New Faces: Radio Drama In The Midlands

on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 14:28. Posted in Radio

A Writers' Guild West Midlands event - Wednesday, December 11, 7.30pm - 9.30pm

In recents months two important chairs have been filled in BBC Radio Drama. Sean O'Connor has taken the reins at the The Archers. Meanwhile Jessica Dromgoole is helming the landmark World War I drama, Home Front. Sean and Jessica will join us to talk about their shows, the craft of Radio Drama and opportunities within the industry.

Sean O'Connor was a producer on The Archers in the late 1990s, before moving on to TV shows such as EastEnders, Hollyoaks & Minder. He has also directed extensively in theatre, including his own adaptations of Vertigo, Marnie and Romeo & Juliet, as well as producing a film version of Terrence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea. His book Handsome Brute was published this year.

Jessica Dromgoole has directed in theatre and radio, winning various awards including the Prix Italia for Original Radio Drama, a BBC Audio Drama Award for Best Audio Drama, and a bronze Sony Radio Academy Award for Best Drama. Between 1988 and 1991 Jessica was Artistic Director of the Finsborough Theatre, since when she's been New Writing Co-ordinator for the BBC.

This event is FREE to members of the Writers' Guild and £5 for non-members. Attendees are invited to a festive drink in The Mailbox afterwards.

Booking details

The Playwrights' Progress - deadline extended

on Thursday, 21 November 2013 12:05. Posted in Theatre

Submissions for Guild's exciting new development scheme close on 16 December

Update: entries have now closed. The successful entries have now been selected

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain is inviting emerging and established writers throughout the UK to take part in Playwrights’ Progress, an inspiring new script development project, FREE to the chosen participants with all expenses paid. This is a major promotion run in partnership with Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and Leicester Square Theatre.

The project (open to Guild and non-Guild applicants) will give eight writers the opportunity to progress their career paths. Four will be chosen to attend a three day, intensive workshop to develop their exciting new scripts in progress. The best work from the workshops will be showcased by actors of the highest calibre at Leicester Square Theatre to an audience of invited literary managers, agents, 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, involving invited literary managers etc.

Funded by the Arts Council England and The Writers’ Foundation (UK), this is open to all writers, at any stage of their careers, to enable them to work on their unperformed plays with professional actors, directors & 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 20 minutes).

A shortlist of contenders will then be drawn up, when full scripts will be requested. So please… 

  • Submit a brief biography of your experience/career to date, which should include one public/ workshop performance or equivalent publication or broadcast.
  • Include a letter of application (max 500 words) giving your reasons for wanting to develop this piece, its potential as a drama and your aspirations for it. Also your contact details plus stamped, addressed envelope for your script to be returned.

The read-through workshops will take place in London the week beginning 3rd March 2014, followed by the three day workshops 1 - 4 April. The public showcasing at Leicester Square Theatre will take place on the 9th May.

Please note the deadline has been extended, for us to receive hard copy scripts no later than 4pm, 16 December: FAO Richard Pinner, The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 40 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4RX. Electronic copies to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

"Ally and foe locked together"

on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 20:45. Posted in Theatre

Paul Herzberg on the development of his play The Dead Wait, now showing at The Park Theatre in London

dead-waitI left South Africa in 1976 after returning from the Angolan border as a conscripted soldier. The country was caught in volatile times: Black Consciousness had exploded in the townships, the Portuguese had fled Angola and Soweto was in flames.

The war in which I had been involved, set to continue for another 13 years, was like no other in that it was almost entirely secret. Soldiers were forced to pledge their silence. The apartheid authorities were determined that word did not get out as to what was going on beyond the Namibian border. It was South Africa’s Vietnam.

Long after I left I began a conversation with a man on a British train. He told me of an incident involving his nephew as a young soldier in the border war. While on an Angolan mission his unit had captured a wounded black freedom fighter. The unit commander had it in for the soldier and suspecting their captive might be important, ordered the soldier to carry him on his back until they reached the border for interrogation.

The freedom fighter whispered into the soldier’s ear as they moved through the bush and in the mayhem a bond began to grow. The commander responded to their unlikely friendship with catastrophic results.

This image, ally and foe locked together, haunted me. Using my long absence from the country I found a way to build a play round that anecdote, to connect it to contemporary South Africa. The notion of these two older men — an iron-willed Afrikaans officer and a black freedom fighter doing battle for the soul of this callow white kid — while around them a war is raging, was simply to tantalising to ignore.

Looking back: something understood

on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 16:19. Posted in Books and Poetry

Rosemary Friedman introduces her new collection of short stories, The Man Who Understood Women

-man-who-understood-womenOn clearing out my attic I discovered a large cardboard box filled with very old magazines, in various stages of desuetude, dating from 1956 until 2013. They were mostly aimed at women and published not only in England but in a dozen languages in as many different countries.

As I turned the fragile pages I was fascinated to find advertisements for `Salon Style Home Hair Dryers’, recipes for `Mutton Saucer Pies’, `Twenty Uses for Vinegar’ and coupons for Vogue Patterns from which the `housewife’ – when she wasn’t trotting down the high street, suitably hatted, her wicker basket over her arm - could create a fashionable `fur fabric jacket’.

Reading through forgotten short fiction which bore my name, in publications such as Housewife, Good Housekeeping and Women’s Realm - titles which in themselves reflected women’s then preoccupations - brought home to me the cataclysmic change in women’s role in society and their burgeoning independence over the past 50 odd years. Might there be some mileage in resurrecting these stories? After 26 full length books, three plays and various screenplays I regarded it both as relaxation from the creative process and as a challenge, not the least part of which was translating the texts from the rapidly fading printed page (no computers then) and digitalising them for which there is a magical program entitled OCR (Optical Character Recognition).

No one was more surprised than I to discover that, read consecutively, the collection comprised a social document which reflected a gradual but heady change over the years in women’s circumstances and provided a picture of inner lives which contemplated a future for women brighter and infinitely more exciting than any they had hitherto imagined. From the spinsterish Miss Phipps, The Magic (1956), with her lending library, who opens the door for her female readers to fulfil their fantasies - through the man whose life is haunted by an adolescent misdemeanour Mea Culpa (1958) and the sad and sexually predatory New York millionairess Southern Comfort 1998) - to the modern divorcée A la Carte (2010) who briskly road-tests her internet date, the stories depicted the changing role of women in a rapidly changing world.

Jeremy Brock interview

on Sunday, 17 November 2013 10:44. Posted in Podcasts

Olivia Hetreed talks to fellow screenwriter Jeremy Brock about his writing career

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Soon available as a podcast on iTunes, or via the Writers' Guild app for iPhone and iPad.

David Edgar honoured by Writers' Guild

on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 10:41. Posted in Theatre

Playwright recognised at Writers' Guild Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Writing and Writers.

Lee Hall and David Edgar-240The award was presented to David Edgar by Lee Hall – here's the text of Lee's speech

It is an enormous privilege to be asked to present this award to David Edgar. Not least because it allows me to acknowledge my personal debt. If there was one reason I became a writer - it was David Edgar.

I first encountered his work when I read one of the early short plays: Ball Boys - in the school library and decided immediately that I had to put it on.

It is a blackly comic tale of two ball boys who plot to assassinate Sven Svenson, a Bjorn Borg - like tennis ace. Not only is it uproariously funny, witheringly sharp in its social satire, it is full of ideas, from thumbnail explications of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach to comic fusilades condensing the insights of the Frankfurt School into machine-gun-fire, coruscating invective.

But unlike so many plays where bravura philosophising are some kind of window dressing. The ideas in the play weren’t just tacked on - they were central to the piece. Here was writing that was as keen to be entertaining as it was to be thoughtful, as keen to be political as it was to use the dialectical nature of theatre to make a problem of easy sloganeering. But most importantly for me it was writing which was effortlessly ‘theatrical’. And it was a huge success in the Tynemouth Sixth Form College Assembly Hall.

So I devoured all the other plays I could find: TeenDreams, Destiny, Mary Barnes, Albie Sachs.

The thing I liked most about them was how taut they were, how vivid they were as pieces of drama, they were proper grown up plays, searingly intelligent, but always poking at political, psychological and ideological contradictions. They were phenomenally diverse: Mary Barnes was an intimate examination of the anti-psychiatry movement, Destiny an Epic about the rise of a fascist Right. But all these plays were concerned with the same thing: how we might transform the world. They were not evasive about the personal or political problems of doing so - and that was why they seemed exemplary.  These were fearless, fiercely intelligent, grown up pieces of writing. Thrilling and life changing for me. I knew this is what I wanted to do.