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First Dibs


We're going back to school, but this time it's on our terms.

School might not have been the best time for many LGBTQ+ people, but at Dibby Theatre we're re-imagining a queer play-writing school of the future - and everyone's invited.

Down with Section 28, queer-bashing and unflattering uniforms!

Up with LGBTQ+ inclusivity, diversity, creativity and joy!

Forget 'teacher knows best' - at our school we all share, learn and support together, regardless of ability or age.

A play-making school by LGBTQ+ artists, for LGBTQ+ artists.


Applications for First Dibs 2021 are now closed.

Application Guidance Notes (PDF Version)

Scroll down to read about the course in your browser or download full guidance notes here.

Video Guidance Notes

Why are we doing it?

We're an LGBTQ-led theatre company with working class roots

Growing up as gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary in a cis-het world can be tough. Sometimes the traditional routes of access to the arts industries seem out of reach or blocked to people like us. 

Sometimes we feel like outsiders, sometimes we feel uncomfortable, sometimes we feel unwelcome, sometimes we feel unsafe.

Manchester is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in Europe and we want to add to the great work that's already been done to improve opportunities for LGBTQ+ artists who live here.

First Dibs will be a safe environment for LGBTQ+ people to develop their talent, gain access to the industry and its networks, and is part of our commitment to improving opportunities for LGBTQ+ artists across the city-region.

What is it?

First Dibs is a fourteen-week writing course delivered by playwright Chris Hoyle supported by a diverse range of celebrated LGBTQ+ Artists

The course includes:

  • Group study of approaches to play-making by established LGBTQ+ playwrights

  • Exploration of writers voice, structure, character and dialogue

  • Support developing plans for a new play

  • Support writing up to twenty minutes of a new play

  • Opportunities to share your writing with other industry professionals

  • Access to four workshops with celebrated LGBTQ+ play-makers from Dibby's Pick and Mix strand

  • Access to see LGBTQ+ work (digital) and access to LGBTQ+ play-texts for study

  • 1 to 1 mentoring session with Dibby Theatre's Producer

The course will be delivered online with some in-person sessions held at Waterside Arts in Sale (dependent on Covid-19 restrictions).

Course participants will receive a bursary of £1,000 and a package of access and travel costs.

Who is is for?

To apply you must meet the following criteria

  • First Dibs is for early-stage career LGBTQ+ writers who live in Greater Manchester.

  • You need to identify as LGBTQ+ to apply but your writing does not need to focus on your sexual/gender identity unless you want it to - we're experts by experience in this field and we'll offer all the support and words of wisdom we've gathered during our time as artists.

  • You must be 18 or over, but there is no upper age limit.

  • You must have an interest in making theatre for performance and have an idea or story you would like to tell in a live performance.

  • You must have had no more than one professional credit as a playwright or play-maker of a full length production (over 50 minutes for a paying audience) - excluding fringe productions, self-produced work, micro-commissions and scratch performances.

What are we looking for?

Think carefully about if this is the right opportunity for you before applying.


We're looking for:

  • Artists who want to create work as a playwright or playmaker and who have a story to tell.

  • Artists who can commit to the workshop sessions as well as give time and space to develop their creative idea.

  • Artists with something to say - we want to see passion, urgency and excitement about your work.

  • Artists who want to work collaboratively and who are willing to share with and be supportive of others.

  • Artists who can demonstrate why this opportunity will benefit their future plans and career.

What's the commitment?

We're looking for people who are committed to developing a career in the arts.

We'll expect you to be able to commit all of the sessions we deliver, but if there is one you can't make, don't be put off, just let us know.

The course will take place in weekly sessions lasting three hours from 15 March to 2 July 2021 (with two holiday breaks mid-way through) - we will decide weekly date and time as a group with successful applicants.

Sessions will be run online. If Covid-19 restrictions ease, we may run some in-person sessions at Waterside Arts in Sale, Greater Manchester.

You will be expected to read, watch and study plays set by the course leader and also commit to doing writing exercises and developing your own play each week too.

In total we expect course participants to commit about 8 hours of their time each week.

Other elements of the course (Pick and Mix sessions, one to ones, sharing of your work) are to be confirmed - we will work with the successful applicants to build this around your schedules.

We hope to share some of your work with industry professionals after the end of the course (full details yet to be announced).

How do I apply?

There will a two-stage application process.

Stage One - Expression of Interest

This will be a short, online form to fill out.

Mon 1 February 2021 - EOI opens

Mon 15 February 2021 - EOI closes 3pm


Shortlisting will take place once applications have closed. 

Mon 22 February 2021 - shortlist announcement

Stage Two - Full Application

The shortlisted applicants will be asked to complete a longer application and submit a short extract of their work.

There will be an online application group workshop 'surgery' to support Stage Two applicants with their submissions w/comm 22 February 2021.

Sun 28  February 2021 - Stage Two applications close 5pm

Successful applicants will be announced on or around Friday 5 March 2021.

Stage Two applicants will be paid £50 to acknowledge the labour involved in completing the application.

The selection panel

There are four people on the panel.

Hover over their image to find out more or click to go direct to their website.

Glow Up Sessions Sign Up Form

On the Expression of Interest dates detailed above a form will appear here for 24 hours.

You'll need to supply the following details:

  • First Name

  • Surname

  • Collective or Organisation (if applicable)

  • Specialism (creative, producer or backstage)

  • Postcode

  • Declaration you are 18+

  • Acknowledgement that this opportunity is intended for LGBTQ+ people*

  • Declaration you live or predominantly work in Greater Manchester**

  • Declaration that you have availability across the delivery dates (you’ll do two 3-hour sessions with your mentor)

  • What is the challenge you have that you’d like to focus on in the session? (150 words max)

  • What type of person would you like to be matched with? E.g. theatre in education specialist, theatre producer (50 words max)


It should take no longer than a few minutes to fill out.

Can I apply another way?

Yes, you can apply with a short video or audio application that answers each question - your application should be no more than 3 minutes max. You'll need to email us your file within the 24-hour expression of interest window.

*We are an LGBTQ-led organisation that operates an LGBTQ+ inclusive working environment and LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces. We acknowledge the acronym LGBTQ+ is not perfect (you may be new on your gender or sexual identity journey, or prefer different terms), but we ask all participants to acknowledge that Dibby operates LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces by checking this box.


**We acknowledge not everyone has address security - if your current postcode is outside of GM, we ask that you only sign up if you consider GM to be your primary base of work, or you intend to return to the region soon. 

Support with applying

We're committed to widening access to the arts and will offer the following as part of our commitment to this

  • Applicants will be able to submit answers by video or audio recording (the length of time allowed for your answers will be provided on the application form)

  • We will provide application guidance notes in video format with captioning

  • Those shortlisted for stage two will be invited to an online application guidance session (this is not compulsory)

  • Stage two applicants will be paid £50 to complete their application


We're committed to providing feedback to ALL applicants.

We guarantee to offer short feedback notes on ALL Stage One and Stage Two applications that aren't successful.

This will be in the form of some brief notes made by the selection panel sent via email.

Support on the course

We're a small company but we are committed to supporting individual access needs where we are able.

Rather than offer rigid access options, we want to respond to the individual needs of course participants.

We have some budget to support additional needs, these might be things like:

  • contributions to childcare costs

  • reasonable adjustments for specific learning needs such as dyslexia

  • offering technology to support you in your learning

If you have a specific access requirement you wish to discuss, get in touch - we're a friendly bunch and we'll do our best to help you.

Apply now!

Applications for first dibs 2021 are now closed.

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