Giving books room to breathe

on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 18:34. Posted in Books and Poetry

Elsbeth Lindner introduces


I’m not a writer.

I know this because, even though I’ve published a novel, I’ve learned that writers are only happy when they are writing. And I’m happier reading.

How do I know this about writers? Because I’ve spent my professional life, some four decades now, working alongside them. I’ve edited, published, interviewed and, I hope, assisted writers while working for publishers, literary magazines and now my website which, as it says on the masthead, is a ‘breathing space for books and writers.’

I like writers. Not only do they use language with invention and delicacy, but they think for a living. Writers are often prescient, which comes, I assume, from thinking just that little bit harder about what’s going on and where it’s leading than the rest of us do.

Perhaps it was a spark of rubbed-off authorial foresight that inspired me to launch bookoxygen, although in truth I think the notion came from having written book reviews for some years and noticing (especially in the USA, where I lived for a while, but here in the UK too) that with newspapers under increasing financial pressure, space for culture generally and book reviews specifically was shrinking.

Public statement on the English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

on Monday, 03 December 2012 17:07. Posted in General

The Writers’ Guild would like to register deep concern at the exclusion of the arts as qualifying subjects in current proposals for the English Baccalaureate. While recognising the importance of certain subjects – such as English, maths and science - we believe that core recognition of cultural and artistic subjects, both appreciation and practice, is also a vital component of a rounded education.

In addition the UK’s education system needs to recognise that culture, the arts and education do in fact contribute greatly to the economy. The creative industries provide six per cent of Britain’s GDP, £16 billion in exports, and employ at least 2 million people.

In particular, the Guild is concerned about:

  • The lack of any prior consultation with teachers, students, parents or creative writers before EBacc was brought in
  • The disincentivisation of schools to offer arts subjects, through the retrospective recalculation of the school league tables according to EBacc subjects
  • The particular impact of EBacc on the teaching of drama, and the knock-on effect this will have on plays, playwriting and performances in schools.

Theatre Encouragement Awards 2012

on Monday, 03 December 2012 07:38. Posted in Theatre

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 at the end of November.

theatre-encouragement awards 

Awards winners and nominators: Front row: Sayan Kent (writer), Janet Steel (Artistic Director, Kali Theatre), James Hadley (Relationship Officer, Arts Council England), Josie Rourke (Artistic Director, Donmar Warehouse), Stewart Permutt (writer) Back row: Anne Hogben (Deputy General Secretary, WGGB), David James (writer), Robin Soans (writer), Nick Quinn (agent, The Agency)

The awards, the brainchild of the playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give Guild members the opportunity publicly 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 a welcome opportunity to celebrate, rather than focus solely on members’ problems.

The winners are:

James Hadley, nominated by David James

At a time when Arts Council England (ACE) is deeply challenged both by funding cuts and seemingly endless restructuring, and one hears a great deal of disquietude from so many ACE officers, James's energy, enthusiasm and commitment to his specialist field of musical theatre is huge. We have worked together for almost three years, and he has guided me through three successful Grants for Arts applications to support the BOOK Music & Lyrics (BML) musical theatre writing workshop programme I founded in 2010. He has answered endless questions, pointed out numerous places where points of argument on the applications could be strengthened, and always had time for another telephone conversation or meeting to discuss not only the applications but the BML programme as a whole and how it is strategically developing as an ongoing asset for musical theatre writers for the foreseeable future. He is a warm, friendly, and stable support for me. We meet regularly, and he has made the time to visit the workshop sessions. James had to take on a very responsible role as the major supporter of musical theatre at ACE in quite a condensed period of time. He also realises the complexity of the collaborative process of musical theatre and how far the British sector still has to go to achieve its full potential. More importantly, he is also aware of how much he himself still has to experience and learn to guide the sector forward most effectively.

Guild backs S4C defiance in badger cull story

on Friday, 30 November 2012 20:03. Posted in TV

Pobol y CwmThe Guild has backed S4C’s refusal to scrap a repeat episode of soap opera Pobol y Cym following a complaint by the Welsh Government.

According to the BBC News Wales website, ministers complained after a character on the BBC-produced TV series said the Welsh government "doesn't have the backbone" to cull badgers.A planned cull in west Wales was cancelled in March when ministers decided to vaccinate badgers instead.

The Welsh government claims that S4C and BBC Wales, which makes the programme that has run for 38 years, have breached editorial guidelines and that the government has been denied a right of reply.

S4C, however, said the programme included a variety of viewpoints and repeated Wednesday's episode on Thursday as planned.

Guild General secretary Bernie Corbett congratulated S4C on 'standing up to the most bovine attempt at censorship in broadcasting history'.

One Guild member commented on Facebook: 'When soaps do try and be contemporary, and let their characters talk in a credible way about issues affecting their lives, they get this sort of [rubbish] from politicians. This objection is totally unreasonable – not a breach of guidelines – but it still causes trouble for the programme-makers and broadcasters.'

Dickens: a writers’ contemporary

on Friday, 30 November 2012 19:50. Posted in Events

Liverpool event asks: How influential is the work of Charles Dickens on contemporary writers? 

As we celebrate the bicentenary of his birth, a panel of leading established and emerging writers will discuss the relevance of Charles Dickens to their own work and why his work remains relevant to readers and writers.

The event, organised by the Guild, is chaired by the Reader Organisation’s Amanda Brown. Panellists include: screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce; playwright David Edgar; screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes; film and radio scriptwriter Ayeesha Menon, and novelist and playwright Deborah Morgan.

7-9pm, 4 December 

St George’s Hall, Small Concert Room, St George’s Place, Liverpool L1 

Tickets: £10 (£5 concessions)

For more information and bookings visit the Eventbrite page

Second World Conference of Screenwriters

on Friday, 23 November 2012 14:16. Posted in Events

 A report by Gail Renard, Chair of the Writers' Guild Television Committee


Following the success of the first World Conference of Screenwriters in Athens in 2009, the second convened in Barcelona on 9 and 10 November 2012. Writers from all over the world met to discuss how we could continue to create for a living.

Andrea Gibb, from the WGGB Film Committee, reported on the Written Into The Picture project. The brainchild of Guy Hibbert, it researched the visibility of writers at film festivals, for which you’d need a Hubble space telescope. Writers often aren’t given invitations to festivals where their films are being shown; nor are they asked to sit on panels or Q & A’s. At one event, Andrea told us, the writer took the coats. But these festivals are vital to our business and writers need to see and be seen.

Of the 271 film festivals approached to fill out the Written Into The Picture questionnaire, only 50 responded. The Writers Guild of America pressed the most influential of all, Sundance, who agreed that writers should be present and credited at their festival . And if the production company doesn’t invite the writer, Sundance will give them two tickets. Now we have to get other festivals to follow suit. As Andrea said, 'You shouldn’t of afraid of saying "I want to go". It’s your film!'