A CELEBRITY panel has been assembled to make the final decision on which productions will feature in an Ilkley Playwriting Festival.

Ilkley Playhouse has had to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic but that doesn’t mean that activity and creativity has stopped.

Not only has there been open air Shakespeare, but many of the members have also been involved in organising a playwriting festival entitled 8x8x8.

The concept is that as soon as possible the Playhouse will put on eight new plays by eight different writers which each last just eight minutes.

Justine Sowden, Theatre Manager, said: “That’s right- a nugget of creativity in just eight minutes to provoke and entertain our audiences during these difficult times.

“Response to the competition has been amazing, and from all over Europe.

“The large volume of plays has been shortlisted by the Playhouse Eight - Playhouse members of all ages with a wide variety of experience of new writing. The team has been coordinated by Steve Mason. Once a shortlist of sixteen plays is assembled the final decision falls to the Celebrity Panel.

“We are delighted to have some major celebs choosing our top eight: Karen Blick from Emmerdale and Michael Stewart author and head of Creative Writing at University of Huddersfield. They are joined by Tom Gibbons, star of ‘The Archers’ and Rosa Hesmondhalgh, a rising young playwright from Ilkley. Last but by no means least we are pleased to welcome Julie Hesmondhalgh who all of you will remember from her ground breaking role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street.

“We are delighted to have eight willing directors, a stage management team and many actors just waiting to take on the new material.

“We hope that conditions allow us to perform towards the end of the year. But these plays will go on as soon as possible - they are all aimed at socially distanced acting and have a maximum cast of three. Rehearsals start in mid October. Details of performance dates will be available soon.

“Meanwhile if you would like to see what else has been going on during lockdown, check out our video on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOyC-ptzpJg “