Bolton comedian Sophie Willan has been named as the first winner of the BBC's Caroline Aherne Bursary.
Hundreds of other comics applied for the prize, which was launched last year in memory of Caroline Aherne, the popular comedy star and writer who died in 2016.
Willan, who was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2017, will receive £5,000 to support development of her work. She will also receive mentorship from Kate Daughton, BBC Comedy Commissioning Editor, to develop a comedy script with the potential to perform at the Salford Sitcom Showcase 2018.
Willan says: "I'm honoured and absolutely over the moon to have won the Caroline Aherne Bursary. I discovered Caroline as a child when I watched her as Mrs Merton and instantly fell in love with her. I dreamt of being a comedy writer/performer and seeing the super talents of northern women I related to like Caroline and Victoria Wood made me feel like this could be a very real and attainable achievement for a girl like me.
"I have always connected on a deep and personal level with Caroline's work - particularly The Royle Family. Like Caroline, my comedy is full of vivid characters that depict authentic and naturally funny people. People who are as flawed as they are lovable.
"I look forward to continuing that legacy with my own updated take on the Northern, working class experience as part of this bursary and hopefully inspire the next generation, just as Caroline inspired me."
The BBC says: "Sophie's entry impressed the panel with her funny ideas, strong work ethic and real desire to tell stories about Northern England."
BBC commissioner Shane Allen comments: "Sophie is a really fitting and very exciting talent to back with the inaugural award of this bursary. She embodies all that was wonderful about Caroline - sharp writing, natural Northern feistiness and extreme likeability. We look forward to working with her."
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