Norwich charity Colton’s Acre Trust is excited to announce a competition for new screenwriters based in Norfolk.

The competition is called Perfect Strangers and celebrates the 100 th anniversary of Strangers’ Hall being opened as a museum for the people of Norwich.

Three writers will each receive a bursary of £1000 to write a short film script.

The writers will be mentored by tutors from the film course at Norwich University of the Arts and the finished screenplays will be turned into films by graduating students and promoted into festivals worldwide.

Perfect Strangers is a collaboration between the National Centre for Writing, Young Norfolk Arts Trust, Norfolk Museum Service: Strangers’ Hall Museum, Colton’s Acre Trust, and Norwich University of the Arts.



The inspiration for the screenplays is Strangers’ Hall in Norwich. Toys, textiles, food, clothing – entrants are encouraged to visit the museum and use the fabric of the building to spark their imagination:

We’re not necessarily looking for a period drama or historical re-enactment – the building and its contents are simply the spark. Your screenplay can be contemporary, personal, based in fact or entirely fictitious but using Strangers’ Hall as your starting point. It might be the site itself that stirs the imagination; or writers might find inspiration in the smallest detail.

There’s no restriction on genre but bear in mind that few short films have the necessary budget for a cast of thousands or complicated stunts! Be thematically ambitious but realistic about resources. (Please note that because of current COVID regulations it is not possible to cast actors under the age of 18.)



The Strangers’ Hall website is an excellent place to begin your research; an in-person visit is even better (opening times can be found on the site).

If you’re unable to get there in person, the following piece of travel writing offers some valuable first impressions:

We’re heading for Norfolk by train and it’s raining (again). The county used to be the wealthiest in England and its capital, Norwich, the second largest city after London. We want a taste of this rich heritage and with just a short trip possible we are recommended to base ourselves in Norwich and to visit Strangers’ Hall.

Our homework on the train told us that the city sits in the middle of an agricultural hinterland. With no coal and no iron and no Industrial Revolution the contrary citizens took up the gauntlet from the illustrious wool merchants of the past and today the city boasts flourishing financial and retail sectors as well as the largest collections of mediaeval buildings north of the Alps.

The recommendation of Strangers’ Hall makes better sense. In the time of Good Queen Bess, thousands of Protestant weavers fled Catholic persecution in the Low Countries (today’s Netherlands) across the English Channel. They were given sanctuary in Norwich and used their skills to turbo-charge its textile industry. These ‘Strangers’ soon made up to a third of the city’s population. Records don’t show the hall as being the preserve of these immigrants – and it’s a lot older in its origins – but it seems that the city today fetishises The Strangers’ stories, perhaps to build a name for its openness and, ironically, its modernity.

Strangers’ Hall is in the centre of Norwich. The museum’s guide book (good value at $3) says only that ‘this fascinating historic house has been home to Norwich’s wealthiest merchants and civic leaders since the 14th century… a prestigious dwelling
[in which] many residents invested time and money. During the 16 th century the house was owned by Mayor Thomas Sotherton [who] was keen to encourage these skilled workers and some may have lodged at Strangers’ Hall.’

Whatever: coming off the busy street outside, today you come into an extraordinary collection of period rooms with, as the guide says, ‘wonderful furnishings and textiles offering a fascinating insight into the domestic lives of former residents.’ The atmosphere is warm, intriguing and disorienting all at the same time. One moment you are in the Walnut Room with its superb veneered cabinets and clocks, the next you’re in the Georgian Dining Room with its deep sash windows and plaster ceiling, then suddenly you’re back in the Great Hall where lavish meals were served before a carved oak screen that bears the marks of the Merchant Adventurers’ Company and the Sotherton family. Soaring beamed ceilings, intimate chambers, staircases (one that leads nowhere), corridors and passageways all make up a sort of oak-panelled Escher.

We explored Strangers’ Hall with Cathy Terry, the calmly energetic curator. Cathy has a particular enthusiasm for the textiles, all with exotic names like Turkeywork, dornix fabric, stumpwork and worsted. And it’s easy to share her obvious love of the host of special objects in this extraordinary place. Here is a gout stool on which the sufferer could rest a painful leg beside the fire. There is a bed-wagon that would hold hot ash in copper warming pans to air the linens and warm the bed. And here is a 15 th century oak aumbry (or dole cupboard)
for storing valuables and that was also used when placed in the outside porch to give out left-over food to the poor.

The pictures are equally compelling: we were very taken with the picture of the small boy holding a teether made of coral (to ward off witches) and by the allegorical portrayal of the Ten Ages of Man. One of our party was delighted to see the full-length portrait of a beautifully dressed lady, Elizabeth Buxton, painted around the time that the Spanish Armada threatened the nation, and whose features are animated, winks and smiles, in an accomplished film about Strangers’ Hall that we found on YouTube and is well worth seeing before you visit.

As we left, we passed a party of schoolchildren who were talking excitedly about the Toy Room: a collection of games, jigsaws, dolls and children’s books from which the stand-out item for me is a 19 th century Noah’s Ark with over 200 animals. We walked through the 17 th century-style knot garden of box and lavender that is designed to be seen from the first-floor windows, and out onto the busy street.

Strangers’ Hall is a remarkable place of ‘public history’ – history made public in three dimensions for people of all ages and tastes. Yet its presentation is clearly informed by scholarly study and nor is it afraid to enliven its displays with contemporary notions of accessibility. A real treat, worthy on its own of our long journey into the flat lands of the east.

From ‘A New Yorker’s Travel Guide to England’ (as imagined by John Harben)
Competition logo designed by Aimee Hayward



The competition is open to unpublished writers aged 18+ who live, work or study in Norfolk. Writers should have no previous paid screen commissions or professional credits as a screenwriter.

To enter, please submit the following:
− CV
− writing sample (maximum 1 page)
− short proposal about how you intend to interpret the brief for Perfect Strangers
(maximum 100 words)

Email your application to:
The closing date for applications is midnight on Sunday 2nd April.



By applying for the bursary you agree to the following:

  1. If selected, you (‘the writer’) will develop and deliver an original 10 minute screenplay (‘the work’) to a schedule set by the Colton’s Acre Trust (‘the producer’) and detailed in clause 7 below
  2. The work must be entirely original and you must be its sole author
  3. The work must be suitable for production as a 10-minute film
  4. The work must be in English
  5. The writer grants the producer the exclusive right to create a film based on the work and to promote and screen the film at festivals worldwide in perpetuity. All other rights to the work, including but not exclusively feature film and television adaptations, will be retained by the writer
  6. Any profit arising from film festival screenings described in clause 5 will be reallocated at the discretion of the producer
  7. Schedule for development and delivery of the work will be as follows:
    (i) Writer will submit a 1-page story outline of their proposed work no less than two weeks after they have been notified of their successful selection
    (ii) Following feedback on the story outline from the project’s mentor, writer will deliver a first draft of the work no more than 6 weeks later
    (iii) Following feedback on the first draft from the project’s mentor, writer will deliver a second draft of the work no more than 4 weeks later
  8. Producer will pay writer a bursary of £1000 in two instalments as follows:
    (i) £500 on successful selection for the competition
    (ii) £500 on delivery of the first draft of the screenplay

This agreement does not constitute a contract of employment between producer and writer

  1. Competition winners will be notified no more than three weeks after the closing date of the competition
  2. Producer is unable to respond to individual correspondence about the competition and these terms represent the entirety of the agreement between producer and writer.