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Assistant Professor and playwright is recognised at national theatre awards

15th November 2023

Assistant Professor in Humanities at Northumbria University and award-winning playwright, May Sumbwanyambe, has won recognition from the UK Theatre Awards for his latest production Enough of Him.

Assistant Professor May Sumbwanyambe has received the award for ‘Best New Play’ at the 2023 UK Theatre Awards - the only nationwide awards to celebrate outstanding achievements in theatre across the UK.

Enough of Him was written by May and produced in 2020 by National Theatre of Scotland.

The play explores the true story of Joseph Knight, an African man who famously freed himself through the Scottish courts in the late 18th century after being enslaved by a plantation owner in Scotland.

As described in The Times by theatre critic Allan Radcliffe, Enough of Him was “gripping” and “unsettling”.

The play is largely based on a legal battle, however, it isn’t a courtroom drama. Its main focus is on the experience of Joseph Knight and questions whether he will ever be truly free.

Caption: May Sumbwanyambe, Assistant Professor in Humanities at Northumbria University

Assistant Professor May Sumbwanyambe, who teaches on the Creative Writing MA and English Literature and Creative Writing BA (Hons) courses at Northumbria, said: “As a country, we are educated on the part we played towards ending slavery, but we aren’t always taught about how we contributed to its existence.

Enough of Him makes the history of black people in the UK more visible. Black history is British history and British history is Black history. They are completely intertwined.”

Earlier this year May was also praised at the 2023 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland, where he once again won ‘Best New Play’ in addition to ‘Best Production’ for Enough of Him.

May is currently working on a new play as part of the ‘Ephemera and writing about war in Britain, 1914 to the present’ project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

This project will explore small, portable items linked to the First World War - otherwise referred to as ephemera - to gain a clearer understanding of the past.

May’s stage play will draw on ephemera relating to Black British participants in the war. They will explore the lives of Black people in Scotland during the period 1919 – 1939 as well as working class white women – both of whom are fighting against patriarchal structures.

Discover more about study options and research being undertaken within the Department of Humanities, which includes the subject areas of History, English Literature, English Language and Linguistics, Creative Writing, American Studies and Music.

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