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May Sumbwanyambe

Assistant Professor

Department: Humanities

Described by The Scotsman as ‘one of the key creative figures in Scotland’s increasingly determined effort to come to terms with its own colonial past, and particularly with Scottish involvement in slavery and the slave trade,’ May Sumbwanyambe is an academic, radio dramatist and award-winning playwright from Edinburgh.

Previous productions include:

ENOUGH OF HIM (National Theatre of Scotland, Pitlochry Festival Theatre) GHOST LIGHT, (Edinburgh International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland), JOSEPH KNIGHT, (BBC Scotland, National Theatre of Scotland), AFTER INDEPENDENCE (Arcola Theatre, Papatango Theatre), THE PARROT HOUSE (The Royal Opera House, Guildhall School of Music and Drama), AFTER INDEPENDENCE, THE TRIAL OF JOSEPH KNIGHT and BACK HOME (BBC Radio 4).

He is currently writing new stage plays for The Citizens Theatre, Tron Thetare and The Royal National Theatre


In 2022 May’s play ENOUGH OF HIM was the winner of Best New Play awards at both the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland as well as the UK Theatre Awards.  He has also won, A Scottish Scoiety of Playwrights Fellowship (2024) Best New Production CATS Awards (2023), the Alfred Fagon Audience Award (2016), the £10k BBC PAF’s Legacy Award and the £10k BBC Performing Arts Fund Opera Fellowship. Other award recognition includes being shortlisted for the Channel 4/Oran Mor Comedy Drama Award (2012), the Papatango New Writing Prize (2012), the Alfred Fagon Award (2011, 2012, 2015), the BBC’S Alfred Bradley Award (2011) and OffWestEnd’s Adopt a Playwright Award (2010 and 2009), The Old Vic 12 award (2016) £12k Perfect Pitch musical award (2016), IASH/Traverse Fellowship (2017,2018), Live Theatre/Northumbria University Writer in Residence (2018) and The Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship (2018). He also reached the final round of Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award (2011) and won the BBC’s inaugural Scriptroom competition (2012).

As an academic, May worked for The University of Edinburgh as a Teaching Fellow in Theatre (2018-2019), he was previously an Associate Lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University (2016 -2019) and is currently an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing and English at Northumbria University.

May’s Undergrad degree was in law (LLB) from Leeds Beckett University . He studied for his masters (MA) At Guildhall School of Musical and Drama in ‘Opera Making’, where he was also a Hedley Trust Scholar. He is currently the recipient of a full studentship from the University of York, where he is writing his PhD ‘A Practice-Based investigation into writing Black History Plays’.

 In 2018 May was a contributing author to two theatre theory books, ‘How to be a Playwright, (Nick Hearn Books) and ‘Revolution: 50 Years of Making Political Theatre’ (Pluto Books Limited in partnership with Edge Hill University Press). He has recently guest lectured at several universites, inclduing University of Glasgow, University of Sterling and St Andrews University. 

Outside of academia, May has worked as a new writing tutor for over 10 years. Companies he has worked with include: The West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Bolton Octagon, Hull Truck Theatre, Traverse Theatre, Tron Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Papatango Theatre Company, Royal Opera House, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Scottish Opera, The National Theatre of Scotland, The Old Vic Theatre and more…

May Sumbwanyambe

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Back Home, Sumbwanyambe, M., Ayola, R., Courting, A., Onwukwe, B., Young, B. 24 Jan 2023
  • Enough Of Him, Sumbwanyambe, M. 19 Oct 2022
  • Theatre and Race, Sumbwanyambe, M. 20 Sep 2018, Scenes from the Revolution: Making Political Theatre 1968-2018, Pluto Press
  • The Trial of Joseph Knight, Sumbwanyambe, M. 2018
  • After Independence (Radio), Sumbwanyambe, M. 22 May 2017
  • After Independence, Sumbwanyambe, M. 13 Jul 2016

Music MA June 01 2017

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