Joe Orton tribute wins national arts award

It was a night of recognition for the arts in Leicester at the 2018 Saboteur Awards.

The Saboteur Awards, which are in their eighth year, took place on Saturday 19 May. The awards shine a light on and celebrate experimental work in the arts sector. The 12 award categories include ‘most innovative publisher’ and ‘best novella’.

Dr Emma Parker, Associate Professor in the School of Arts at the University of Leicester and filmmaker Chris Shepherd, took home the ‘Best Wildcard’ award for their website ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs): A Tribute to Joe Orton’.

Emma and Chris launched a project in 2017, jointly funded by the University of Leicester and Arts Council England, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Leicester-born playwright Joe Orton (1933-1967).

They made a short animated film inspired by the prank letters of complaint that Joe Orton penned under the pseudonym ‘Edna Welthorpe’.

Emma and Chris commissioned acclaimed writers and artists including actor Alec Baldwin to pay tribute to Leicester Playwright Orton’s subversive comic style by writing new Edna Welthorpe letters.

The film was screened and the letters were read at Latitude Festival and at a special event at The Little Theatre, Leicester in August 2017. They also launched a creative writing competition to teach young people about Joe Orton and satire.

Actor Alec Baldwin showed his support by retweeting an image of Emma receiving the award on the night, and sending a personal message of congratulations.

Emma said: "This project was a lot of fun. It was wonderful to have the chance to work with a range of artists in celebrating Joe Orton's work and legacy."

Leicester Poet Shruti Chauhan was awarded Best Spoken Word Performer, and Leicester’s Jess Green was runner up in the ‘Best Regular Spoken Word Night’ category for her ‘Find the Right Words’ series.