Monday, November 29, 2010

Children's Bafta Awards 2010

The Children's Bafta Awards 2010 were presented in London last night. Among the winners were:
  • The writing team of Horrible Histories (Best Writer and Best Comedy)
  • Tracey Beaker Returns (Best Drama)
  • Timmy Time (Best Pre-School Animation)
  • Shaun The Sheep (Best Animation)

Emmerdale producer Gavin Blyth dies

From BBC News:
Gavin Blyth, the TV producer in charge of Emmerdale for the last two years, has died at the age of 41.

Mr Blyth, who was Emmerdale's series producer and had previously worked on Coronation Street, suffered a short illness, ITV said.

Emmerdale executive producer Steve November said he had "made an immense contribution" to the show.

BFI to take on Film Council role

Ed Vaizey, minister for Culture and the Creative Industries, has announced that the British Film Institute (BFI) will take on the work previously done by the UK Film Council (UKFC) which will be abolished by 2012.

Olivia Hetreed, Chair of the Writers' Guild Film Committee, reports.

Ed Vaizey spoke to industry this morning at Bafta. He talked of the success of the film industry and of the consultation so far. He namechecked a number of organisations, including producers' organisation PACT and their 'lock box' idea of giving producers funding control. He confirmed what everyone seemed to know, that BFI will take over most functions of the UKFC.

These include: distribution of Lottery funds, which will rise to £43 mill in 2014 (for all outbound not prod fund); certification of British films; media desk and funds for nations and regions. There will be no gap in Lottery funding. Skillset and First Light to continue. Film tax credit will also continue.

The regional screen agencies will be reorganised as Creative England with hubs in the north of England the midlands and the south.

Film London will take on film commission role of selling UK film facilities and personnel abroad.

Bafta, BFI and BBC Worldwide will work together to sell British films abroad.

Ed Vaizey said that he wants a ministerial film forum to meet every six months or so comp of the trade bodies and 'interesting personalities with something to say'. The first step will be an open process to appoint new board members then consultation on the detail.

No specifics were given on what is going from UKFC or how much they plan to save but all done and dusted by spring 2012.

I asked how Creative England would avoid the problems currently besetting Creative Scotland. Vaizey said Creative England will not take on Arts Council functions but be focused on the creative side of film, TV, games, the internet and publishing rather than taking on wider artistic admin.

In a BFI statement its chair, Greg Dyke, said that the production fund will increase from £15m to £18m in 2011/12 thanks to significant savings in overheads.

The UK Film Council has also issued a statement in response to Ed Vaizey's annoucement this morning.

Update: The Department for Culture Media and Sport website now has a report, Vaizey's full speech and full details of the reforms.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Minimum rates for BBC TV drama writers increase

Following negotiations under the WGGB / PMA / BBC TV drama agreement minimum rates for BBC TV writers have increased.

Full details can be found on the Writers' Guild website.

Work by Guild members in next seven days

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 29th November.

ANNA CLEMENTS wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd December.

DAVID CROFT and JIMMY PERRY co-wrote the episode of Dad's Army "Don't Forget the Diver" going out on BBC2 at 8:00pm on Saturday 27th November.

HELEN CROSS'S documentary drama Blue Eyed Boy goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 2th November.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 3rd December.

MATT EVANS wrote the episodes of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 29th and at 7:30pm on Tuesday 30th November.

Congratulations to MICHAEL FRAYN who received a nomination for the Costa Biography Award for his memoir of his father and his childhood, My Father's Fortune. Michael Frayn also was awarded the Writers' Guild Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday.

JEREMY FRONT'S adaptation of A Charles Paris Mystery: Murder in the Title continues on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 29th November.

ROB GITTINS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Friday 3rd December.

CAROLINE HARRINGTON wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 28th November till Friday 3rd December. Each episode is repeated at 2:00pm the day after its original broadcast.

JOHN KERR wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 2nd December.

ROB KINSMAN wrote the episode of Doctors "Fault Lines" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 3rd December.

FRED LAWLESS has written this year's Christmas show for the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool. Scouse Pacific open on Friday 26th November and runs until Saturday 8th January. More details at

PENNY LEICESTER'S abridgment of The End of the Alphabet goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Wednesday 1st December.

BILL LYONS wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Wednesday 1st December.

Congratulations to JIMMY McGOVERN who won an International Emmy at a ceremony in New York this week for his drama series, The Street. The show also received a Best Actor award for Bob Hoskins for his role as a reformed alcoholic pub landlord who took a stand against a local gangster. In July 2009, Jimmy McGovern announced the programme was ending because of cuts to the Manchester drama department of ITV Studios, which made The Street for the BBC. He told BBC Radio 4's Front Row he would not take the drama to another producer.

GRAHAM MITCHELL wrote the episode of Holby City "Future Shock" going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Tuesday 30th November.

ALICE NUTTER and JIMMY McGOVERN co-wrote the episode of Accused "Helen's Story" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 29th November

TIM PRICE wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 2nd December.

DAMON ROCHEFORT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 29th November.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Wednesday 1st December.

AMANDA WHITTINGTON's Paradise Place concludes this evening at 7.45 pm on BBC Radio 4. Paradise Place is a series of five linked plays, broadcasted every day this week in the Woman's Hour drama slot at 10.45 am and repeated at 7.45 pm. The five plays can be heard on the Listen Again part of the BBC website for up to seven days after the original broadcast:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lean times for children's theatre

On The Guardian Theatre Blog, Mike Kenny argues that there is a desperate need for more original plays for children to be commissioned and performed.
Be honest, can you name a person working consistently as a children's playwright? If you can, have you ever seen one of their plays? In such a landscape, you might wonder why I still plug away. Funnily enough, I entered the business in a boom time. For a while, from the late 60s till the 80s, theatre in education flourished. Every major city had an ensemble creating original work for children. Coventry Belgrade's Rare Earth Trilogy, and Killed, Theatre Centre's 1985, Leeds TIE's Raj, Cockpit's The First Casualty, Ludus's Power – all great lost pieces from companies cut in the 80s. We haven't got near to that quality and output, and now we're facing cuts again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

International Emmy success for British writers

British writers had a successful night at the International Emmy Awards last night.

Jimmy McGovern's The Street won best drama series, Shaun The Sheep won the best children's series and Small Island (by Paula Milne and Sarah Williams based on the novel by Andrea Levy) was named best TV movie/mini-series.

Amazon Studios

Olivia Hetreed, Chair of the Writers' Guild's Film Committee, responds to the launch of Amazon Studios.

This seems tempting - free entry with the potential to have your script seen by many and maybe picked up by Warner Bros; the harnessing of a wide open talent pool of perhaps previously unheard voices - but the terms and conditions are not good.

The Guild does not approve of free options and 18 months exclusive while anyone can read, rewrite, rip off and variously mess about with your script in any way is particularly unattractive.

The idea that the collective creativity of the web will come up with a good screenplay looks both a) completely untenable and b) frankly insulting to professional screenwriters. Monkeys and typewriters comes to mind.

If a) then the whole project will wither and die under the weight of appalling writing and outraged squawking. If a good script does make it through this process and get made (or a bad script, which is just as likely) then the insult b) will become more serious.

A judgement process based on internet 'popularity' without any filtering seems both open to abuse and most unlikely to produce good or interesting results.

See more comment on Amazon Studios from:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Writers' Guild Award winners

The winners have been announced of the 2010 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards (view full shortlists here).

Best Screenplay
  • Kick-Ass - Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Best First Feature-Length Screenplay
  • Moon - Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker
Best Television Drama Series
  • Being Human - Toby Whithouse
Best Television Comedy/ Light Entertainment
  • Getting On - Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan, Vicki Pepperdine
Best Television Short-Form Drama
  • Occupation - Peter Bowker
Best Television Continuing Drama
  • Coronation Street - Peter Whalley, Carmel Morgan, David Lane, Mark Wadlow, Chris Fewtrell, Jayne Hollinson, Martin Allen, Lucy Gannon, Mark Burt, John Kerr, Damon Rochefort, Julie Jones, Jonathan Harvey, Simon Crowther, Joe Turner, Debbie Oates, Daran Little, Stephen Russell, Jan McVerry
Best Children’s Television Drama/Comedy - live action or animation
  • Shaun the Sheep - Richard Goleszowski, Rob Dudley, Glenn Dakin, Lucy Daniel Raby, Elly Brewer, Jimmy Hibbert, Will MacLean, John Camm, Lee Pressman, Julie Jones, Dan Berlinka, Andy Williams, David Ingham, Richard Vincent, Patrick Makin, Chris Sadler, Kieron Self, Giles New, James Henry, Nick Park, Kay Stonham, Sarah Ball, Ian Carney, Mark Daydy, Craig Ferguson, Patrick Gallagher
Best Theatre Play
  • Jerusalem - Jez Butterworth
Best Play for Children and Young People
  • The Monster Under The Bed - Kevin Dyer
Best Radio Drama
  • Number 10 - Jonathan Myerson
Best Radio Comedy/Light Entertainment
  • Mark Steel’s In Town - Mark Steel
Best Videogame Script
  • Red Dead Redemption - Dan Houser, Mike Unsworth
Best Non-Fiction Book
  • This Party’s Got To Stop - Rupert Thomson
Best Fiction Book
  • A Life Apart - Neel Mukherjee
Lifetime Achievement
  • Michael Frayn

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Work by Guild members in the next week

JESSE ARMSTRONG and SAM BAIN'S Peep Show starts it's seventh series at 10:00pm on C4 on Friday 26th November.

RICHARD BURKE wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Friday 26th November.

JANE BUSSMANN is performing Bussmann's Holiday: The Worst Date Ever at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London on 7th and 8th December and on 14th December at The Houses of Parliament, Grand Committee Room, Westminster, London.

SONIA CASTANG'S short film Ashes has been selected for the UnderWire Festival, a new festival to discover new female film-making talent. It has been shortlisted in the Best Director category and it is showing on Saturday 20th November at 2:00pm ().

DAVID CROFT and JIMMY PERRY wrote the episode of Dad's Army "The Big Parade" going out on BBC2 at 7:30pm on Saturday 20th November.

RICHARD BEVAN'S play Trading Faces has been nominated for "Best Play" by the Offie Awards (Off West End).

JEREMY FRONT'S adaptation of Simon Brett's comedy murder mystery A Charles Paris Mystery: Murder in the Title goes out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Monday 22nd November.

JULIAN JONES wrote the episode of Merlin "The Sorcerer's Shadow" going out on BBC1 at 7:45pm on Saturday 20th November.

KIKI KENDRICK'S play Next! is on at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden, London at 7:30pm until 28th November (Sunday at 6:30pm). Tickets cost £9 and can be booked at the box office on 02074824857.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 22nd November.

DAVID LANE wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Thursday 25th November.

DARAN LITTLE wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 25th November.

GARRY LYONS wrote Amazonia, featuring Rory Kinnear and Michelle Dockery, which can be heard on Radio 3 on Sunday 21st November. Garry's adaptation of The Secret Garden runs at Birmingham Rep Theatre from November 25th to January 8th.

JIMMY McGOVERN wrote the episode of Accused "Frankie's Story" going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 22nd November.

JAN McVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 22nd November.

JONATHAN MYERSON'S radio series Number Ten concludes on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 22nd November.

Congratulations to DAVID NICHOLLS, who last week won the Galaxy Popular Book of the Year Award for his novel One Day. The film version, scripted by Nicholls himself, and starring the American actress Anne Hathaway in the lead is due for release in autumn 2011.

LESLEY CLARE O'NEILL co-wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 25th November. She also wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 26th November.

CHRISTOPHER REASON wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 22nd November.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at 11:30pm on Wednesday 24th November.

DANNY STACK wrote this week's episode of CBBC's Roy on Saturday 20th November at 11:00am on BBC2. The show has recently been nominated for two Baftas, including Best Children's Drama, and earlier this year won the RTS Award for Best Children's Drama.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 a 7:00pm on Tuesday 23rd and 24th November.

MARTYN WADE'S dramatisation of the final weeks in the life of English composer EJ Moeran goes out on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Friday 26th November.

PETER WHALLEY wrote the episodes of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on Friday 26th November.

AMANDA WHITTINGTON has five linked plays, Paradise Place, going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm from Monday 22nd till Friday 26th November.

KARIN YOUNG wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 22nd November.

PLR gets off lightly - so far

Fears over the future of the Public Lending Right scheme appear to have been exaggerated in the aftermath of the recent Comprehensive Spending Review. Compared to university fees, housing benefit and community work for claimants, the modest but effective PLR scheme has got off pretty lightly.

The amount paid to authors for each book lent by a public library will drop fractionally from 6.29p to 6.25p for the annual payout in February 2011. The change will be barely noticeable, although there are likely to be further cuts in future years as the public spending curbs continue to roll out.

The Writers’ Guild believes that if the rate per loan falls below 6p the current cap on payouts of £6,600 should also be lowered. The cap exists to avoid a handful of hugely popular authors from scooping the pool of the PLR fund.

Meanwhile there is silence from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on the future administration of the scheme. The PLR admin team was included in the recent bonfire of quangos despite being one of the most efficient and highly-admired public services there is. However, the Guild has been assured that no change will affect the scheme until after the February 2012 payout at the earliest.

It has been suggested that the task of running the scheme could come under Arts Council England or the British Library. Writers’ organisations do not think these ideas have any chance of saving money and are lobbying hard for the existing team based in Stockton-on-Tees not to be broken up, whatever organisation has its brass plate on the entrance.

The Digital Economy Act, passed in the dying days of the Labour Government, contained provisions to extend PLR to ebooks and audiobooks. As this would require substantial additional funding, the incoming coalition has placed this on the back burner, where it will remain for several years – in the Guild’s view, regrettable but sensible.

There is a shadow over PLR, which is the threat of closure to many public libraries across the country as local councils struggle to cut their budgets. Unlike social services or refuse collection, libraries are not a statutory part of local authority services, so closures are relatively easy for councils to get away with. You will find a grim rollcall of libraries under threat at

If you are the author of any books that are lent out by public libraries (not reference books that remain on the premises) then you should ensure your titles are registered so that you receive PLR payments – you can do this online.

For more information about PLR see

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FSE Newsletter - October/November

Please find below the October/November issue of the newsletter from the Federation of European Screenwriters (of which the Writers' Guild is a member).

In this issue you will find some short articles and links on:
  • 1st Meeting of Spanish Scriptwriters
  • European Parliament : Cinema and European Identities (Lux Prize)
  • ACTA : international agreement to fight Piracy
  • New IRIS publication on “New Services and Protection of Broadcasters in Copyright Law”
  • Copyright in the Single Market
  • Net Neutrality
  • VOD, an opportunity for Europe’s audiovisual production?
  • Digital Age and Copyright Issues discussed at WIPO
  • Creativity in Video Games
  • Quality of Media Public Service

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An interview with Roy Williams

An edited transcript from the Writers’ Guild podcast, November 2010
Writers' Guild podcasts can be found at and also on iTunes.

An interview with Roy Williams by Darren Rapier

Darren Rapier: You studied writing at Rose Buford College from 1992-95 – what led you to take that course?

Roy Williams: As long as I can remember I’ve always been interested in storytelling. I’ve always loved being told stories and writing stories. So I think the writer in me was always there. I just think, as with most young people, it took me a while to get the life experience and think ‘I want to be a writer’. I was in my mid-twenties, wasn’t doing much, so the time seemed write to go back to school, as it were. I wanted to see more plays, read more plays and soak myself in theatre.

DR: And did the degree course help your writing?

RW: Those sort of courses can’t teach you how to write. They can only sharpen your skills and that’s what I wanted. I knew I had a raw talent but I needed some finesse and the course helped. The most useful thing was studying the greats: Ibsen, Chekhov, Shakespeare and the like – and stealing from them!

DR: Your first full-length play was The No Boys Cricket Club – how did that come about?

RW: It was the play I had to write at the end of my degree course and my tutor, Gilly Fraser, really liked it and thought it was worth sending it to some theatres. So I sent it unsolicited to the Royal Court, Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Hampstead Theatre to see what they thought, and Stratford East took it up for a reading and then a full performance, which I was thrilled about. That led to another commission and I also got a commission from the Royal Court, and things sort of snowballed from there.

DR: Do you think it was more difficult then than now to make that sort of breakthrough?

RW: I was quite naive at the time, and just excited that these theatres were taking an interest in me. I just went with it and enjoyed it.

DR: And you also got a radio commission?

RW: Yes, through a scheme called First Bite for writers new to radio. I don’t think the BBC does it any more but they should because a lot of good writers came through it.

DR: And did you plan what you did after those initial commissions?

RW: Not really, I just went with it. There was more-or-less one commission after another. I did Lift Off with the Royal Court, a play with the Tricyle and then got a start with TV as well.

DR: At that time how many black writers were there being commissioned?

RW: Not many – certainly not as many as there are now. The only visible black writer when I was starting out was Winsome Pinnock, who was a real inspiration.

DR: Do you think that made it harder for you or easier?

RW: For me personally it didn’t make much difference. I knew what I wanted to be and was getting commissions. I was aware how difficult it was to be a black actor but it made me more determined to write plays, and, ideally, plays for black actors.

DR: Quite a few of your plays, right from the start, have relatively large casts – was that something you were concerned about in terms of getting them staged?

RW: Not really. I think again that’s where my naivety showed. Writers at that time weren’t encouraged to write for large casts, but I just wrote my first play for my degree without worrying about some future production. Interestingly, Paul Everett, who was the literary manager at Stratford East, said that the large cast was what initially drew him to the play; everyone else was writing things that were very intimate but nothing that really took over the stage, and he thought my play did that. Thankfully there does seem to be more willingness from theatres now to stage larger-scale plays by new writers – I was really excited to see Earthquakes In London by Mike Bartlett recently, which completely took over the Cottesloe at the National Theatre in London.

DR: So you think attitudes among producing theatres have changed?

RW: Yes, I think they want writers to be daring. Not just with scale, but with content. Whether that will continue to be the case once the cuts kick in, we’ll have to wait and see.

DR: So after the first theatre commissions and the radio, what was the next big thing?

RW: My debut at the National Theatre was quite exciting.

DR: Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads – another big play.

RW: Yeah, I didn’t have anyone saying ‘You can’t do that’, I just wrote it. Fallout, my first play on the main stage at the Royal Court, was also quite significant for me.

DR: When you write a play, do you have a space in mind?

RW: I do now. When Ian Rickson commissioned me for the Royal Court main house he took me there and told me to feel the space, which I did, and I’m really grateful to him for that.

DR: Presumably another significant step for you was adapting Fallout for TV.

RW: Yes, it did quite well at The Royal Court so there was a lot of interest, which was exciting. Converting a stage play into a script was a challenge and in a slightly perverse way I got quite into cutting lines from my own play because in TV or film so much can be said in a close-up just from a character’s expression. Another big difference from theatre is that a film can be completely rewritten in the edit – whole scenes can be moved around.

DR: How much influence did you have over editing?

RW: Some, but not much; so many people are involved. It was a little bit frustrating but not too bad, and much better than what I’ve heard from other writers, who have had hellish times.

DR: Of course, you do get a bigger audience than in a theatre, but not the immediate response of a live audience.

RW: That’s right. Fallout was seen by about two million people on TV, which was great. It is a bit odd not having the excitement of a live show; I like to watch the audience when I’m in a play of mine, you can learn a lot from that. When my play Days Of Significance was done by the Royal Shakespeare Company I realised from the audience reaction that the final act wasn’t working, they were confused by it, and I completely rewrote it when it was revived a year later.

DR: Are you planning to do more TV and film now?

RW: I’d like to do more TV, yes. It’s a great medium and some of my favourite dramas have been on TV. And I’d love to write a film, but don’t ask me what – I’ll know when I come across it; although I am in talks about adapting my play Sucker Punch. But I don’t want to leave theatre.

DR: Do you ever write anything on spec any more?

RW: I haven’t done for quite a while. I’d like to, just to see what happens, but I haven’t had time.

DR: Do you think it’s possible to survive these days purely as a theatre writer?

RW: It’s possible but extremely, extremely hard. Much as I love theatre, everyone knows it doesn’t pay very well. Although there’s that old saying: you can’t make a living but you can make a killing. But if all I cared about was money, I’d get a regular job.

DR: Do you feel the pressure of past success when you have a new play on?

RW: Yes, but that’s the same as anyone in any job. I try to take the Alex Ferguson approach – forget about what’s gone before, you’ve got to keep going forward. And much as I hate Man Utd and Ferguson, he’s right about that. So there is pressure but that’s how it should be. I want to improve, and to learn each time I write a play. And I can still learn as much from a first-time writer as I can from people like Arthur Miller and August Wilson. I saw Spur Of The Moment at the Royal Court recently, written by a 17-year-old (Anya Reiss) and it was absolutely brilliant – such depth and complexity – and I came out really inspired by it.

DR: I know you go into schools from time to time, how do young people react to your plays now?

RW: They tell me they’re still relevant and it’s very flattering when people choose to study my plays for GCSE.

DR: Do you think it’s important for plays to have a message, whether for young people or anyone else?

RW: I think those sort of things are side-orders. The most important thing is the story. That’s the writer’s main responsibility. For me there are five key things when I see a play: I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to think, I want to be captivated and I want to feel. And that’s what I aspire to when I write.

DR: Going back to TV, I know that you’ve recently been working on Law And Order UK.

RW: It’s very different from theatre – it has established characters written by other people. But I’m really keen to learn more about TV and this was a good chance.

DR: Are you treated differently in TV?

RW: Yes, slightly. Because theatre is the writer’s medium whereas TV is more director-led and committee-led. But not many writers buy into that because that’s just the way it is.

DR: And what of your future ambitions?

RW: I’d like to get closer to writing a film. But mainly I want to continue doing what I’m doing, and with the cuts coming it’s going to be harder for writers to make a living, and we’re not that well paid anyway.

DR: I know that you’re working on a play about Marvin Gaye at the moment.

RW: Yes, I’m quite excited about that. It’s dealing with the last days of his life and is quite complicated and a moving story. It’s a challenge, but that’s what I look for.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Differently Staged – New Ways To Do Plays Now

A Writers’ Guild West Midlands Branch Event on Thursday 9th December 7:30pm at the Blue Orange Theatre, 118 Great Hampton St, Birmingham, B18 6AD

Achieving Great Art For Everyone – the Arts Council have launched their new policy (in the light of the announced government cuts). So, what does this mean for writers? This is a panel discussion examining how to get work done in the new financial and cultural climate.

We will explore the variety of ways playwrights can use their skills: from traditional commissions through collaborations, adaptations, writing to a brief, to dramaturgy of existing work and beyond.

The Writers’ Guild are looking to draw up guidelines for some of these new approaches and we intend this event to feed into this.

There will be a guest panel, to be chaired by David Edgar, Guild President.

Nick Walker is the writer with Coventry based theatre company Talking Birds, whose work is often performed in unusual sites, though its most recent production We Love You City has just finished a run at the Belgrade. He is writer/ producer with radio indie Top Dog with 2 Radio 4 series currently in production. He has had 2 novels published, and has worked extensively in radio, television and film.

Raidene Carter is Associate Producer at Birmingham Rep, managing its BME Theatre Initiative to develop and produce new work and artists. Prior to this she worked at The Albany in Deptford, Talawa Theatre Company and The Lyric Hammersmith to deliver work with young people, community engagement, artist development and arts programming.

Stephanie Dale is a playwright who writes for stage, radio and large-scale theatre. Current work includes; Squaring the Circle and Dealing With Dreams (The Birmingham REP) Mary Macarthur (MAT) See Me Hear Me (Women in Theatre) and Believe Me (BBC Radio Four). Stephanie also lectures at Loughborough University and is a supervisor on the Mphil in Playwriting at Birmingham University.

Catherine Edwards is a freelance project manager and dramaturg. For the last three years, she ran Script, the regional development agency for dramatic writers in the West Midlands. She is currently curating a festival of new writing in Birmingham, which aims to provide a platform for the talents of regional writers and theatre-makers.

The Blue Orange Theatre is a new venue in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter - the bar will be open!

Free for Writers’ Guild members, £5 non-members (pay on door).
To confirm attendance please email Jenny at

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Work by Guild members in next seven days

MARTIN ALLEN wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Friday 19th November.

BILL ARMSTRONG wrote all five episodes of the new series The Indian Doctor starring Mark Williams, Ayesha Dharker and Sanjeev Bhaskar. It goes out on BBC1 at 2:15pm from Monday 15th till Friday 19th November.

MARK BURT wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 15th November.

JANE BUSSMANN is performing Bussmann's Holiday: The Worst Date Ever at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London on 7th and 8th December and on 14th December at The Houses of Parliament, Grand Committee Room, Westminster, London.

DAVID CROFT and JIMMY PERRY wrote the episode of Dad's Army "Sons of the Sea" going out on BBC2 at 7:30pm on Saturday 13th November.

TIM DYNEVOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Monday 15th November.

DARREN FAIRHURST wrote the episode of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 17th November.

STEVEN FAY wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th November.

CHRIS FEWTRELL wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:00pm on Thursday 18th November.

ALISON FISHER'S short story took first place in the Bridport Prize judged by Zoe Heller.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of Casualty "The Enemy Within" going out on BBC1 at 8:20pm on Saturday 13th November.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 14th till Friday 19th November. Each episode is repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

ROBERT FORREST wrote the episode of The Pillow Book going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Monday 15th November.

JONATHAN HARVEY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 19th November.

ADRIAN HODGES'S screenplay for the film My Week with Marilyn is currently being shot at Pinewood Studios, starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier. The director is Simon Curtis and the producer is David Parfitt.

JAYNE HOLLINSON wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Monday 15th November.

ALISON JOSEPH wrote the episode of SOS: Save Our Souls "Signing" going out on Radio 4 at 7:45pm on Sunday 14th November.

NEIL LEYSHON'S fictional response to a story in the week's news From Fact to Fiction goes out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm on Saturday 13th November.

JANE MARLOW wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 15th of November.

JIMMY McGOVERN has been interviewed by the broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson about his life and career on BBC4 at 9:00pm - 10:00pm on Sunday 21st November. Covering such topics as his memories of working-class Liverpool, how his struggles with speech drove his love of words and the impact of Catholicism on him. The pair also reflect on his writing achievements, from Brookside and Cracker through to the controversial 1994 film Priest and the BBC drama Accused.

ROLAND MOORE'S series Land Girls won four RTS Midlands Awards at the 2010 ceremony in November. The series won Best Drama, Best Actress (Sophie Ward), Best Actor (Danny Webb), and Best Newcomer (Becci Gemmell). Congratulations to all the cast and crew!

PAUL MYATT wrote the episode of Doctors "The Men Who Came to Dinner" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Thursday 11th November.

DAVID NOBBS co-wrote the episode of Reggie Perrin going out on BBC1 at 9:30pm on Thursday 18th November.

HOWARD OVERMAN wrote the episode of Merlin "Queen of Hearts" going out on BBC1 at 7:20pm on Saturday 13th November. His series Misfits continues it's second series on E4 at 10:00pm on Thursday 18th November.

CHRISTOPHER REASON wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 7:30pm on Thursday 18th November.

STEPHEN SHERIDAN'S Writers' Guild award-winning dramatisation of Anthony Horowitz's children's novel Groosham Grange is being repeated on BBC7 at 5:00am on Friday 12th November.

DAVID STAFFORD co-wrote the episode of Hazelbeach going out on Radio 4 at 11:30am on Wednesday 17th November.

BARRY STONE'S novel Barking At Winston has been published by Zircon Press (ISBN 978095663204) and is available at bookshops now for £6.99.

BILL TAYLOR wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 18th November.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writers in schools

The Arts Council has published a new report written by Sue Horner looking at the work of writers in schools:
This report...summarises project evaluations and research projects about writers in schools, and analyses which methods are effective alongside the challenges faced. The report identifies the main trends from the written evidence and suggests ways to strengthen this important contribution to children and young people's learning and creativity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Rally for S4C

Writers' Guild members ensured a high turn out at a rally on Saturday in Cardiff against the coalition's ill thought out plans for Welsh broadcaster S4C.

Nearly 2,000 people attended a rally outside the old Welsh Office building to hear speakers including Ieuan Wyn Jones AM (Deputy First Minister at the Welsh Assembly), Paul Flynn MP and David Donovan of Bectu, argue against a cut in the Welsh broadcaster's budget.

Speakers called for a re-think of the hastily made deal with the BBC over funding for the channel and certainty of the broadcaster's independence.

The Welsh Language Society is calling upon people to stop paying the licence fee from 1st of December 2010 in protest against the government's plans for the channel. Writer Angharad Tomos - who spent 3 months in prison during the hard-fought campaign to establish the channel in 1980 - spoke in support of this action during the rally.

Members of the Guild are encouraged to write to their MP calling for a review of the government's decision to cut S4C's grant and the move to make the BBC pay for it.

By Roger Williams

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Downton Abbey fans brace for farewell

Downton Abbey (written by Julian Fellowes) has been ITV's most successful costume drama since Brideshead Revisited, and a second series is on the way.

By Viv Groskop in The Guardian:
Downtown's makers, Carnival Films – owned by the US media giant NBC Universal – are poised to make millions by selling the format overseas, having footed 25% of the cost of producing the series, with ITV paying the remainder. That is unusual: most commissions are paid for solely by the channel which first screens it, but NBC has deeper pockets than most. But as the ITV chief executive, Adam Crozier, hinted this week, Downton Abbey also signals a new direction for ITV, away from "lowest common denominator" shows such as X Factor towards more arts programming and quality drama.

Work by Guild members in next seven days

RAY BROOKING wrote the episode of Doctors "Tiny Whispers" going out on BBC1 at 1:45pm on Friday 5th November.

JANE BUSSMANN is performing Bussmann's Holiday: The Worst Date Ever at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London on 7th and 8th December and on 14th December at The Houses of Parliament, Grand Committee Room, Westminster, London.

PAUL COATES wrote the episodes of Hollyoaks going out on C4 at 6:30pm on Wednesday 10th, Thursday 11th and Friday 12th November.

DAVID CROFT and JIMMY PERRY co-wrote the episode of Dad's Army "No Spring for Frazer" going out on BBC2 at 8:00pm on Saturday 6th November.

SIMON CROWTHER wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Monday 8th November.

JAMES DANIEL has written his first children’s book, The Pickle-Smith Trunk-Warmer – a schoolboy inventor’s tale stuffed with brainy ideas, skiing elephants and warty jungle trolls. Illustrated by Gavin Brearey, the book is published by EarthMonkey Media. See

CLIVE DAWSON'S screenplay The Animators, in development at Qwerty Films, was voted on to the Ruby Films/BBC Films Brit List of best unproduced screenplays written this year.

MAUREEN DUFFY'S play Sappho Singing, starring Jackie Skarvellis, is on at Teatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, NW1 1TT from 16th till 20th November at 8:00pm (matinee at 2:30pm on Saturday) and at The White Bear, 138 Kennington Park Road, SE11 4DJ on 28th November at 8:30pm and on 29th at 7:30pm. Book tickets at and

ANDREW ELLARD'S radio sitcom pilot I'm Not With Him is now available - free! iTunes: Direct:

FIONA EVANS' play The Price of Everything is on from 28th October till 13th November with The Stephen Joseph Theatre Company Westborough, Scarborough, YO11 1JW. Tickets cost between £10 and £20 with student tickets just £7 and can be booked by calling the Box Office on 01723 370541 or online at

LISA EVANS' play The Day The Waters Came will be on at Takeoff Festival on 12th November and at The Drum, Plymouth from 23rd-27th November.

JULIAN FELLOWES wrote the episode of Downton Abbey going out on ITV1 at 9:00pm on Sunday 7th November.

RACHEL FLOWERDAY wrote the episode of Casualty "Hands On" going out on BBC1 at 8:40pm on Saturday 6th November.

ADRIAN FLYNN wrote the episodes of The Archers going out on Radio 4 at 7:00pm from Sunday 7th till Friday 12th November. Each episode is repeated at 2:00pm the day following its original broadcast.

JEREMY FRONT'S dramatisation of A Charles Paris Mystery: Cast in Order of Disappearance concludes on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Thursday 11th November.

ROB GITTINS wrote the episode of EastEnders going out on BBC1 at 8:00pm on Monday 8th November.

PIPPA HINCHLEY is the runner-up in the nextventertainment competition in L.A. with her Victorian, supernatural love story feature: One White Crow.

JULIE JONES wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 8:30pm on Thursday 11th November.

RICHARD McBRIAN co-wrote the episode of Spooks going out on BBC1 at 9:00pm on Monday 8th November.

NICHOLAS McINERNY has a play-reading of Lazyeye coming up at the Tristan Bates Theatre, the Actors Centre, WC2H 9NP on Thursday 11th November at 4:00pm.

JAN McVERRY wrote the episode of Coronation Street going out on ITV1 at 7:30pm on Friday 12th November.

CAROLINE MITCHELL wrote the episodes of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Thursday 11th November.

JONATHAN MYERSON'S Number Ten continues on Radio 4 at 2:15pm on Monday 8th November.

DAVID NOBBS co-wrote the episode of Reggie Perrin going out on BBC1 at 9:30pm on Thursday 11th November.

JANE PEARSON wrote the episode of Emmerdale going out on ITV1 at 7:00pm on Friday 12th November.

CLIVE WOOLLANDS has had his first book Blood Moon published under the pseudonym Robert H. Tempest. It is available for uploading as an ebook for £4.37 and in paperback for £6.88.

GRAHAM WOOLNOUGH'S one-man play Tea with the Old Queen, based on the fictional diaries of William Tallon. The production runs from 23rd November to 27th November at 8:00pm at the Old Sorting Office, 49 Station Road, Barnes Green, London SW13 0LF. Tickets are £9.50 (conc. £8.50), Box office: 02088769885.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Theatre Encouragement Awards 2010

The Theatre Committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain presented its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing at a lunch ceremony at the Royal Court Theatre Bar today.

The awards, the brainchild of former committee member, playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give members the opportunity to thank those who had given them a particularly positive experience in new writing over the previous year. This also gives the committee and the Guild the chance to celebrate rather than solely focusing on members’ and industry problems. All those who have ever participated -- both as nominators and winners – have appreciated the personal meaningfulness of these awards, and the sincerity of feeling involved.

The winners of the sixth annual awards are:

Chris Bridgman, Director, North West Playwrights, nominated by Harvey Cox.

‘Chris’s constructive criticism while writing and rewriting of a play I have been developing has done a great deal to help me, as a novice, to improve my writing. He has a superb ability to home in on weaknesses in a script, without undermining one's confidence. Whenever I leave a discussion with him, even if he has not leapt up and down and hailed me as the next Stoppard, Pinter or Ayckbourn, I feel good about what has been said and ready to look at my work again and make it better. This is so valuable to someone who has not yet had anything commissioned, but is thinks he has it in him to do so one day.’ (Harvey Cox)

Neil McPherson, Artistic Director, and the Finborough Theatre, nominated independently by Sarah Grochala and Iain Finlay Macleod

‘Neil MacPherson and the Finborough Theatre have been very supportive of my writing in the last twelve months and through them I have managed to have two of my plays shown in London. Although I have had plays on throughout Europe and the US, this is the first time I have had a production on in London, it has been very beneficial in many ways. One of the plays, I was a Beautiful Day, also transferred to Glasgow's Tron Theatre for a short run. They are extremely supportive of writers, a great team, and, most importantly, great audiences!’ (Iain Macleod)

‘The simple reason for this nomination is for their encouragement, championing and support of older writers, as well as younger ones. They understand that sometimes talent can take time and experience to develop and that it’s not only the under 30s who might have something new and fresh to say about the world.’ (Sarah Grochala)

Purni Morell, Head of Studio, the Royal National Theatre, nominated by Timberlake Wertenbaker

'Since Purni has taken it over, the National Theatre Studio has been amazingly open to writers of all kinds, allowing real experimentation and freedom and encouraging more daring work.

‘I am extremely grateful to her, who convinced me to spend some weeks at the studio developing anything I wanted. There is no pressure, everyone is very nice but no one is looking over your shoulder and it's made clear that if you just want to think for a few weeks, that's fine. This lack of pressure was inspiring, and a weekly gathering for the writers who were there (five in all) and the various directors, some from abroad, was part of the pleasure as well. Purni made sure these were fun, relaxed, non-hierarchical. It was a great experience and I attribute the ease of it and lack of preciousness to Purni. She's forged a very distinct identity in the Studio and I felt incredibly encouraged and free (and I wrote a play.)

‘It was only at the very end that Purni convinced me to show her the play, again without pressure, and she has been incredibly helpful with its development and given me much needed confidence. I've spoken to many other writers who have had the same experience there. I think her range of interest is remarkably broad but she is also one of those people who passionately defends what she likes as opposed to what everyone else is liking at the moment. She makes writers feel safe but asks them not to be safe. Such people are rare and deserve recognition.’ (Timberlake Wertenbaker)

The Orange Tree Theatre (Sam Walters, Artistic Director, and Alan Strachan, freelance director) nominated by Ben Brown

‘Alan Strachan, directed my play, The Promise, at the Orange Tree (as he did my previous plays) and, as other writers have found too, he is the perfect new play director. Sam Walters, who produced it, deserves especial credit for enormously increasing his new writing production: as well, he just produced another one-act new play from a first time writer and is producing two more in his new season.’ (Ben Brown)

David Thacker, Artistic Director of the Bolton Octagon nominated by Aelish Michael

‘David has commissioned my play about the steeplejack Fred Dibnah, The Demolition Man, for the main house in spring 2011. Since he ran a workshop on an early draft of the play last March, David has acted as dramaturg on the development of the piece, which is my first full-blown commission. His fantastic intuitive flair for knowing what works dramatically has been invaluable through various drafts over the last few months. His faith in the project and in me has instilled me with greater confidence as a playwright, encouraging me to produce the best possible play that I can. David is demanding and a stickler for detail,but in the kindest, most positive, most generous way. His uniquely supportive and inspiring approach, always sprinkled with good humour, has made the work on the play an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.’ (Aelish Michael)

Previous winners of the Guild's Theatre Encouragement Awards have been:

  • Sarah Brigham, Associate Director, Dundee Rep
  • Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director, The Globe Theatre
  • Kevin Dyer, Writer
  • Fifth Word Theatre Company of Derby (Angharad Jones and Laura Ford)
  • Bill Hopkinson, Director/ Dramaturg
  • Arnaud Mugglestone, Director
  • Joe Devlin, artistic director, Focus Theatre, Dublin
  • Elske van Holk, director of STET Promotions, the English language theatre for The Hague
  • Lakeside Theatre, Nottingham (Matt Aston, Theatre Programmer/ Producer)
  • Annette Mees, Project Director
  • The Menagerie Theatre, Cambridge (Paul Bourne, Patrick Morris & Holly Race),
  • Oldham Coliseum Theatre (Kevin Shaw, Natalie Brown, Michelle Temperley and Jodie Lamb)
  • Andrew Breakwell, Director of the Roundabout Company at Nottingham Playhouse
  • Suzy Graham-Adriani, producer, Youth Theatre Projects, Royal National Theatre
  • Clive Paget, musical consultant, Royal National Theatre
  • Frances Poet, associate director (literary), Hampstead Theatre
  • Peter Rowe, artistic director, Wolsey Theatre Ipswich
  • Adele Thomas, director, RuthIsStrangerThanRichard, Cardiff
  • Gwenda Hughes, Director and Producer
  • Claire Malcolm, Director, and Anna Summerford, Deputy Director, New Writing North
  • Joe Sumsion, Artistic Director/ Chief Exec, Action Transport Theatre Company
  • Watford Palace Theatre (Joyce Branagh, Mary Caws, Lawrence Till)
  • Lorrie Sheehy, director, First Look Independent Productions
  • Richard Lee, director of Alec French Architects, Bristol
  • Katherine Mendelsohn, literary manager, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
  • Jeremy James Taylor, artistic director, National Youth Music Theatre

World Service drama

A guest post by radio drama producer Gordon House.

Given that I spent much of my professional life working initially as producer and then as Head of the small BBC World Service Drama team, it is hardly surprising that I feel so dismayed by the announcement that from April next year World Service will no longer be broadcasting drama in their schedules. Well, that’s not strictly true; they will still transmit the winning plays in the biennial World Service play competition, but how can these prize winners feel valued in splendid isolation, with no regular output of drama against which to compare their work?

The World Service management has decided ‘with a heavy heart’ that finances are so precarious, drama must be sacrificed. I sympathise with the predicament faced by Craig Oliver, the English Controller of Global News. (Not a title, incidentally, to inspire those working under him in non-news areas!) For too long programme budgets have been salami-sliced to spread the misery evenly amongst different programme areas. While an entire year’s World Service drama budget would hardly keep the National Theatre open for a week, drama – because of its talent costs – is expensive in pure radio terms. How tempting it must be for a Controller reviewing a financial spread sheet to think of it as an expendable luxury in these cash-conscious times.

But does that justify killing off a whole genre?

Let me give you a brief history of drama on the World Service.

It appeared in the schedules from the outset of the BBC’s international broadcasting in 1932, on what was then called The Empire Service. If you were take any week at random – say the first week of June 1936 – you would find, sandwiched between a talk on Agriculture In The British Isles by Sir William Lobjoit and Idle Tears; An Interlude Of Victorian Sentimental Songs - a new play written for broadcasting by J.S.N Sewell, beguilingly entitled A Lady Loved A Swine.

Children were catered for too. The citizens of Toytown were already squabbling and making up in S.G. Hulme Beaman’s inspired children’s fantasy, which twenty years later, on the BBC Home Service, would be my first entree into the wonderful world of Radio Drama (I was a vegetarian for three years, fearful that I might otherwise be eating a close relation of Larry the Lamb). And if the whole family wanted a little gentle scaring, on Thursdays you could listen to extracts from old thrillers -The Plays Your Grandparents Loved” – performed with suitable gusto by Jenny Lyn and the wonderfully-named Tod Slaughter.

The Empire Service became the General Overseas Service; its listings magazine changed from The Empire Programme Pamphlet through World Radio to London Calling. And drama flourished. In the mid-1950’s Peter Forster would be writing a page preview of each week’s drama offerings – a rich mix indeed; not simply half hour plays and the early episodes of a new series – “a story of country folk” called The Archers, but major dramatisations of great works of literature and the stage (Donald Wolfit starring as Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit; John Gielgud and Rex Harrison in The Importance of Being Earnest ). And on 2nd December 1954, the General Overseas Service re-broadcast an original radio drama, the winner of the 1954 Prix Italia, starring Richard Burton, and arguably the greatest radio play ever written – Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, who had died at a tragically early age the previous year.

But what the network lacked was a Radio Drama Unit of its own; the plays it broadcast – largely of British origin – were made for a strictly British audience. This was a problem both technical and editorial. Many of the dramas, drawing on shared cultural assumptions and knowledge, must have sounded ludicrously inapposite for listeners living in Delhi or Nairobi; and shortwave was a dispiritingly ineffective medium for the dissemination of the sort of subtly-realised sound backgrounds that accompanied plays on the BBC Home Service. And so the General Overseas Service created its own small team of drama producers, with the express purpose of making their plays more relevant – and audible – to its international listenership.

I joined the World Service drama team as an attachee producer in 1977; it was the start of 23 marvellous years, in which the Unit changed out of all recognition. But the professional seeds had been sown long before I joined; John Pitman and Jim Vowden were two much-respected producers who between them directed some of the world’s great classic dramas with major British actors. And two of the projects of which I am most proud, the establishment of our biennial International Play Competition and the launch of Westway, the World Service soap (under the inspirational editorship of another long standing World Service producer, David Hitchinson) had their genesis in prior initiatives by Dickon Reed and Derek Hoddinott.

My first production was an abridged version of Becket’s Waiting For Godot with George Cole, Norman Rodway and Charles Gray; the quality of the cast an indication of the acting talent that we’ve always been able to attract to Bush House. My colleague Hilary Norrish and I gave Ewan McGregor his first two professional acting roles; Walter Acosta – a much-loved Uruguayan drama producer (who for many years had Sir John Gielgud voicing his ansaphone) gave Trevor Howard his last role – as King Lear. Squeezing every penny out of budgets that are, and remained, extremely modest for the work produced, we initiated a project called Globe Theatre where major authors such as Wole Soyinka, Frederick Rapahel and Mario Vargas Llosa wrote us international radio plays.

We teamed up with Los Angeles Theatre Works to make radio plays in America (where I directed Ally McBeal’s Calista Flockhart in The Glass Menagerie). We produced Shakespeare seasons, and toured Africa promoting the Bard; we ran drama workshops in Zimbabwe and Cameroon; we formed the Worldplay Group and scheduled international seasons with Radio Drama producers from all around the world. We mounted co-production initiatives with CBC, with ABC and with the British Council, all designed to spread budgets and increase our effectiveness. And we started to win awards – David Suchet for his extraordinary rendering of The Kreutzer Sonata; Ian Holm for a magisterial performance in The Mystery of Edwin Drood; David Hitchinson for his superb production of The Heart of a Dog. In the last 20 years the Radio Drama Unit has won more than 30 national or international prizes.

When Marion Nancarrow succeeded me as Head of World Service Drama in 2000, she made the laudable decision to broaden further the international remit of the Unit, actively seeking voices from outside the UK to complement the diet of British and World classic dramas that continued to be broadcast. Runt, a one-man show about being Jamaican-American, won a Sony Gold for best Drama. Twelve young writers from 10 different countries wrote different segments of a play online on the theme of water. (We Are Water). Together with the Slade School of Fine Art, Marion commissioned videos from artists in Israel, Uganda, China and Australia, inspiring dramatists from these same countries to write the play The View From Here. After running a writing workshop in Qatar, Marion commissioned seven writers to devise a drama about life in the Middle East: Al Amwaj (The Waves.)

In October this year World Service listeners heard Stages Of Independence, a collaboration with British African Theatre company, Tiata Fahodzi, where in front of a packed house at the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London an ensemble cast performed excerpts from plays written in those African countries which gained independence 50 years ago. And the British writer Katie Hims is currently working with Theatre for a Change to bring World Service the stories of sex workers and teachers in Malawi, two of the highest risk groups for HIV/AIDS, which will be broadcast for International Women’s Day.

I repeat: do financial pressures justify killing off a whole genre and ending this rich cultural heritage? Drama forms part of the heritage, incidentally, that our new Foreign Secretary, in his speech earlier this year, ‘Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World’ was at such pains to single out. He spoke of ‘the essential importance of the work of the British Council and the BBC World Service, which give Britain an unrivalled platform for the projection of the appeal of our culture and the sharing of our values.’

The primary function of World Service must always be the dissemination of reliable news and information , but for me drama and storytelling are a vital complement to international news. A good play can shed light on issues and events that a straightforward news story simply can’t reach. A drama like this year’s Tinniswood Award winner, Ivan And The Dogs by Hattie Naylor, tells you more about immediate post-perestroika Moscow than any number of short news items, because drama gives you an emotional involvement and investment in its protagonists.

Besides which, radio dramas also provided a wonderful showcase (and creative outlet) for the rich seam of writing and acting talent to be found in the UK. By scheduling drama, World Service was providing programming with which no other international broadcaster could compete or remotely challenge. My former boss at BBC World Service, Anthony Rendell, used to talk about news and current affairs as being important but ephemeral, while drama, documentaries and other arts programmes as having more real and lasting value. Indeed for over half a century it was the belief of BBC overseas broadcasters and their government sponsors that a mixed network, was essential to reflect the full strength and variety of British life. Cutting drama, alongside recent cuts to many other non-news programmes, appears to mark a complete philosophical shift away from this view,

Drama, of course, will never provide the sheer audience numbers who tune in to hear the World Service news. Listening to a play demands an investment of time that many people simply don’t feel they have; it is their loss. I remember Graham Mytton, an ex-head of World Service Audience Research, patiently explaining to a group of sceptical suits from the Foreign Office that listeners would always respond to the question ‘What do you listen to on World Service?’ with the answer, ‘The news.’ But if the question was altered to ‘Which programme have you most valued, enjoyed or been moved by in the past year?’, the answer was invariably a documentary or a drama.

I am, of course, a very biased observer, but I can't help thinking that one day the penny might drop that, whatever the economic pressures, in terminating a whole strand of output, World Service managers have, like Othello's base Indian, ‘thrown a pearl away richer than all his tribe.’ Is it too late to reverse this decision? Surely the recent announcement that World Service will be funded by the licence fee could be the catalyst for Radio 4 to combine forces with World Service to devise dramas that could be enjoyed by both domestic and international listeners? I sincerely hope this might be the case.

Even those who find radio plays deadly dull might welcome the continuation of the genre. My very favourite letter of hundreds I received while Head of the World Service Drama Unit was from a listener in Uganda who wrote: “Thank you, thank you Mr House for your long and challenging dramas. I have great difficulty sleeping – until, that is, I start listening to one of your plays. Keep up the good work!”

Alas, from next April there will be no more good work, unless the World Service reverses its decision.

Gordon House worked in the World Service Drama Unit from 1977-2000, when he became Head of Radio Drama. He retired from the BBC in 2005, but continues to direct occasional radio plays as a freelance producer.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rali Fawr Na i Doriadau, Ie i S4C newydd

(No to cuts, Yes to a new S4C)

The Writers Guild of Great Britain is supporting the rally being held in Cardiff on Saturday 6th November to oppose the coalition government's move to cut S4C's budget by 25% and force it into bed with the BBC.

The Welsh language broadcaster is a casualty of the comprehensive spending review. A deal has been cobbled together by politicians who do not understand the unique issues relating to S4C and its important role in supporting the survival of the Welsh language.

The Guild calls on the government to look again at their hastily made decision on this matter and encourages its members to turn out for the rally at the weekend.

The rally starts at 11am on Saturday 6th of November at Park Place - The Old Welsh Office.

You can view a video (in Welsh) about the event on Roger Williams's Facebook page

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Robert Tressell Day - 5th February 2011

The Writers' Guild is one of the supporters of an event to celebrate Robert Tressell Day (5th February 2011) to commemorate the hundred year anniversary of the death of the writer of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist.

The event will take place at the St Leonards Assembly Rooms, East Ascent, St Leonards

Full details can be found on the event website.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Should all e-book formats have ISBNS?

On the Publishing Perspectives website, Erik Christopher asks whether publishers assign a unique ISBN for each e-book format of each title they publish.
[While] there is no universal answer as to whether or not each format requires individual ISBNs, one thing is indeed clear: take control of the process. The worse thing you can do is lose control of your content or let another entity (whether conversion house, distributor or retailer) control the metadata and, accordingly, the invisible ties that bind you to your customers. Ceding too much control takes you out of the picture and makes this already complex situation all the more challenging.