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Join Stephanie Homer in celebrating this year’s DAAD/IMLR Writing Competition – ‘Chatting with Luther’!


Have you ever wished that you could travel back in time and listen to the daily conversations of Martin Luther and his contemporaries, or even wondered what a key figure such as Martin Luther would think of the world today? Wonder no more.

‘Chatting with Luther’ – this year’s DAAD/IMLR Writing Competition – was a huge success and all entrants provided us with exciting mini-dramas; dialogues between Martin Luther and another famous figure (or figures). The most impressive aspect: these conversations were written entirely in German.

October 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of Luther’s publication of his 95 theses which, in turn, sparked the Reformation. The opportunity to re-imagine Luther in different dialogues could not be missed and our entrants rose to the challenge. The authors have engaged with the task of writing mini-dramas with incredible creativity and wit. The diverse conversations that they created addressed social issues that we are confronted with today, such as Brexit, mobile phones, and racism. The winners were selected on the creativity of their work, engagement with the topic, and impressive use of the German language which brought Luther to life.

The critical and creative engagement displayed by the winners was highly impressive. Their unique, provoking and entertaining texts included scenarios in which Martin Luther and Dawkins explore the parallels between the late medieval church and the European Union; Luther and Jacob Rees-Mogg have a particularly heated discussion; a Graham Norton show; a conversation with JK Rowling and Vivienne Westwood; and a Twitter Battle with none other than Donald Trump!

The winners, who fell into the categories of ‘Secondary School’, ‘Undergraduate’ and ‘Other’ , were welcomed to Senate House and took part in a drama and translation workshop. (Unfortunately, some of our winners were unable to attend due to the snowy conditions across the UK.) The afternoon was led by the group ‘Foreign Affairs’, who, between them, have years of experience in theatre, acting, and translation for the stage.

After warm-up exercises (crucial for any actor), the winners worked with the actors and brought their texts to life. With energy, the group, ‘Foreign Affairs’, conveyed their passion to the winners and opened up the winning dialogues, encouraging our winners to play with their own words, their intonation, pace and volume. With an exciting twist, a range of different scenarios were thrown at the texts, testing our winners’ improvisation skills. For example, how would the conversation sound if the characters were talking like a football coach or reporter?

Under a time pressure of approximately twenty minutes, the final workshop task was to produce a group translation which was to be presented at the prize-giving event held at the British Library that evening.

Family, friends and remaining winners, who had fought through the adverse travel conditions, convened at the British Library’s Knowledge Centre for the prize-giving event, with wine, and nibbles. After a welcome and introduction by Georg Krawietz (DAAD), Godela Weiss-Sussex (IMLR) and Susan Reed (BL), the winners successfully presented their group translation.

The highlight of the evening, however, was seeing the winning texts performed with the help of the ‘Foreign Affairs’ actors. The dialogues were greatly entertaining and provoking, and the mini-dramas gathered chuckles from the audience when Graham Norton introduced his line-up, when Trump and Luther ended their Twitter-war with an “Auf Wiedertweeten!”, and when JK Rowling introduces herself as ‘also very famous’.

There was an engaging mix of politics, entertainment, and social ‘hot-topics’, as well as inventive time-travel which brought these famous figures together in conversation. The unique and witty mini-dramas playfully challenged Luther’s beliefs and intentions and explored the effect that Martin Luther has had on today’s society.

Congratulations to all of our winners! We were deeply impressed by your creativity and intelligence, and for daring to voice these conversations, with their satirical and political spin.

Secondary School Pupils:

    • 1st Prize: Victoria Adjei (North London Collegiate School). Luther gegen Dawkins: Ordensmann und Atheist politisieren
    • 2nd Prize: Panayotis Galatis (City of London School). Dialogue between Lucas Cranach the Elder and Grayson Perry
    • 3rd Prize: Alex Davies (King’s College School, Wimbledon). Die Situation: das Graham Norton Show: Martin Luther, Graham Norton, Damien Hirst

Undergraduate students

    • 1st Prize: Chris Dobson (University of Edinburgh). Twitter Battle between Trump and Luther
    • 2nd Prize: Abbie Gordon (Durham University). A conversation with Vivienne Westwood
    • 3rd Prize: Annie Davies (University of Exeter). A conversation between Luther, Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig
    • 4th Prize: May Wall (Durham University). ‘Vor der Himmelspforte, Martin Luther begegnet Jo Cox’

Others (non-students)

    • 1st Prize: Dr Cyril de Beun (KU Leuven). Martin Luther and Jacob Rees-Mogg (and Erasmus)
    • 2nd Prize: Taimia Mahmoud. JK Rowling and Martin Luther

A further thanks goes to our prize-givers (Susanne Frane, Patrizia Crivelli and Georg Krawietz), the German Embassy, Embassy of Switzerland, Austrian Cultural Forum, Goethe Institute, Oesterreichischer Akad. Austauschdienst, The National Archives, and the British Library.

Without this support and the genius of our authors, we would not have been able to eavesdrop on Martin Luther’s most fascinating conversations!


Stephanie Homer, MPhil/PhD student, IMLR