About the trust Top

The Sophie Winter Memorial Trust has been set up to commemorate and celebrate the life of a young actress who died in June 1995 from a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy just before her final performance in Alan Ayckbourn’s new play ‘A Word From our Sponsor’ at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough and just prior to its transfer to the Chichester Festival.

The purpose of the Trust is to commission new plays and have them produced. This seems to be a very appropriate way of turning a tragic loss into a positive gain, a gain not just for those who work in the theatre but for everyone who believes that plays and players are an essential part of our everyday lives.

The trust is not empowered to receive or recommend scripts. Two websites however might prove useful - www.writernet.org.uk and www.sjt.uk.com

Sophie Spotlight Photo

Why new plays?

Why the Stephen Joseph Theatre?

Alan Ayckbourn’s tribute to Sophie in the ‘Independent’ June 21st 1995








Quote  from Nicolas Hytner - Director Designate, The Royal National Theatre

"Nothing is more important to the future of theatre than the encouragement of new playwrights, and nothing is more encouraging to a playwright than the kind of support the Sophie Winter Memorial Trust can provide: not just the wherewithal to write a play, but even better, to have it produced.
The Sophie Winter Memorial Trust has achieved an enormous amount and can go on to play an even greater part in the development of tomorrow's new voices."

Nicolas Hytner Signature

Nicholas Hytner










Quote from Sir Richard Eyre CBE - Author, Producer, Director

"There are two people who are indispensable to making any piece of theatre - the actor and the writer. Without a play the actor is without a purpose, and without new plays the theatre won't survive. Which is why it's so important that young people are encouraged to write for theatre and that theatres are helped to put on the plays of untried writers.

More and more young people are choosing to write for the theatre because they realise that there's an opportunity to have their voices heard, to express themselves freely in a way denied to them by the ever growing homogeneity of television and the ever-diminishing possibility of feature films being made."

Richard Eyre Signature

Richard Eyre










Quote from Julia McKenzie - Actor, Director

"In our present, uncertain times we need young playwriting as never before. In turn, young playwrights need our support and encouragement as never before. In supporting the  Sophie Winter Memorial Trust you can help to ensure a long lasting future for live theatre."

Julie McKenzie Signature

Julia McKenzie









Quote from Duncan C.Weldon - Theatre Producer

"A vision is a vision if it's only in your head. 
If no one gets to see it it's as good as dead. 
It has to come to life. "

Stephen Sondheim - 'Sunday in the Park with George'

"Sondheim is talking about paintings but it is equally true about plays, the writing of a play is the first stage, it's purpose is to be seen by an audience so that they can be amused, entertained, moved, enlightened, educated and all the other benefits an audience gets from the watching the performance of a play.

The costs of producing a play continues to rise, a small, simple production in the West End now will cost a minimum of £250,000 on Broadway, three times this amount. It is less of a risk for producers and investors to go for tried and tested old favourites, if a new play is considered it is usually from an established author with a list of successes to his or her name, a new play from an unknown author comes way down the list.

And yet without new blood the industry would stagnate. There used to be a repertory theatre in every city and town in this country where new talent, writers and actors alike, could learn their craft. A company of actors would perform a different play every week, two weeks or sometimes in the bigger cities, three weeks. All manner of plays were produced, giving new playwrights a ready market. Several of these theatres had one or two writers employed specifically to write for them. Today there are very few repertory theatres still operating, new writers now have great difficulty in getting their play read or seen. There are very few theatres who specialise in new writing, and they all depend on subsidy in some form or another.

Starting out on any career is difficult, a creative career is more difficult and a career as a playwright is probably the most difficult. There is no tried and tested formula, there is no infrastructure for support, you are on your own. The trust is attempting to remedy this situation as far as they can by supporting, encouraging and helping new young playwrights get their foot on the ladder. By getting their play produced at Scarborough the trust is backing the next generation of David Hare's, David Storey's, Harold Pinter's, Christopher Hampton's etc; by contributing to Fund you could be helping the next Alan Ayckbourn!"

Duncan C.Weldon Signature

Duncan C.Weldon








Why the Stephen Joseph Theatre?

Sophie spent 3 years working for the SJT and the very  varied programme of new plays in which she performed not only provided her with opportunities to develop her talents as a versatile actress, but were crucial in establishing her own commitment to contemporary drama.

Commissioning new writing and nurturing the talents of young playwrights is central to the theatre's artistic policy.

Young playwrights fortunate enough to work with the SJT are given professional support throughout every stage of the long creative process which eventually leads to a production in a theatre that offers unrivalled technical resources. (visit www.sjt.uk.com)










Alan Ayckbourn’s tribute to Sophie in the ‘Independent’ June 21st 1995

Over three productions I did with Sophie Winter, I grew to appreciate her true potential as an actress, her extraordinary capacity to convey innocence and vulnerability, plain, simple unselfconscious goodness. All of which was offset by her unique strand of humour. Winter was far closer to Buster Keaton than Orphan Annie.

As with the great original clowns, the source of her humour was impossible to trace. Sophie Winter was a director’s, especially a comic writer/director’s joy. Anything you asked her to do she would try - a few ideas she might return to you later, with a modest, apologetic smile at her failure to make them work. But mostly she happily seized upon and, having viewed them through her own quirky, lunatic lens, returned to you freshly minted.

I first worked with her when she played Mary in ’Love Off The Shelf’, then again on ’Two Weeks With The Queen’ in which she played Mum and Iris. Our last meeting was at The Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round in Scarborough where she was to play Gussie in my latest play, ’A Word From Our Sponsor’.

The relationship between actor and director takes many forms. For some, over the course of a production, it’s an intimate, intellectual, spiritual, often passionate experience resulting in deep personal friendships, long after the show in question has been forgotten. At the other directorial extreme there is a preferred distant affair based on mistrust and uncertainty, even fear and downright antagonism.

For me, as ever midway between, there’s a sort of happy medium. Outside the workplace there’s a mutually agreed distance between the two of you, actor and director, the sort a patient might enjoy with their GP say: yet within the rehearsal room itself a closeness, a trust and an understanding that resembles more a marriage than a working relationship.

I suppose, extending that metaphor, that Sophie Winter and I were comparative newly-weds. Undeniably married, we had made a number of unwritten, unspoken vows to each other. With my talents, such as they be, I thee entrust. That sort of thing. An odd relationship to be sure, sharing, as we did, so much so intimately, being privy to her creative centre, gradually growing to understand her emotional working whilst at the same time knowing little or nothing about her public and certainly her private life.

Hers was a talent I needed and loved. I had hoped that in return I could have had a part in encouraging and nurturing that talent through a few more plays together. I think we would have both enjoyed that.

Alan Ayckbourn