Bradford poet and spoken word artist Kirsty Taylor has been announced as the new Kay Mellor Fellow.

The Fellowship was created in partnership with the award-winning Leeds writer Kay Mellor in 2019 and was first awarded to Bradford writer Kat Rose Martin in 2020. It continues in memory of Kay, who passed away in 2022, with a new three year investment from the BBC, Leeds City Council, Rollem Productions and Leeds Playhouse.

Through her poetry and spoken word, Kirsty has always been a champion of her home city of Bradford, showcasing and giving voice to its unheard stories. Her work champions those traditionally underrepresented on stage and screen through humour, drama and exploring non-traditional form. She was part of the campaign which helped Bradford win the coveted Year of Culture for 2025. Her debut play Cashy C’s: The Musical was performed in a non-traditional theatre space – a former frozen food store in Bradford city centre – and was set in a recreated cash convertors, exploring the multiple lives of those who passed through the shop.

During her Fellowship, Kirsty will explore stories of adoption and severance from the perspective of birth families, working with local birth mother groups to research and develop both a play and TV pitch which tells the stories of how and why children get taken into care, with authenticity, intricacy and integrity.

Kirsty is the first of three Fellows over the next three years. Each will receive a bursary and spend their year on attachment with Leeds Playhouse and Rollem Productions to develop their own script and TV pitch, as well as receiving a place on the BBC Writers Voices writer development programme.

Kirsty said: "Being awarded this Fellowship feels like a massive and timely next step for me. The opportunity to develop my ideas through the legacy of Yorkshire's iconic Kay Mellor who properly championed people like me, where my background, voice and experience is not only welcomed but embraced feels really special. I'm passionate about telling authentic stories about real people, so the support this Fellowship offers will really allow me to explore how I go about doing that to bigger audiences, in new and different forms with the critique that's crucial in taking my work to the next level. Buzzing.”

Gaynor Mellor creative director of Rollem Productions said: “We are so excited to be announcing Kirsty as this years Kay Mellor Fellow. Her work shone through during the application process and her playwriting has the ability to portray often gritty and dark subject matters with warmth and humour, much like the work of Kay. We will be welcoming her into the Rollem family with open arms and can’t wait to transfer her incredible playwriting skills into the world of television."

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “This inspiring programme is the perfect tribute to the remarkable legacy of Kay Mellor and it’s wonderful to see her home county’s proud tradition of nurturing local talent and creativity continuing.

“By working together and helping Yorkshire artists like Kirsty to bring their work to the stage, we can give these unique, northern stories a bigger voice and profile as we pass the torch to the next generation of Yorkshire playwrights.”

Head of new writing for BBC Jessica Loveland said: "The BBC Writers team is thrilled to be partnering with Leeds Playhouse, Leeds City Council and Rollem Productions on the Kay Mellor Fellowship this year. We can’t wait to start work with Kirsty via our BBC Writers’ Voices writer development group, and we look forward to supporting her as she brings her unique voice to TV writing.”

Leeds Playhouse artistic director and CEO James Brining said: “Kirsty is a great champion of stories rooted in Yorkshire, and is particularly passionate about exploring working class lives and the perspectives of women, so it is fitting that she will follow in the footsteps of the brilliant Kay Mellor. Kirsty has great skill as a writer, crafting her work with much care, truth, humour and integrity. We can’t wait to welcome Kirsty to the Playhouse, to support in her development as a playwright and to learn from her unique artistic perspective. We look forward to seeing what she creates during her Fellowship year.”

In addition to the Fellowship, Leeds Playhouse launched The Kay Mellor Fund in 2023, to raise money to nurture local writers – something that was always very close to Kay’s heart – through its industry-leading Furnace Artist Development programme. This fund will support locally rooted writers through bespoke investment, mentoring and training opportunities.