THE National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Adam, the true-life story of a young trans man and his journey from Egypt to Scotland, was admired by critics and theatre-goers alike. Directed by Cora Bissett, it had a terrific run at the Fringe, where it won a Herald Angel award, and it left an an abiding impression on all of those who watched it.

David Graham was in the audience one night when the play was on at Edinburgh’s Traverse during the Fringe. Nothing in his background had prepared him for the impact that Adam would have on him. “I was 66 at the time,” he says. “I came from very traditional, what I would call middle-class, middle-aged values. We all hear and read a lot about gender issues. They’re often in the press, but I don’t suppose I’d given them any thought. So off I went and saw Adam, and I was really very moved that somebody felt the way that Adam did. It was a very powerful and moving show. He’d become a refugee [in Egypt] because of those issues, and came to this country.

“I saw a number of plays,” - in fact, he saw no fewer than 75 Fringe productions last year - “but Adam was the main one that made me think, why aren’t there post-show discussions or a chance for the audience to meet the cast, so that the issues raised can be discussed further?” In the Traverse bar afterwards he was fortunate to be able to talk to Adam Kashmiry, the co-star of the play based on his own experiences.

A seed was being planted in Graham’s mind. And next month this philanthropist and Fringe Patron is launching two awards at the Fringe which will enable thought-provoking plays to extend their reach.

The winner of the first SIT-UP award (the SIT stands for ‘social impact theatre’) will receive £5,000. A fifth of it with be free of obligation - it can be used to pay off festival debts, kick-start the next production, or simply throw a party. The other £4,000, however, will be used to “amplify the social impact” of the piece. It might be re-staged elsewhere, or the funds might enable educational materials to be published.

The second prize, a £1,000 Audience Engagement award, will be awarded to a production that engages with audiences in an innovative way.

The 2018 judges for the awards include Graham himself, of course, and theatre/ creative figures such as Robert Iles, Jez Bond, Celia Tennant and Rhea Lewis. Plus, fittingly, Adam Kashmiry. “He’s very happy to be on the judging panel,” says Graham.

Graham, now 67, has had an interesting life. He originally qualified as an accountant and went on to become involved in a range of businesses, from property, consultancy, technology to retail and manufacturing. There was even a time when he held a royal warrant as shoemaker to the Queen.

In 2003 his son Nicholas, aged 23, became paralysed in an accident, breaking his neck after diving from a pier on a beach in France. “I thought at some point after that, that life’s too short to sit in an office,” reflects Graham, and he began to study for an MA in photojournalism and documentary photography at the London College of Communication.

It may seem like an unlikely about-turn in career terms, but Graham took to it with gusto. He became a globe-trotting photographer. He travelled to such countries as Vietnam, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, and he lent his expertise to, and raised awareness of, various charities: Vine Trust, Bhopal Medical Appeal, International Development Enterprises, and Children on the Edge, which aids children who live on the margins of many impoverished countries.

He has shot portraits of visitors to London Fashion Week; in India, he photographed Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela, a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith. His photographs have been run by newspapers and magazines and have been included in exhibitions. He did a project on spinal injury and brought out a book called No Diving. He established a charity, Changing Ideas, which focuses on social injustice and human rights to help the most deprived people, and to promote photography in order to raise awareness. He has brought his iPhone to bear on photographic projects, and has also run portraiture workshops here and abroad.

Five years ago he stopped taking photographs after suffering a pulmonary embolism, the result of so much time spent at 30,000 feet, but last November he travelled once more with Children on the Edge to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Now, thanks to his exposure to a play about a trans Egyptian, he’s embarking on his next phase. “We’ve obviously given a lot of thought to the SIT-UP awards,” he says, “but, long term, I see it going further. Why can’t one help theatre productions beforehand? Already we are doing that with about four or five in Edinburgh, but we also said, can we help Adam, because he’s going to show the play at the Battersea Arts Centre, in London, in September.

A survey on the SIT-UP website says that of the 977 productions at last year’s Fringe, no fewer than 218 related to social issues, from abortion and addiction to dementia/Alzheimer’s, disability, grief and death, and LGBT issues. SIT-UP has already researched this year’s Fringe, which starts on August 3, and discovered that the breakdown is roughly similar to last year’s.

A shortlist of six productions will be announced during the second week of the Fringe with the winner being announced in the third week. It’s expected that the shortlist will consist mainly of theatrical productions, but comedy, dance and physical theatre are not being ruled out.

“We will arrive at that shortlist based on reviews,” Graham says. “I’m planning to look at all the reviews and speak to people who’re in the know. I think the good plays come to the surface anyway: people know what they are, because they get the good reviews. We’ll also be looking at people’s reactions on social media. The judges will see the plays on the shortlist but we’ll also be polling the audiences to find out how affected, or moved, they were, by what they saw. All of this will help inform the judges’ opinion.

“I wouldn’t want to have six plays about mental health,” he goes on. “There will be a lot of different issues on show at the Fringe, and it would be nice to have a split. But our aim is to ensure that the winning play will go on to have a life beyond the Fringe. We like to think we’re offering a meaningful prize. When it comes to using the £4,000, we will sit down with them to discuss how take that play further. It might be to London or even into prisons or universities, if appropriate. Different things, really, are appropriate for different plays.

“But at the heart of these awards is my belief that a theatre production’s momentum need not come to an end when the stage curtain is lowered. That does not need to be the case.”

To sum it all up, he turns to a quote from none other than the late, great Jimi Hendrix. “To change the world,” Hendrix said, “you must first change your mind.”