MALMESBURY pulled off a comprehensive away win when the Athelstan Players walked off with the top honours at Swindon's Harold Jolliffe One Act Play Festival.

The Malmesbury troupe took seven of the 13 awards, including best actor, best director and winning play, The Birds Stopped Singing, by Lawrence Barker.

But Swindon's Old Town Theatre Company scored for the home town by winning The June Thompson Memorial Cup for Dramatic Endeavour, for the play Foxes In The Early Light, which was the winner of the Playwrite competition, jointly run by the Swindon Advertiser.

The event took place from Thursday to Saturday at the Arts Centre in Devizes Road.

Festival organiser Ashley Heath said: "It was very rewarding. I thought we had a festival that lived up to its promise."

Seven plays were performed over the course of the three-day festival Mr Heath said it was particularly pleasing to see two youth productions and two original plays.

"It was hugely interesting to see them on stage," he said.

"Especially to finally see Foxes In The Early Light on the stage was very exciting."

The drama is set in the midst of the civil war in Sarajevo and written by Jeannie Palmer, from the Channel Islands.

The Old Town Theatre Company had agreed to perform the winning Playwrite entry.

Mr Heath said: "I gather that Jeannie Palmer, the author, was moved to tears. She had flown in from the Channel Islands specially to see it performed.

"But in true Oscar fashion the Athelstan Players swept the board.

"There has always been an unspoken but friendly rivalry between the Athelstan Players and the Old Town Theatre Company.

"This year OTTC were very brave by accepting a play without knowing what is was, and all credit to them.

"But the Athelstan Players came through with a very deep play and it paid dividends."

For the first time this year the audience was involved in choosing one of the prize-winners and they backed the judges, giving the Athelstan Players the inaugural The BBC Radio Swindon and BBC Radio Wiltshire Audience Award.

Mr Heath said he hoped even more entries would be received for next year's event.

He said: "I'd love to see groups that have never entered before.

"And I'd like to thank the staff of the Palette Caf in the Arts Centre as they donated part of their take to festival funds to help make sure we can carry on next year."