By Gail Renard
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, in association with the British Comedy Awards, has named the 2014 Comedy Writer of the Year.
Brendan O'Carroll (left), famous for writing and starring in BBC TV's Mrs. Brown's Boys, is this year's winner.
It took O'Carroll a long time to become a success. Mrs. Brown's Boys started as a radio play in Ireland in 1992, grew into novels, and a few years after that O'Carroll formed his own theatre company, using his friends and family to cut down costs. When the actress playing Mrs. Brown failed to show, O'Carroll put on the dress and 12 years later the Mrs. Brown's Boys TV series became a hit.
O'Carroll was touched to receive the WGGB award, which he hadn't expected. "It only took me five novels, two screenplays, seven plays and three series to get here."
Brendan O'Carroll is a lesson in hard work, perseverance and self-belief. He also makes millions of us laugh. What better reasons to honour a writer?
The British Comedy Awards will be broadcast at 9pm on Channel 4 on Wednesday 17 December 2014.
Watch a clip of last year's Mrs. Brown's Boys Christmas special:
Photo of Brendan O'Carroll by Ming Ho
The West Midlands Writers’ Guild has joined library staff, visitors and campaigners in condemning planned cuts to the new Library of Birmingham, which opened last year.
The plans, announced by Birmingham City Council last week, would mean the loss of around 100 staff, and opening hours cut from 73 to 40 hours a week.
"In its short time, the Library of Birmingham has become a huge focus for every kind of artistic, educational and media work that goes on in this exciting and vibrant city,” said Writers' Guild West Midlands regional representative William Gallagher. “You can't make a building be important but when it is, when it has become vital, you can easily throw all of that away.
"A Library of Birmingham that is staffed, open and used to the potential we were promised and that we have seen in action is a cause for civic, artistic and regional pride. A library that is closed is a defeat.
"That we have to fight for the library after only a year is an excoriating embarrassment for Birmingham. But that we will fight, that the writers and artists and public of our city are fighting for the library, is testament to what this building and its staff mean to us."
The £188-million library is Europe’s largest and the Labour-controlled Birmingham Council said it had no choice but to press ahead with plans in the light of Government cuts, which have seen the number of libraries in the UK fall by 7.5% since 2010.
“As the largest and most visited public library in Europe the Library of Birmingham is not only of regional importance but of national and international importance too. It should be treated as such,” said Writers’ Guild Deputy Chair and Birmingham resident Tim Stimpson.
“At a time when Manchester has just been awarded £78 million by central Government for a new ‘flexible art space’ it is not acceptable that Birmingham’s cultural sector has been left to fend for itself yet again.
“The West Midlands Writers’ Guild calls on the region’s citizens, its institutions and interest groups to come together to demand that the Library of Birmingham is given the financial support it requires.”
Writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer Sandi Toksvig will present the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain annual Awards at RIBA, in London, on the evening of Monday 19 January 2015.
High-profile writers from the worlds of TV, film, theatre, radio, books, poetry and videogames have been regulars at this annual, red-carpet event through its 50-year history.
The Awards, which launched in 1961, give professional writers from across Great Britain the opportunity to honour their peers, and celebrate the importance of writing to the creative industries, both nationally and abroad.
A special award for outstanding contribution to writing and writers is presented every year.
“As a long-standing member of the Writers' Guild I am delighted to be presenting the WGGB Awards,” said Sandi Toksvig. “I am looking forward to an evening of fun and fanfare.”
The shortlist in 13 categories is as follows:
TV Drama – Long Form
Line of Duty (Jed Mercurio), Happy Valley (Sally Wainwright), Peaky Blinders (Steven Knight)
TV Drama – Short Form
The Great Train Robbery (Chris Chibnall), Turks & Caicos (David Hare), Marvellous (Peter Bowker)
TV Drama – Long Running Series
Doctors, Series 15, Episode 66 “Silver on the Heath” (Toby Walton), Holby City, Series 16, Episode 13 “Self Control” (Rebecca Wojciechowski), Doctors, Series 16, Episode 42 “Boiling Point” (Dale Overton)
TV Situation Comedy
Up the Women (Jessica Hynes), Him and Her (Stefan Golaszewski), House of Fools (Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer)
Best Children’s TV Script
Bye Bye (Denise Cassar and the Bing Writing team), Wizards Versus Aliens: The Thirteenth Floor part 2 (Phil Ford), Strange Hill High: MCDXX Men (Mark Oswin & James Griffiths)
A Night Visitor (Stephanie Jacob), Magpie (Lee Mattinson), Dangerous Visions: The Bee Maker (Anita Sullivan)
Helen Keen’s It is Rocket Science (Helen Keen & Miriam Underhill), The Brig Society (Marcus Brigstoke with Jeremy Salsby, Toby Davies, Nick Doody, Dan Tetsell & Steve Punt), John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme (John Finnemore)
Best First Novel
The Shock of the Fall (Nathan Filer), A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Eimear McBride), Barbarians (Tim Glencross)
Best Writing in a Video Game
A Machine for Pigs (Dan Pinchbeck), 80 Days (Meg Jayanth), Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (Kevin Beimers)
Best First Screenplay
Pride (Stephen Beresford), The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard), Starred Up (Jonathan Asser)
Filth (Jon S Baird), Metro Manila (Sean Ellis & Frank E Flowers), Philomena (Jeff Pope & Steve Coogan)
James I (Rona Munro), Visitors (Barney Norris), Dr Scroggy’s War (Howard Brenton)
Best Play for Young Audiences
Minotaur (Kevin Dyer), The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Mike Kenny), Girls Like That (Evan Placey)
Follow the Awards on social media:
Maurice Perl (left) is a retired company directory from Bristol, who used to have a successful career in the business of road transport. He is an unlikely champion of new writing in theatre, but that is exactly what he has become. Over the past year he has taken on the mantle of de factor executive producer on Walking The Chains, a not-for-profit, community theatrical production which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It is an ambitious show, featuring high-wire circus acts and music, being performed at Brunel's Passenger Shed, Bristol Temple Meads Station, 13-25 January 2015.
His work on the project, entirely voluntary, has garnered Maurice one of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards 2014. The brainchild of playwright Mark Ravenhill, they were set up to give Guild members the opportunity to publicly thank those who provided them with a positive experience in new writing over the previous year.
“When he retired, I had just accepted a commission from the trustees of Clifton Suspension Bridge to write Walking The Chains,” explains Guild member Anthony Smith, who nominated Maurice for the award.
“It had to be independently produced, and I needed someone with a business head. Maurice joined up initially to oversee the financing, but his work has effectively grown into that of executive producer. He knows his limitations, without experience in theatre, but has formed six of us into a steering group that covers all the bases. He gees up the meetings, timetables work for the rest of us, does the budgeting, fixed the venue, spends his days sweet-talking sponsors and donors (raising £40k so far), prepared our successful Arts Council application, and has set up a team of teachers to organise in-school workshops and free school matinées. For the Arts Council budget he had to write in a fee for himself, but in the income column he is refunding it to the production, so he is working 24/7, for months, for the love of it. Without him, I don’t believe we could have got the show on.”
The awards, now into their 10th year, have been renamed in honour of playwright Olwen Wymark, lifelong supporter of the Guild and former Chair of the Theatre Committee, who died in 2013 aged 81. Her work includes, among many other productions, Find Me, Loved and Best Friends, and throughout her life she was an enthusiastic advocate of new writing.
“The awards have become one of the most rewarding events in our calendar,” says Nick Wood, current Chair of the Writers’ Guild Theatre Committee. “A time when we can say thank you to those remarkable people from all over the UK who never stop working to help us make theatre, and at a point when theatres and companies are not only fighting to make new work, but in some cases for survival in the face of the most stringent cuts the arts have seen. We need these dedicated individuals and their spirit and determination more than ever.”
The other three winners of the Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards 2014 are also testament to that spirit:
Martin Witts, Artistic Director of Leicester Square Theatre, London, was nominated by Guild member Richard Pinner, for his support of the Playwrights’ Progress script-development project (a joint initiative between the Writers’ Guild, Leicester Square Theatre and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama).
“Martin has been a great enthusiast for Playwrights’ Progress, looking to broaden his theatre operation, embrace new writing and more innovative stage work,” explains Richard Pinner. “He offered the use of his theatre, staff and marketing team for free, and at the highly successful showcase event, staged at his theatre in May this year, was the warmest host, offering free drinks to the participants and footing the lunch bill for guests. As a result of Martin's support, the Writers’ Guild Theatre Committee is now planning significant developments for the future. Although Leicester Square Theatre is a purely commercial venture, with a reputation (second to none in the UK) for stand-up and alternative comedy – and it has never received a penny from the Arts Council – Martin has demonstrated the kind of extraordinary largesse to the cause of new writing that would grace any ACE revenue client.”
Joanna Read, Principal of London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), was nominated by Guild member Lisa Evans, who was commissioned by Joanna to adapt Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (being performed at London’s Pleasance Theatre in spring 2015).
“LAMDA stands to make little money for public performances of plays, yet Joanna Read continues to commission new work, often with women performers in mind,” says Lisa Evans. “She also regularly commissions LAMDA’s ‘Long Project’, which enables writers to create plays with large casts – something we all know is otherwise impossible unless under commission by the Royal National Theatre or the Royal Shakespeare Company. It also gives young actors the opportunity to experience working on new writing over a period of time and to understand something of the writer’s creative process, both before and during rehearsals. Joanna is tenacious, honest and loyal and has a talent for bringing together creatives to inspire and provoke innovative theatre, despite very small budgets.”
Adam Pownall, Programme Co-ordinator at Derby Theatre, was nominated by Guild member Nick Wood, for Adam’s support of his play A Girl With A Book, in his previous role as Theatre Co-ordinator at Create Theatre, Mansfield.
“Create Theatre is part of West Notts College. West Notts College is on the outskirts of Mansfield. When Adam Pownall arrived it was little more than an idea,” recalls Nick Wood. “He turned it into a vital part of the East Midlands theatre scene. He encouraged new companies, he encouraged new writing, he found ways to offer support. When I began touring my one-man play A Girl With A Book last year his was the first name I called. By the end of the phone call I had a booking and a workshop set up. In a short while he has made something exciting and challenging out of nothing.”
The four winners received their awards at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 28 November 2014.
Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards 2014: winners, nominees and guests, at the Royal Court Theatre, London
The space interactive characters inhabit is very different from that found in film, television or books, so how does the process of creating them differ?
In this annual Guild panel event, a group of experienced games writers will examine a variety of techniques used in videogames character creation and explore how they have used them in their own projects. The panel includes: Martin Korda (Need for Speed), Maurice Suckling (Borderlands), Tom Jubert (FTL), James Swallow (Deus Ex) and Chair of the Guild’s Videogames Committee Andrew Walsh (Fable Legends).
Character Crafting: Creating Characters for an Interactive World is being run in association with London South Bank University and the International Game Developers Association, 7pm, 4 December 2014 (Keyworth Theatre A, Keyworth Centre, Keyworth Street, London South Bank University, London SE1 6NG). Entry is free.