Billy Cowan

Lecturer in Creative Writing

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 2019, I worked with internationally renowned Anu Productions on an immersive theatre event for Manchester International Festival called The Anvil. My short piece Prophet was highly praised by both The Guardian and the New York Times.

Other plays include Heart is a Lonely HunterStigmataThe Right Ballerina, Still Ill and Care Takers which have all toured the country as well as Ireland. Care Takers won a Stage Edinburgh Award and was selected as one of The Stage’s Critic’s Choice plays at Edinburgh Festival 2016. It was also shown at the 5th International Health and Humanities Conference in Seville 2016.

Care Takers is published by Aurora Metro Books. Smilin’ Through, Still Ill and The Right Ballerina are published by Playdead Press.

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 SidelinedStraight TalkAntigone and Glee & Glum which was published by Playdead Press 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.

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; Ellipsiszine; Reflex fiction; Purple Reign published by Erbacce Press and Flash Non-Fiction Funny edited by Tom Hazuki. My story Big Strong Giant has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2020. A recent article about my first play appears in The Irish Times.

My research interests are in queer and political theatre and, together with my colleague Dr Kim Wiltshire, have edited the book, Scenes from the Revolution: Making Political Theatre (1968-2018), Pluto Press.

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 3023 – The Art of Screenwriting
  • WRI 3020 – The Writer @ Work (Module Leader)


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

Dig if U will the Picture in Purple Reign, Erbacce Press, 2019

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

2009/10  Care Takers, Homotopia, Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, The Lowry, Oldham Coliseum, An Tain Dundalk Review, Re:Play Festival, The Library Theatre

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, C Venues Edinburgh Festival, 5th International Health and Humanities Conference Seville, N.U.T. Young Teachers Conferences 2016/2017.

2019 Prophet as part of The Anvil, Anu Productions, Manchester International Festival

Last updated on Last updated on Was this page helpful? Yes No Thanks for your feedback! Please tell us more: