Write a play for the BBC

WOLE Soyinka will judge the 2010 BBC World Service African Drama competition.

The highly respected Nigerian professor, writer, poet, playwright and Nobel Literature Laureate will be on the panel of judges at the BBC World Service's 50th season of African radio drama BBC African performance launch.

Listeners have until February 15 to enter their plays, which must be half an hour long when read aloud and have no more than six main characters.

Plays that are short-listed will be read by Soyinka, who will make the final decision. The winners will be announced on March 1.

Soyinko believes the BBC's season of African radio drama penetrates Africa's borders.

"In one fell swoop - they listen in Zimbabwe at the same time as in Sudan, South Africa, Nigeria and Sierra Leone," he points out. "And this is definitely a crossing of boundaries in a way that even the written word on its own might not have."

By way of celebrating five decades of African radio drama excellence on the BBC World Service, Soyinko has agreed to judge the contest this year.

When in 1960 the late BBC producer John Stockbridge was asked to devise some kind of drama for African listeners, he came up with a series, a soap operas set in London. In it actor Yemi Ajibade played a social worker moving around England and settling quarrels.

Another early play was Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa. Now a grandmother of African literature, Aidoo was 26 when her play was broadcast on the World Service.

It told the story of a woman who turns down a young man considered a good catch by her parents and elopes with one considered undesirable.

BBC World Service English drama producer for Africa Jenny Horrocks says: "Looking back at five decades of African drama on the BBC World Service, the output is sounding rather different now from the early days.

"Since then drama has grown into a competition designed to encourage new African writing from BBC listeners from across the continent. One thing remains unchanged: it continues to bring to the fore themes that reflect the concerns of people across the continent, their experiences and their aspirations.

"We are looking forward to new brilliant entries from our audiences."

For more info go to bbcworldservice.com/africanperformance.