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'Coronation Street' Announces Four Winners For Its Original Voices Writer Diversity Program

Stephenson Ardern-Sodje, Ella Carmen Greenhill, Louisa Hayford and Shazia Rashid
British broadcaster ITV launched an Original Voices initiative in 2012 on its long-running soap opera Emmerdale in an effort to tap into and connect with diverse local writing talent. The aim of the initiative was to "find interesting writers from Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds living in Yorkshire or the North East" to join the show. This fall ITV announced it was rolling out Original Voices to its flagship drama Coronation Street, with submissions open to North West based writers from BAME backgrounds. Four winners have now been selected, and each of the writers will be joining Corrie in the New Year for a 10 week paid internship, which could lead to a place on the writing team.

Applications were accepted from any North West based, BAME writers interested in writing on the show, regardless of previous experience in television. Entrants were asked to send in a sample script of their work (stage, TV, film, radio or any medium that displayed their skills in dramatic writing). Industry professionals were engaged as readers, to assess and respond to each script. Every writer who entered was given a personal script report in order to provide clear feedback.

Taking the judges' comments into account, the scripts were shortlisted to 12 entrants. These 12 writers were invited to a story conference where writers discussed possible storylines in one big group discussion and smaller break out groups. Following this, the shortlisted writers were given a week to write up one story strand across a week of the show and four were selected to go through. Louisa

The winners of Original Voices Coronation Street 2014 were Ella Carmen Greenhill, Shazia Rashid, Stephenson Ardern-Sodje and Louisa Hayford.

In the new year, Ella, Shazia, Stephenson and Louisa will join the Story Department to delve into the working stories on Corrie, while learning about the show from the inside. They will then have four weeks to write a trial script which will be read and considered by producers, for possible progression to the writing team.

ITV plans on Original Voices remaining a priority program that helps the network attract writers from a broad range of backgrounds for its shows.

"Having witnessed first hand the impact this scheme has had at Emmerdale in helping make our story office and writing team more reflective of the real world our drama portrays, I'm extremely pleased that, with support from Creative Skillset, we are able to do the same at Coronation Street," said John Whiston, Creative Director of Serial Dramas, ITV Studio. "It's a great opportunity for talented writers to gain proper experience at the heart of the show with the possibility of progressing onto the writing team in the long term. "

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