Helena Pielichaty on a campaign to promote reading for pleasure and the value of authors' visits to schools
In April 2011 the Society of Authors’ Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) held a One Day Conference for its members. During the Q & A session, Annemarie Young voiced her concern that many teacher training colleges did not appear to have much in the way of reading for pleasure on their courses - the little time allotted to reading tended to concentrate on synthetic phonics. If newly trained teachers weren’t getting any advice on reading for pleasure, how could they be expected to encourage their pupils to read widely once they were in the classroom, Annemarie wondered.
Other delegates agreed, adding that it wasn’t just new teachers who weren’t aware of the wide range of children’s literature available but many experienced teachers, too. The rigidity of the English National Curriculum was given as one reason for teachers abandoning long-established practices, such as the class reader; Ofsted’s ‘expectations’ were another. I related my anecdote of the teacher who, when I asked why she didn’t have a class reader any more, replied: ‘Can you imagine what Ofsted would say if they caught me reading to my class?’ Caught – as if she were indulging in some deviant act!
After the conference CWIG and the Educational Writers Group (EWG) formed a Campaigns Group to look into this issue. Further research confirmed that within most PGCE courses, reading for pleasure was given a one hour slot, if that, leaving NQTs dependent on their mentors in schools for ideas and inspiration about books. However, a study by Teresa Cremin (2011) highlighted how narrow even established teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature was, with only 10% of those surveyed being able to name 6 poets or 6 illustrators , reiterating what had been said at the One Day Conference.Yet there is some excellent work going on in schools, especially in those with a designated school librarian.
The next event of the Guild's Off the Shelf at Black's event features James Miller who explores extraordinary themes in his writing.
Born in London in 1976 and educated in Oxford and London, Miller is author of the acclaimed novels Lost Boys (Little, Brown 2008) and Sunshine State (Little, Brown 2010). He is currently finishing his third. He has a PhD in African-American literature and civil rights and is particularly interested in experimental and avant-garde literature, critical theory, contemporary American literature, Modernism, the Beat Generation and any work that plays with notions of genre.
Miller’s short stories have been published in various anthologies and he has spoken at numerous festivals, including the Edinburgh Book Festival, Wilderness Festival, Berlin’s Hebbel-Am-Ufer theatre, the Tottenham/ Palestine literature festival, the Festival of Ideas and the Athens Megaron.
If any Guild members would like to present their own 10-minute reading after lunch, please email Jan Woolf.
James Miller: Off the Shelf at Blacks
11am-4pm, 18 November Blacks,
67 Dean Street, Soho, London
Price: £30 (includes coffee and a two-course lunch with wine)
By Olivia Hetreed, President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain
I recently had the privilege of attending the Bryan Forbes Tribute put on by the National Youth Theatre, of which Bryan was, for many years, the enthusiastic President.
Bryan was writer and director of such films as King Rat, Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Whistle Down the Wind.
Through a series of recollections from family, friends and colleagues, punctuated by performances by present NYT members and illustrated by lovely photographs of Bryan on film sets and with his family, we were treated to a wonderful overview of a life lived generously and tirelessly in pursuit of the best work, enabling the brightest talent to shine and in a spirit of tremendous love and generosity.
From the opening, entirely unprintable anecdote to Nanette Newman's on-the-brink-of-tears final words, it was a funny, outrageous, touching and very appropriate memorial to a great man of British film and theatre.
Forbes was treasurer of the Guild in its formative years and in 1962 he won the Guild's Best British Comedy Screenplay Award for Only Two Can Play.
In 1969 Bryan Forbes became managing director of Associated British Productions, at that time the biggest name in the UK film industry. He was sent hundreds of scripts. He welcomed every contribution and then "asked everybody to believe that every single submission would be considered." Those writers who showed promise he directed to the Guild and he was clear that he wanted to make Elstree a Guild studio.
In his memory the family have set up a bursary for directors at the NYT.
Guild negotiates increases for writers
The Writers’ Guild has negotiated a 2% increase in minimum fees for BBC radio writers, backdated to 1 August 2013. The flagship rate for an original drama by an established writer goes up to £91.73 for two transmissions, while the fee for an episode of The Archers goes up to £920. Other rates include a scale between £183 and £374 for a 15-minute short story, and £10.58 per minute for abridgements. The new rates replace those implemented on 24 January this year and will be reviewed again with effect from 1 August 2014 - download full details (pdf)
There is also good news for playwrights working for leading theatres – minimum rates for the Royal Court Theatre, Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company were increased by 2.2% with effect from 1 April 2013, bringing the basic rate for a full-length play to £11,759 - download full details (pdf)
Conference: 19 November, RADA Studios, London
The Guild would like to thank everyone who completed the online survey on bullying as part of the Creating Without Conflict Campaign. We have had a great response across the entertainment industry.
The campaign seeks to challenge bullying and harassment in the entertainment industries. The aim is to raise awareness, to work with employers to create effective policies and procedures that will protect staff and freelance workers from bullying and harassment and empower members to challenge and report incidents without fear of reprisals.
Our recent survey asked members about their experience of bullying and harassment in their industry. The aim was to see how widespread the problem is throughout the entertainment industry.
We will be launching the full findings on 19 November at the Creating without Conflict Conference which will take place at the RADA Studios in Central London from 9.30am to 4.30pm. The morning will explore the survey results and the afternoon will consist of discussion groups, giving members the opportunity to discuss in more detail the issues that have risen from the survey and look at ways of moving forward.
The conference is for members of Writers Guild of Great Britain, BECTU, Equity, Musicians’ Union and NUJ. It is free to attend and a sandwich lunch will be provided, but numbers are strictly limited.
A new script development project from the Writers' Guild, Central School of Speech & Drama and Leicester Square Theatre
The Guild is inviting emerging and established writers in the UK to take part in Playwrights’ Progress, an inspiring script development project, run in partnership with Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (RCSSD) and Leicester Square Theatre. The project (open to both Guild members and non-Guild members) will give eight writers the opportunity to develop their career paths. Four participants will be chosen to attend a three-day, intensive workshop to develop their scripts in progress. The best work from the workshops will be showcased by actors of the highest calibre, at Leicester Theatre to an audience of invited literary managers, directors and producers. Four other writers will be selected for the “potential” of their draft plays, which will be given a read-through by Central’s alumni, again in front of invited literary managers.
Funded by Arts Council England and the Writers’ Foundation (UK), this project has been set up by the Guild to promote writing through education and training. The scheme is open to all writers, at any stage of their careers, to enable them to work on their unperformed plays with professional actors, directors and dramaturges of the highest calibre.
To apply, candidates should:
- Submit one hard copy plus an electronic copy of a draft of an unpublished, unperformed dramatic piece. Initially this needs to be the first act only (drawn from a full-length script of maximum running time of 2 hours 30 minutes). The text should include a cast list, essential production notes plus a resume/ scenario of the whole piece. A shortlist of contenders will then be drawn up and these will be asked to submit their full scripts for the final selection.
- Submit a brief biography of your experience and career to date, which must include at least one production for public performance or equivalent publication.
- Include a letter of application, of no more than 500 words, setting out your reasons for wanting to develop this piece, its potential as a drama and your aspirations for it. Explain why this experience would be valuable in terms of your personal development as a writer. This letter should include all your contact details plus a stamped, addressed envelope if you wish your script to be returned.
The initial read-through workshops will take place in the week beginning 3 March, followed by the three-day workshops on 1-4 April at the Bloomsbury Studios in London. The public showcasing at Leicester Square Theatre will take place in the week beginning 4 May.
Owing to the considerable task of selection, it will not be possible to offer a critique or respond to those candidates who have not been selected. But if you have any questions or need more information, please contact Richard Pinner.