These days, young directors have to rely on rich relatives to start their careers, but help is at hand. The search is on for the first winner of the Young Director's Bursary in memory of the late James Menzies- Kitchin

Should you find yourself trapped at a party by a young Equity member, quite the worst conversational gambit to opt for is "busy at the moment?" This seemingly innocuous question is likely to induce a small coughing fit or a rapid return to the drinks trolley. Something like 90 per cent of actors are out of work at any one time, and it doesn't do them any good to have to 'fess up to the fact that they have more knowledge of the daily output of Madeley and Finnegan (that's Richard and Judy to you) than is strictly necessary.

It's worse for directors. An actor's audition can be hell, but at least it does reveal something of the performer's charisma and style. By contrast, trying to persuade a prospective producer of your directorial skills when you have little experience is virtually impossible. It tends to boil down to having the gift of the gab. Yet everyone knows that the ability to sell something is not the same as being able to deliver: remember Shake'n'Vac? I rest my case.

The appalling fact of the situation is that arts funding for small-scale work has been so whittled away that only those young directors with access to parental bank accounts and trust funds end up creating work. The declining power of the Arts Council (and its ever declining budget - thank you, Chris Smith) means that the competition for small-scale project work is fierce. How then can a young director prove her/his mettle? How can a whizz-kid find money to pay actors and meet production costs, not to mention a decent venue in which to stage it?

Which is where the late James Menzies-Kitchin (above) steps in. James, a gifted director, died suddenly at the appallingly early age of 28. He was working in Chichester and had survived a stint standing around in open-mouthed amazement on the fabled The Fields of Ambrosia. But prior to these more upmarket assignments, he had directed remarkable productions at the Southwark Playhouse and Battersea Arts Centre. His almost feverish fascination for textual richness coupled with a superb grasp of visual imagery and physical staging marked him out as a singular talent. Following his death, a trust was set up in his memory to encourage similar talent.

If you are no older than 30 and have not directed more than two professional productions, you are eligible to apply for the award which provides pounds 6,500 of finance for a production, a performance space at BAC and practical advice and support. For all information write to: The James Menzies-Kitchin Memorial Trust, Home Farm House, Idlicote, Warwickshire CV36 5DT, or call 01608 662153. The closing date for applications is 31 January. Hurry.