How To… organise a scratch night

How To... Organise a scratch night

Award-winning new writing company (and IYAF stalwart) Fine Mess Theatre curate the brilliant Bites and Scratches programme for emerging playwrights. Kyle Ross, Artistic Director of Fine Mess give us the lowdown on how to organise a scratch night…

See as many new shows by new writers as you can. Easier said than done, but essentially you can tell a writer is driven and committed to their work if they self produce or are pro-active in getting their work staged. See whose work you like, and then approach them to see if they’d like to stage some more new work. Festivals are great for this. IYAF is perfect!

Approach a venue. Theatres often have ‘dark’ time they’d like to fill, and many of the best ones for reputations with new writing or emerging playwrights actively offer space for scratch nights. Approach a theatre whose output you admire. If you like their stuff, chances are the writers you connect with for your night will too, which means they’ll be excited to be there.

Hold an open submission. This is crucial. Yes, you may have some writers you know you want to showcase, but they are a drop in the ocean compared to those you have zero awareness of yet. Spread the word on social media and with writers groups, and set aside time to fairly read everyone’s entry. Another crucial tip – set a limit of ten pages for a submission. If you don’t get a gist of it after ten pages, it probably isn’t for your scratch night.

Don’t theme your event. Lots of scratch nights are themed to political events – Brexit Night anyone? (No) – or seasonal (Halloween Scary monologues?). To allow your writers to thrive, you want them to tell stories they are actually driven to write, especially emerging writers who are still finding their distinct voice. So give them free reign, you won’t regret it. Neither will your audiences.

Get them off book! We’ve always insisted on this because that’s what we want as an audience member. No one wants to see scripts. They forgive them, for a reading perhaps. But for a slick, smooth scratch night, you want the audience wanting more of each piece, and easily able to lose themselves in the work. Scripts in hands kill that ability instantly.

Fine Mess bring their brand new show Funeral: A Wake in Progress to IYAF on Thursday 12th July. A funny, moving and thought-provoking show about our attitudes to dying and what we really mean to those we love. Book tickets here

So You Want to Work in the Arts? Curated by our newly formed Young Creatives panel, join us on the 12th and 13th July for a series of free workshops and talks to gain an insight into forging a career in the arts. If you’d like information about taking part, email:

Images: Ali Wright Photography