Eva Figes 1932-2012

on Sunday, 16 September 2012 19:03. Posted in Books and Poetry

By Nick Yapp

Eva Figes

Eva Figes, who died last month, grew up the hard way. She was born in Berlin in April 1932, just six months before Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. During the Nazi persecution Eva’s father was arrested and spent some time in Dachau concentration camp before being inexplicably released. Eva, her sister and her parents escaped from Germany in 1939 and came to live in Britain. Fear gave way to bewilderment, but in 1953 Eva left Queen Mary College, University of London with a good degree, and with the determination to become a writer. As such, she became internationally famous, writing both prize-winning and experimental novels, literary criticism and polemics, of which the most famous is Patriarchal Attitudes: Women In Society, published in 1970.

Stubborn, outspoken, passionate and deeply concerned for the welfare and standing of writers in society, Eva became a member of the Guild as soon as book writers became eligible to join, in 1974. Two years later, she and Tim Jeal, both newcomers to the Authors’ Committee (forerunner the Books Committee of the Guild), worked together to draw up a draft Minimum Terms Agreement (MTA) between writers and publishers. It was a mammoth task, combing through an immense pile of existing publishers’ contracts to select and collate the best practicable terms. Then came the struggle to persuade publishers to accept the MTA. The draft was mailed to 50 leading publishing houses. Almost without exception, publishers dismissed the idea that there was any need to depart from the old system of gentlemanly exploitation of writers. Eventually, Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, Managing Director of Hamish Hamilton, entered into voluntary negotiations with the Guild, and the first MTA was signed in July 1977. Sinclair-Stevenson’s brave initiative may well have been influenced by the fact that three of his leading writers at the time – Brigid Brophy, Maureen Duffy and Elizabeth Jane Howard – were all members of the Guild’s Authors’ Committee.

Writers' Guild Awards 2012 shortlists

on Friday, 14 September 2012 10:58. Posted in General

The shortlists for the 2012 Writers’ Guild Awards have now been decided. The winners will be announced on Wednesday November 14 at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill.

Best Continuing Drama Series

  • Casualty: Saturday Night Fever - Sasha Hails
  • Coronation Street: Becky’s Final Farewell - Debbie Oates
  • Hollyoaks: A Little Film About Love by Jason Costello - Nick Leather

Best Play for Children and Young People

  • Angel - Kevin Dyer
  • Hare & Tortoise - Brendan Murray
  • Holloway Jones - Evan Placey

Best Videogame Script

  • Batman: Arkham City - Paul Crocker
  • Risen 2: Dark Waters - Gordon Rennie, Alan Barnes, Emma Beeby
  • Zombies, Run! - Naomi Alderman

Best First Feature Film

  • Black Pond - Will Sharpe, Tom Kingsley
  • Resistance - Owen Sheers, Amit Gupta
  • Wild Bill - Danny King, Dexter Fletcher

Best Children’s TV Script

  • 4 O'Clock Club: Maths - Dan Berlinka
  • Horrible Histories - Dave Cohen, Ali Crockatt, Gerard Foster, Giles Pilbrow, Laurence Rickard, David Scott, George Sawyer, Ben Ward, Steve Punt
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Curse of Clyde Langer - Phil Ford

Best Radio Drama

  • Life and Fate - Jonathan Myerson, Mike Walker
  • Pandemic - John Dryden
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys - Hattie Naylor

Best Screenplay

  • Even the Rain - Paul Laverty
  • Tyrannosaur - Paddy Considine
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear

Best Fiction Book

  • Alys, Always – Harriet Lane
  • The Last Hundred Days - Patrick McGuinness
  • Then - Julie Myerson

Best Short-Form TV Drama

  • Appropriate Adult - Neil McKay
  • Sherlock - Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Stephen Thompson
  • This is England '88 - Shane Meadows, Jack Thorne

Best Theatre Play

  • Grief - Mike Leigh
  • The Kitchen Sink - Tom Wells
  • The Westbridge - Rachel De-lahay

Best Radio Comedy

  • I, Regress - Matt Berry
  • Another Case of Milton Jones - Milton Jones, James Cary
  • In and Out of the Kitchen - Miles Jupp

Best TV Comedy

  • Holy Flying Circus - Tony Roche
  • PhoneShop - Phil Bowker
  • Grandma's House - Simon Amstell, Dan Swimer

Best TV Drama Series

  • Being Human - Toby Whithouse, Tom Grieves, John Jackson, Lisa McGee, Jamie Mathieson
  • Scott & Bailey - Sally Wainwright, Nicole Taylor, Amelia Bullmore
  • Prisoners Wives - Julie Gearey, James Graham and Chloe Moss

New Guild Executive Council

on Sunday, 16 September 2012 17:22. Posted in General

The new Writers' Guild Executive Council met for the first time on 12 September.

Pictured, from left to right: David Edgar (President), Anne Hogben (Deputy General Secretary), Gail Renard (Television Chair), Bernie Corbett (General Secretary), Olivia Hetreed (Film) Ming Ho (Deputy Chair), Roger Williams (Guild Chair), Katharine Way (Radio Chair), Jayne Kirkham (Children’s Chair), Andy Walsh (Treasurer), Manon Eames (Welsh Region), Julie Ann Thomason (Scottish Region)

Missing from the photo – but not forgotten: Antony Pickthall (Deputy Chair), Amanda Whittington (Theatre), Nick Yapp (Books), Marie MacNeill (Devon and Cornwall), Richard Pinner (Birmingham and West Midlands).

Lost Arts

on Monday, 10 September 2012 18:39. Posted in General

The Lost Arts campaign needs your help, writes Maddy Radcliff

Lost Arts is a three-year project set up by eight trades unions whose members will be directly affected by cuts to the arts. The aim is to catalogue and record everything in the arts sector lost as a result of the public-spending cuts.

Already in 2012 we have a sizable list of losses, growing every day as news comes in of another library, another community centre, another writers’ scheme lost to the cuts. A quick search of the Lost Arts list throws up more than 40 losses classified as literature and more than 130 in theatre. We don’t blame managers or the arts councils who make difficult decisions, even though we do not always agree with them. It’s not their fault funding is going down. We blame government, national and local. And our voice, the voice of all of us affected by arts cuts, should be heard. That voice is diverse, of all ages, backgrounds and sectors within the arts.

Some cuts are high profile, others less so. Take Flambard Press, for example. It’s a small publishing house that focuses on new and Northern writers. For many, working with Flambard was their first publishing experience. And this year, because of the spending cuts, Flambard was forced to close.

This summer we lost the Theatre Writing Partnership. Born of four theatres in the East Midlands, its small team of two committed to reading the first 15 pages of any unsolicited script – providing a rare service that gave writers with essential feedback early in their careers. Theatres are suffering too. The Duke’s Playhouse in Lancaster lost so much to the cuts that its funding levels now are the same as in 2001. Duke’s five productions a year will go down to three and any others are entirely dependent on project funding. Add job losses to that and you can see the real impact of the cuts on the arts.

These cuts might not always make the news, but Lost Arts is here to say they do matter, and to show why.

Already local campaigns are making their mark and having a real impact. Look at the success of Equity campaigners working with Duke’s Theatre. Together, they found room for an extra production. Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) members staged a lunchtime walkout at the National Gallery earlier this year after cuts to assistant posts put art works at risk. ‘Not all cuts are as obvious as those to health or social services, but they still diminish our quality of life,’ says John Medhurst, Policy Officer at PCS. ‘It’s important to bring out less visible cuts to arts and cultural provision and show how they lessen opportunity and erode life chances, especially in communities and sectors that are already suffering disproportionately from unnecessary cuts.’

When the lights went out

on Sunday, 02 September 2012 18:25. Posted in Film

Pat Holden on writing and directing a feature film based on a family haunting


'The Black Monk of Pontefract' is considered the worst case of poltergeist haunting in European history. But to me it is, and always will be, Aunty Jean’s Ghost.

I’d grown up with breathless tales of its activities delivered by my mother Rene, a regular visitor to the house, where she kept Jean and her kids company amidst the unholy chaos the ghost created.

Jean needed the company because her husband was terrified of the ghost and often absented himself to the local working men’s club to calm his nerves with quantities of Tetley’s. He was, on occasion, so calm that he slept in the garden.

It would be hard to blame him for his absenteeism; the ghost’s behaviour was by turns terrifying, chilling and surreal. Very occasionally it was even funny (on one occasion a dotty Spiritualist relative tried to ward it off by singing hymns. The ghost retaliated by conducting her singing using a pair of disembodied hands inside a pair of gloves).

Perhaps this was why the ghost earned a nickname (Fred) among the family and why they tolerated it for so long. Or was it a prime example of Northern stoicism? A coping mechanism? Or some sort of bizarre co-dependent relationship between house-proud Jean and wilfully destructive Fred?

Whatever the reasons, they stuck with it through black-outs, deafening banging, flying furniture, sudden chills, farmyard animal noises on the landing, upside down crucifixes, unexplained puddles, ‘transmigration of matter’ (look it up) and children being dragged unwillingly up staircases by their hair.

Its activities were enough to draw pundits, scientists, journalists, interested onlookers, three priests of various denominations, psychic investigators, students from the University of Leeds, local police and the town mayor to 30 East Drive. Everyone saw it.

Except me. For, despite my earnest protestations otherwise (I don’t mind being dragged up stairs by my hair - honest), I was considered far too young to enter the house. I longed for the day I’d be old enough to see it for myself.

But by then, Fred was long gone. The family reverted back to normal. When Mum and I visited I’d stand in the hallway willing Fred to do something, but there wasn’t even a sniff of supernatural activity. I sensed a jejeune air in my mother also; after the Second World War the ghost had been the most exciting thing in her life.

So why isn’t the haunting known about today? At the time it was a big story and the subject of double-page spreads in local newspapers. But it happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before the syndication of regional stories and long, long before the internet and social media.

Thus it became a local story, for local people. And increasingly forgotten by them too — the only remaining evidence some fading memories and a few moth-eaten clippings in the town museum.

But I always thought that the wider public might find the story of a malignant monkish spirit, trapped in a council house with an ordinary family, interesting too.

New BBC TV agreements now in force

on Thursday, 30 August 2012 17:37. Posted in TV

Campaign to sign up archive writers begins this autumn

The Guild’s ground-breaking new agreements with BBC TV came fully into force on Tuesday this week, 28 August 2012. All new commissions are now under these new terms, and all scripts commissioned under the previous agreement since November 2002 automatically switch over to the new terms.

Later this autumn there will be a massive mail-out to almost 11,000 writers and estates commissioned since the origins of the BBC up to 2002 in which the Guild, agents and the BBC will advise switching to the new terms in most cases (some writers of highly successful shows may be better advised to remain on the old terms – if in doubt consult your agent and/or the Guild).

There are three new agreements, which have been posted in the Rates & Agreements section of the Guild website:

Television Script Agreement: This is the successor to many previous agreements between the Guild and the BBC over the decades and sets out the minimum terms for most mainstream drama and sitcom contracts – not only minimum fees, but also advances, repeat fees, credits, pension rights and much more.

General Script Agreement: A new agreement closely modelled on the TSA which extends Guild terms to broadcast scripts under 15 minutes, material commissioned primarily for online use, drama within documentaries, some animation, and other areas.

Sketch Agreement: This is a completely re-drafted agreement, replacing an obsolete contract after many years trying to bring rewards for sketch writing in line with the modern TV and entertainment industry.

The new system will bring writers extra payments when their work proves popular on the BBC iPlayer, thanks to a new service – Writers Digital Payments (WDP) – set up jointly by the Guild and the agents’ trade body, the Personal Managers’ Association. When TV programmes are accessed online, the writer will be paid in proportion to the number of viewers who decide to watch them. This form of TV watching is expected to grow massively now that the latest Smart TVs and YouView boxes will enable millions of viewers to access online programmes directly on their living-room TV sets.

The key points of the new agreements are: 

  • The 15% surcharge on upfront fees that all TV writers have received since 2002 will disappear – to be redistributed both by WDP and by far higher repeat payments for the 'secondary' channels such as BBC3, BBC4, CBBC and Cbeebies.
  • The Guild’s collective agreements with the BBC are expanded to cover – for the first time – programmes shorter than 15 minutes, drama segments within documentaries, adult-oriented animations, shows written solely for online use, exploitation of programme formats and characters in a wide range of live performances, merchandising, etc.
  • Repeat fees on the 'network' channels BBC1 and BBC2 are cut to a 50% residual in peaktime and 20% offpeak, in a move designed to bring homegrown archive material into the increased number of repeat slots, especially on daytime TV. It is expected that the same amount of money will be spread among a much larger range of TV writers past and present.
  • There will be further negotiations to safeguard payments to children’s TV writers when kids’ programmes disappear from BBC1 and BBC2 early next year.
  • Special arrangements have been put in place to ensure that existing writers on EastEnders, Casualty, Holby and Doctors do not lose out.