Colin Chambers remembers Bob Leeson, children's writer and former Chair of the Guild, who died last month
Not many people, I suspect, have music played at their funeral that moves from The Song Of the Prune to Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs by way of Yes, We Have No Bananas, but for those who knew Bob Leeson, this selection celebrating the serious and the absurd was spot on. For Bob, a former chair of the Guild and a versatile, pioneering children’s author who has died aged 85, was a man of deep commitments and loyalty who always displayed a keen eye for the ridiculous wherever it appeared and turned it to good effect in his writing.
Born in Barnton, Cheshire in 1928 to a working-class family as the youngest of four children, he loved reading and storytelling from an early age, and much of his later writing drew on the experiences of his youth. Although the nearby grammar school, to which he, like his siblings, won a scholarship, had no library, he eagerly looked forward to the arrival of the monthly ‘library box’ from which he was allowed to borrow one title on each of its visits. Ever resourceful, at the local library, which lacked a children’s section, he began to feed his imagination, aged 11, by using his mother’s ticket.
Writers' Guild General Secretary sceptical about consultation over theatre tax relief
A tax break for theatre was an unexpected component of the so-called 'autumn statement' or mini-budget today (Thursday).
There will be a consultation next year on corporation tax relief for new commercial theatre productions, including touring versions. The Government said the move recognised 'unique value that the theatre sector brings to the UK economy'.
Writers’ Guild general secretary Bernie Corbett commented: 'The coalition government has spent the past three years skinning and gutting Arts Council England, so that all subsidised theatre has had to cope with massive cuts, with the knowledge that there is worse to come. Even Little Orphan Annie would choke on the thought that George Osborne has changed his spots.
'In reality the money that has been taken away from innovative and community-based new writing is to be recycled into big-business theatre, to enable it to compete more ruthlessly with all these awful local reps and studios who have somehow survived (so far). Doubtless it will be eagerly accepted, to the benefit of proprietors and shareholders – at least, until they start to wonder why the supply of great new writing, previously supported by ACE, has begun to dry up.'
If approved the tax breaks will take effect in April 2015 – one month before the next general election.
A librettist is part lyrical poet, part dramatist, says Dic Edwards
The librettist has traditionally been regarded as less important that the composer in the creation of an opera. But in an age of musicals and music theatre, the distinction between these hybrid genres is less clear and the librettist’s work is increasingly seen as the engine driving the project.
As with Rogers and Hammerstein or Lloyd Weber and Rice, equal billing for the librettist seems reasonable. If we can use the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy so often invoked by Western aesthetes, the librettist is the Apollonian – the provider of the form, the structure on which the composer, the Dionysian, can practise the ecstasy and exceptions of his creativity.
The librettist is part lyrical poet and part dramatist.
Annual Writers' Guild awards recognise those who support playwrights
Theatre Encouragement awards winners, nominees and guests - Back row(left to right): Bob Shannon, Andrew Curtis, Paul Milton, Mark Shenton Middle row: Gillian Hambleton, Juliet Forster, Mandy Fenton, Bill Hopkinson, Donna Worthington Front row: David James, Pippa Roberts, Anne Hogben
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 on Friday.
The awards, the brainchild of the playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give Guild 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 a welcome opportunity to celebrate, rather than focus solely on members’ problems.
The winners of the ninth annual awards are:
Mandy Fenton, Equal Writes
Nominated by Andrew Curtis
'Mandy Fenton launched Equal Writes earlier this year to help redress the gender imbalance in UK theatre, where for every female role there are two male roles. Deciding that discussion and campaigning alone was no longer enough, Mandy launched a showcase with an open submissions policy. Over 600 writers entered 800 pieces of work, with 12 being selected and performed in March 2013. Of the 12 writers, four were male, including me. Sex was not a barrier in this sense; it was about what we writers, male or female, could offer in terms of writing female roles.
'The whole experience has really helped me develop as a writer. A writer finds out so much in the rehearsal room and during the performance, and I feel my writing was stronger for the experience. Mandy has been fantastically supportive. With her boundless energy and creativity, she has helped me and other writers bring their work to stage, while at the same fulfilling a broader social purpose.'
Lend your support to the new campaign from the Writers' Guild
'We really like your loaf of bread but we haven't got any money to pay for it.'
If that doesn't work in Sainsbury's why should it work with writers' ideas?
The past few years have seen a disturbing increase in the amount of work that writers are being asked and expected to do for free. While this has long been a problem with small, new or simply unscrupulous companies, it is fast becoming the industry standard even for large, well-resourced production companies dealing with established writers with significant credits to their name.
More and more, writers are being offered ‘shopping options’, asked to do ‘sweepstake pitching’, bake-offs’, free rewrites and ‘pre-writes’ – all for no money. It is becoming the norm to ask even established writers to write a trial script before they are even considered as a writer on a long running show – in some cases when they have previously written for that very same show.
The unpaid commitment now routinely expected of a writer constitutes weeks of work and time consuming, expensive research. If it is unacceptable to ask other professionals to work for free then it is unacceptable to expect writers to work for nothing. How are writers to feed their children and pay the mortgage?
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain is launching a campaign ‘Free Is NOT An Option’ to address the problem of writers being expected to work for free. The campaign will highlight the scale of the problem and challenge production companies and broadcasters to address indefensible practices that are in no one’s best interests.
To give statistical weight to the campaign two online surveys have been published, ‘Free Is NOT An Option’ and ‘Free Trials’. The findings of the surveys will be confidential and anonymous and only used as statistical evidence in publicity campaigns and negotiations with major production companies and broadcasters. The surveys are open to all writers (whether Guild members or not) and can be accessed via the following links.
Free is NOT an Option https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/X8L8F2R
Free Trials https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XL8H6KP
Closing date of survey 1st January 2014.
New survey published by the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE)
The Federation of Screenwriters in Europe has published a survey of European screenwriters' income in 2012.
The survey was undertaken to inform a series of workshops for screenwriters’ guilds in European countries entitled Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining in the Digital Economy. The online survey, asking seven questions, was distributed by 21 European screenwriters’ guilds belonging to the FSE (including the Writers' Guild of Great Britain).
Seven hundred professional screenwriters for both TV and film in over 25 countries responded and provided information about their income in 2012. The anonymous survey provides factual information to illuminate the discussion about authors remuneration.
Download the survey (pdf)