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Gender balance in writing for theatre

Research commissioned by MMD in 2022 into the gender balance of composers, lyricists and playwrights in UK theatre found that there is a large discrepancy in the gender representation of writers credited for main stage productions. 74% of all credited writers were male, with 26% female and non-binary, and only 9% of West End composers were female or non-binary.  The data shows that the gender split of writers of musical theatre is even more imbalanced than the writers of plays. Click the image below for further findings.

Thanks to funding from the Jane Goodman Charitable Trust, MMD has been running initiatives to support and champion female and non-binary writers of musical theatre.


Mercury Writers Barn

In 2023 and 2024 we held the Mercury Writers Barn, a five-day retreat for female MMD members, held at the Quadrangle in Kent and facilitated by Find Your Light Retreat. The Barn allows the writers to connect with other women, create a supportive network, reflect on their own craft and learn useful career tools.

Jane Goodman Writing Fund

In 2023, we awarded 15 grants of up to £1000 to female/non-binary members of MMD.

Grants included: paying for childcare in enable writing time, new sound recording equipment, the creation of professional demo tracks for a show in development, tuition in sound design, paying a transcriber to create sheet music for a workshop, piano lessons to improve composition, travel and accommodation for a research trip.

Hosking Houses Residencies

In 2021 and 2022, five female writers each spent a month at a cottage near Stratford-upon-Avon, managed by the Hosking Houses Trust. They received a stipend for the month and had the time and space to advance a particular project.

Musical Theatre Darkroom

Forming part of China Plate’s Darkroom artist development programme, MMD is a partner on the Musical Theatre Darkroom, a week-long facilitated residency held every other year. For the past few years the focus has been on writers of musical theatre from a global majority heritage, to encourage a greater diversity of voices writing musicals.

In 2022, three creative teams spent a week at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, working on their musicals under the mentorship of Fred Carl and Robert Lee from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. All three teams then went on to present their pieces at the BEAM Showcase at Oxford Playhouse in 2023.

2022 MT Darkroom projects:

  • Nemo Martin – Seashore Yuánfèn 海缘
  • Maya Productions – Benny and the Greycats
  • Thabo Stuck – #50 Days

#50Days (pictured, right), was commissioned by British Youth Music Theatre with a full production at Birmingham Hippodrome in August 2023.

Watch this space for details of the next Musical Theatre Darkroom.