Billy Cowan

Lecturer in Creative Writing & Admissions Tutor

Department of English, History & Creative Writing


I am an award-winning playwright with an MPhil(b) in Playwriting from Birmingham University. My first play Smilin’ Through won the 2003 Writing Out award for Best New Gay play organised by the Finborough Theatre, London. It went on to be co-produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Contact in Manchester and was nominated for Best New Play 2005 at the Manchester Evening News Theatre awards. In 2010 my play Transitions won Warehouse Theatre’s International Playwriting Award. This play, retitled Still Ill, was produced in 2014 in association with Oldham Coliseum and Homotopia. Smilin’ Through and Still Ill are published by Playdead Press Ltd.

Other plays include Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Stigmata, The Right Ballerina and Care Takers which have all toured the country as well as Ireland. Care Takers won The Stage Edinburgh Award 2016 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was also selected as one of The Stage’s Critic’s Choice plays at Edinburgh Festival 2016. The play received 5 star reviews from BroadwayBaby, Edinburgh49, Grumpygaycritic, and WhatsOnStage. The Scotsman gave it a 4 star review and said it was “compelling and thought-provoking.” Care Takers was also shown at the 5th International Health and Humanities Conference in Seville 2016. The play is published by Aurora Metro Books.

I have also written community and youth plays for Bolton Octagon, Oldham Coliseum and M6 Theatre Company, one of the top theatre companies for young audiences in the country. Plays for young people include Sidelined, Straight Talk, Antigone and Glee & Glum which was published by Playdead Press Ltd in 2013. Two of my dramatic monologues for M6 Theatre Company, Web Pal and It Should Have Been Me, have toured arts venues and schools in the North West and are published in an anthology entitled Act Now! Monologues for Young People.

Before coming to Edge Hill, I worked regularly for many of the top theatre companies in the North West as a freelance creative writing and applied theatre practitioner. I ran the Writing Lab at Oldham Coliseum for three years and was Outreach and Participation manager at M6 Theatre Company. I’m also the artistic director of Truant Company.

As well as writing for the stage, I also write fiction. Stories have appeared in Quickies 2 & 3 published by Arsenal Pulp Press; Flash: The International Magazine of Short Short fiction; The Real Story; and Flash Non-Fiction Funny edited by Tom Hazuki. A recent article about Billy and his first play appears in The Irish Times.

Research interests

The department has a thriving postgraduate research culture and I welcome applications from students to study at postgraduate level in the following research areas … Queer and political Theatre, Theatre and madness; playwriting.


  • WRI 1020 – Introduction to Script (Module Leader)
  • WRI 1021 – Reading the World &The Business of Writing (Module Leader)
  • WRI 2025 – The Art of Scriptwriting
  • WRI 3012 – The Art of Screenwriting
  • WRI 3020 – The Writer @ Work (Module Leader)

I am also Year One Tutor.


The Right Ballerina, Playdead Press Ltd 2012

Glee and Glum, Playdead Press Ltd 2013

Invisible (Editor), Playdead Press Ltd 2013

Act Now! Monologues for Young People, Playdead Press 2014

Smilin’ Through and Still Ill, Playdead Press Ltd 2014

Care Takers, Aurora Metro Books, 2016

The Troubles, Skydive and Enduring Love in Flash Vol. 9 No.2, 2016

The Troubles in Flash Nonfiction Funny, Woodhall Press, 2018

Scenes from the Revolution: Making Political Theatre 1968-2018 (Co-Editor), Pluto Press & Edge Hill Press,  2018

Theatre Productions

2004 Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, 24:7 Theatre Festival Manchester

2004 Daddy, Birmingham Rep part of Fierce Festival

2005 Smilin’ Through, Contact & Birmingham Rep

2006 Stigmata, The Drill Hall London, Homotopia Liverpool

2007 Smilin’ Through, The Drill Hall London

2009 Care Takers, Homotopia, Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, The Lowry, Oldham Coliseum, An Tain Dundalk Review

2010 Care Takers, RE:Play Festival, Manchester Library Theatre Review

2012 The Right Ballerina, The Lowry, Burnley Youth Theatre, Crescent Arts Centre Belfast, Homotopia Liverpool Review

2014 Still Ill, The Lowry, Oldham Library, Seven Arts Leeds, The Arts Centre Ormskirk, Lantern Theatre Liverpool Review

2016 Care Takers, The Lowry, Oldham Library, The Arts Centre Ormskirk, Lantern Theatre Liverpool, The Marlborough Theatre Brighton, CVenues Edinburgh Festival, 5th International Health and Humanities Conference Seville, N.U.T. Young Teachers Conferences 2016/2017.

For young audiences:

2005 Sidelined, Bolton Octagon Activ8

2006 Antigone, Stockport Garrick Youth Theatre

2008 Web Pal, M6 Theatre Company

2009 It Should Have Been Me, M6 Theatre Company

2010 Straight Talk, Bolton Octagon Activ8

2012 Glee and Glum, M6 Theatre Company

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