‘Beautiful and tender’: Brown Boys Swim wins Edinburgh fringe Popcorn award

A coming of age tale about two south Asian teenagers who learn to swim in order to impress girls at a classmate’s pool party has won a prize for best new play at this year’s Edinburgh fringe.

Brown Boys Swim by Karim Khan has been awarded the prestigious Popcorn writing award 2022. Receiving the prize fund of £3,000, Khan said on Thursday he was “absolutely over the moon”.

Set in Oxford, the play explores the pressures faced by young Muslim men as they struggle with external racism as well as their own sense of identity. It looks deeper at the communities who are consciously and unconsciously forbidden from spaces such as pools – where the strange looks and other microaggressions they receive are possibly a sign of something more insidious.

The Popcorn Group production company, which runs the prize, said Brown Boys Swim was a “vital and moving” play. “It is the epitome of what we look for with the award – we’re overjoyed for Karim!” they said.

The judges for this year’s awards included Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson, the Olivier award-winning producer Francesca Moody, the portrait artist Jonathan Yeo and the comedian and writer Jack Rooke. “Brown Boys Swim is a beautiful and tender piece of writing full of heart,” Moody said. “Dynamic and original. A story I’ve never seen on stage and one that I was delighted to read and then watch on stage. I loved it.”

Khan, a recipient of Riz Ahmed and Pillars Fund’s inaugural fellowship, said: “I’m absolutely over the moon … This story holds a hugely special place in my heart, and I’m really quite moved to see it being awarded and recognised in this way.” He said he had wanted to “create a coming of age story centring the young British South Asian Muslim experience – a story I haven’t seen told in our own terms,” adding: “I hope this play celebrates their lives, and values their beautiful, joyous existences.”

The Edinburgh festival fringe is vital for launching the careers of up-and-coming talent in the arts, and the Popcorn writing award plays a large in championing new voices. Each year, three shortlisted finalists also share a £3,000 prize between them. This year, these were Jenna Fincken’s one-woman thriller Ruckus, Laura Horton’s Breathless, and Tabby Lamb’s Happy Meal, a funny and nostalgic story of transition.

In 2022, the Popcorn Group also partnered for the first time with BBC Writersroom, offering each of the longlisted playwrights one-to-one meetings with members of the BBC Drama Commissioning team. Jess Loveland, the head of new writing at BBC Writersroom, said she could not wait “to meet all the talented longlisted writers over the next couple of months and chat to them about their work and writing ambitions”.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.