Please meet the next generation screen writers


New voices are hard to find. They are even harder to get heard. This is why Project 1961 has decided to write this film in a new way. So that it is even more representative of the young people it is about.

For this reason director Pinny Grylls develops and writes this film in collaboration with the talented young people of Intermission Youth. Because they come from the same communities in London as our main character TJ and his friends. 

Hear My Voice’ seeks to bring two worlds together.
The world of opera, and also the world of the young people of Intermission.

For the past couple of months they have been doing a series of Opera Workshops with Aga Serugo Lugo supported by The Royal Opera House (including visits from the Jette Young Artists singers.) With their generous support we have seen four operas this season at the Royal Opera House.

As a result they are ready to write their feature film script, Hear My Voice. With the support of professional script writers, directors and producers.



Hear My Voice is the story of a Congolese boy from Hackney who dreams of being an opera singer.

This is about a young black voice struggling to be heard. Furthermore his voice is unique, does not fit the mould and will break your heart with its beauty. Bursting with hope this Billy Elliot story with opera seeks to turn on its head what you thought you knew about opera and most importantly, who it belongs to. Bringing it to new audiences like never before.


17 year old TJ knows what society expects him to become as a young black man growing up in East London. A drug dealer heading for prison, a dad at 18 who abandons his child, or a footballer or rapper if he is lucky. But TJ has other ideas. He wants to be an opera singer.

Back in the Congo, he grew up listening to his mother’s vinyl collection of arias and concertos by Mozart, Handel and Tchaikovsky. He was part of the local classical choir and was well on the way to making his mother proud and becoming a singer. Then the war came and he and his family had to flee their home. On his journey to the U.K. the sea took his mother from him and now his father Ronald doesn’t want to hear him sing, or her music any more. So TJ pursues his passion in secret. Listening to his mother’s favourite music and practicing his singing in Hackney Marshes, far away from his dad and his new British friends, Abdul and Shanay (whose tastes are a little more in the Drill and Grime direction).

Can TJ find the strength to share his unique singing voice with the world again? 


Why we are doing this?

First of all, we want to tell a great story. One that is unique and gives a different perspective of young minoritised people growing up in London. Secondly, of opera, and who it is for.

By workshopping and developing this script in this way we hope to give a platform to a group of people whose voice is rarely heard in the cinema, while at the same time developing their talents and filmmaking careers.

BTW, Did you know that just only 7% of the directors are women?
And only 2% of screen writers come from minoritised backgrounds.

Equality of opportunity is key to diversifying the film industry. Many stories that reach our screens are written by those who can afford the time and money to spend three months or more hardly getting paid.

If development budgets exist, they tend to be very low and this excludes people on low incomes, with childcare costs, or who are unable to take the financial risk of writing a script. This means the stories of these groups rarely reach our screens unless they are written by someone else.

This project is also helping a female-led feature film project that is experimenting with a more inclusive writing process. 

Corona update: please know that ALL the money raised by the campaign will go to either freelancers or financially vulnerable people. It’s a very hard time to be doing this. But we need to press ahead in the hope that people who have more to share will mobilise us. It’s about something bigger than even our film now. This is about keeping people going on a trough time.

Why we need YOU?

At Project 1961 we feel passionate about telling new exciting stories from a diversity of perspectives. Because we believe it is the stories we tell that help to shape our world. But we need your help to get new writing seen on screen…

We have launched our Kickstarter Campaign to raise £20,000 to help fund the development of the Hear My Voice script. The script will be written during a three-month script writing workshop programme for the young professionals at Intermission Youth supported by established industry writers. The money will help to pay for the time of a core group of talented Intermission writers/ actors, as well as the time of the film’s Director Pinny Grylls and Producer Julia Ton from Project 1961. Lastly it will fund the time of professional script editors and coaches from the industry.

At Project 1961 we feel passionate about diversifying the industry so that the stories told on screen are representative of the audience.
Help us in our work to get new writing seen on screen…

Here are more details on what your contribution will help fund.

  • 3 months script writing workshop for the young professionals at Intermission
  • Fees of the writers, co-writers (YP’s at IYT), script editor and script coach, including child care and travel costs if needed
  • Charitable Donation to IYT for sharing their amazing space
  • Recordings of this process → behind the scenes footage
  • Artwork designed by Rose Stallard
  • and among other things, the video that kicks off everything 

The ambition is that we deliver a script ready to finance at the end of 2020. If finance is raised at the next stage we plan to shoot the film in Sept/Oct 2021. The crew that shoots the film will also be truly representative of the communities that it is telling a story about.

About us

Director | Pinny Grylls

Pinny co-founded Birds Eye Film Festival to showcase female directing talent in 2002. Since then she has built a career as a documentary filmmaker winning several awards for her films (most notably for UK Film Council funded Peter and Ben). She has made films for BBC, Channel 4 and The Guardian, and is passionate about the power of the arts to change people’s lives. She has made documentaries ( including The Hour and Becoming Zerlina) that turn our perception of theater, opera and ballet on its heads, as well as directing commercials and documentaries. Pinny has also spent several years running film-making workshops with young people. She grew up in Hackney and still lives there with her husband and 2 children. Hear My Voice will be her first feature film.

Production company | Project 1961

Film production company Project 1961 was founded by Julia Ton in 2016. Inclusion (or rather exclusion), is a recurring topic in Project 1961’s slate. They are using the stage to raise awareness, and to make a positive impact on society. Julia is a producer with over 10 years of experience in fiction and creative documentaries. Her credits include films such as the International Emmy Award winner Bellingcat – Truth in a Post Truth World by Hans Pool (2018) and the multi award winning Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold (2012).

Co-writers | Intermission Youth

Intermission Youth Theatre (Intermission) was established 11 years ago by actor and artistic director Darren Raymond and has since been transforming the lives of young people through the works of William Shakespeare. Intermission work with Shakespearian text because the issues he wrote about 400 years ago remain as relevant to young people today: knife crime, romance, gang warfare, ambition, postcode rivalry, loyalty, jealousy and transformation. We want to remix opera in a similar way. So far Intermission have been to see several operas at The Royal Opera House and have also been doing a series of Opera Education Workshops as part of their research for the film.

Collaborator | Royal Opera House

Throughout her career British director Elaine Kidd has been challenging the status quo of the operatic industry. Now as Head of the Jette Parker programme at the Royal Opera House, the formidable Kidd has been shifting the lens on the narrative of opera with an aim to achieve mainstream accessibility. With this mission in mind she has facilitated the Hear My Voice opera workshops and visits, including private recitals by the talented young opera singers on the Jette Parker programme.

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