arts project for which she was awarded an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant.

In 2016, Louise had one of her short comedy sketches, Are You Alright? Performed at Bolton Octagon Theatre and a year later participated in New Writing North’s professional development programme for screenwriting. She was also shortlisted four times for the Martin Wills Writing Awards for writing on a horseracing theme.

In 2018, she had work selected for Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers produced by New Writing North.

“Grown up Writin’ isn’t high drama, it’s a bit like a North Eastern Derry Girls, with two teenagers navigating through their working class lives on Teesside," said Louise.

"It’s about friendship and dealing with the pressure of feeling not only responsible for your own future, but your family’s future too. How what happens outside of school influences what happens in school, and learning that it’s okay to be yourself and have ambition.”

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“My two characters are very strong, recognisable and funny too. I think it’s important for people to see themselves in drama on their own turf and I would love to take the piece to Middlesbrough in due course.

“In the meantime, I’m looking forward to working with director Christina Dawson and our actresses Sophie Mai (Kayleigh) and Alfreya Bell who plays Ruth.

  • Grown Up Writin’ will be at The Customs House on Friday, September 8 to Sunday, September 10. For more information, or to book tickets, go to