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A Writers' Guild event at Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival
8 October 2013, 4.30pm, £8/£6
To celebrate the opening of the Library of Birmingham and the theatre it shares with the Birmingham REP, a panel of distinguished playwrights discuss their experience of bringing books to the stage. How did they overcome the inherent difficulties? What liberties did they allow themselves to take? And why did they believe the book needed to be adapted in the first place?
Birmingham-based playwright, David Edgar won an Olivier Award for his RSC adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Having transferred to New York it went on to win a Tony Award and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play.
Theresa Heskins is the Artistic Director of North Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre. The novels she’s dramatised include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Bleak House. She has also adapted works for BBC Radio 4.
Michael Fry is the Deputy Director of the East 15 Acting School. His adaptations include Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Emma and The Great Gatsby. His book on adaptation, Playing the Novel, is due to be published next year.
The panel will be chaired by author Helen Cross, whose first novel My Summer of Love was made into a BAFTA award winning film.
Booking details: www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org/event/adapting-for-stage
Paul Bassett Davies on his new sitcom Reception, and the ongoing appeal of radio
Morwenna Banks, Adrian Scarborough and Amit Shah - stars of Reception, written by Paul Bassett Davies
People who say they don't listen to radio are like people who claim they never pay attention to advertising. They're probably absorbing more than they think, and you'd have to live in a hut on a remote island to avoid hearing any radio at all. But the hut would need to be sturdy enough to never require the attention of builders.
What those people mean, of course, is that they don't make a point of listening to radio. Maybe, like the man who once read a book and didn't like it, they once heard a radio play they didn't think much of. Which can happen. Hundreds of plays a year are broadcast on BBC radio, and if all of them were to your taste it would probably mean you didn’t have any. But if earnest dramas about social issues aren't your cup of artisanal tea, it's quite possible that the following day you could hear a sci-fi thriller that exploits the medium's extraordinary imaginative potential to mind-bending effect. You never know.
I've written several radio dramas, and now I've written a radio sitcom called Reception, which is currently being broadcast on Mondays at 11.30am on BBC Radio 4. It's my second foray into radio sitcom: over twenty years ago I co-wrote a sitcom with Jeremy Hardy, which I also performed in. The first series was called Unnatural Acts, then the name was changed to At Home With The Hardys. The show was both a sitcom and a pastiche of a sitcom, in the same way that The Young Ones was, on television. Listening to it now, it seems pretty hit-and-miss. Some of it holds up well, and some of it makes me cringe. I wonder with hindsight whether I should have learned more about writing a conventional sitcom before attempting to subvert the genre. Tellingly, the show's playful surrealism works best when it's firmly rooted in character and story. In some ways Reception reflects this lesson: character is at its heart; it obeys the formal rules of the genre, and it attempts to combine the restrictions of the format with the unique qualities of radio to create a series of intimate stories about friendship in the workplace. Does it succeed? The audience will decide that.
The Writers’ Guild and members of seven other unions will be forming a human chain in front of London’s National Gallery on 18 September to call on government to protect arts and culture funding. The event is being organised by Lost Arts, an affiliation of eight unions whose members have all been affected by cuts to the arts.
Since 2010, the overall budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been cut by a third. This has meant a drastic reduction in subsidies and grants to museums, theatres, libraries and other cultural bodies, and led to closures, staffing cuts and reduced access for the public. Local arts and culture is also suffering because of £124 million arts cuts in the department's 2013-14 budgeted expenditure for local government.
The government continues to make cuts to arts and culture and ignore its true value. For every £1 invested in arts and culture, up to £6 is generated for the local economy. Arts and culture costs just 14p per person per week. It is directly responsible for at least £865m of spending by tourists every year. Creative industries employ 2.5 million people and 78% of adults attended or participated in the arts in the last year.
Show your support:
Join the human chain in front of the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London at 6pm on Wednesday 18 September.
Tweet your support for arts funding using #LinkUpForArt
Say you’re going on the Facebook event page and spread the word.
Next Guild literary event - 16 September in London
The next Writers' Guild Off the Shelf event at Black's in Soho is a special day with Unthank Books and its writers. Guild members and othersd are invited to hear readings by the chosen authors, followed by a delicious two-course lunch at Blacks members’ club in London’s Soho. The featured writers are: lecturer in creative writing at the Open University Ashley Stokes (Touching the starfish, Unthank’s launch publication, and The Syllabus of Errors); musician, editor and writer Nick Sweeney (Laikonik Express), and writer and lecturer in creative writing in the North West of England Sarah Dobbs (Killing Daniel).
Unthank Books was launched in early 2010 in response to what it saw as a “particularly egregious spell of awful or no literary fiction being published by the mainstream houses and its concomitant deleterious effect on aspiring literary authors”. Since then, it has published 15 books, including its annual Unthology of shorter prose, twice-staged UnLit, The Unthank Literary Festival, and delivered numerous courses in poetry, prose and screenwriting through the Unthank School of Writing.
11am-2.30pm, 16 September
Blacks, 67 Dean Street, Soho, London
Price: £25 (includes two-course lunch, tea/coffee)
The Writers' Guild stall at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 19 Augiust was a great success, with a stream of enquiries from established and emerging playwrights.
The Guild would like to thank Fin Kennedy, Scottish rep Julie Ann Thomason and Daphne Hamilton (pictured from left), as well as Ali Rutherford, for helping to run the stall.
Fin also launched the voting stage of his In Battalions Delphi study at the Fringe.
A Delphi study is a consultation process with experts in their field, in response to a study question. The question in this instance was: "In what ways can theatres, theatre-makers and the Arts Council work together to protect risk-taking on new work and new talent, without creating significant extra expense?";
Fin is urging writers to take part in his online survey on responses to this question. Please note that you have until Friday 20 September to complete the survey.
Deborah Espect on writing and making her award-winning short film, Dog Day
Bella Emberg in Dog Day (Copyright Georgie Angless)
I love writing because it allows me to dwell in a solitary comfort zone. But I’ve never studied how to write, so I’ve never learnt about structure; and when I start a new project I don’t have a plan. Sometimes I picture a character and a situation they end up in; then a scene develops and from there I have a story. I go on a journey with the characters and, like them, I don’t know what comes next almost until it happens. Sometimes the journey doesn’t work, or the character gets stuck and I have to start again. I encounter this quite a lot when writing plays.
Dog Day was going to be a completely different film to what it is now. I had just watched London To Brighton and Fish Tank, and I really wanted to write about a real woman in today’s England. This in itself was nothing new or original, but so much has already been written about everything that, for me, it’s always been more about what I do with an idea than the idea itself.
Dog Day was going to see our protagonist, a 30-something woman, take her young children to the zoo. There wouldn’t have been much dialogue, other than when she’d tell her kids off for trying to jump off a fence to touch an animal, or when she’d have to explain that the toys they wanted in the souvenir shop were too expensive. The lack of words would have represented her relentless solitude. But I wasn’t particularly confident with that set up.
The thought of working with children was rather daunting for someone as inexperienced in the film industry as me, and shooting in a zoo presented all sorts of logistical problems. So, instead, I decided that my 30-something woman would be visiting her mum in Brighton, on her 70th birthday. Again, the script didn’t contain much dialogue, because the two women just didn’t know how to communicate with each other. Instead, there were a lot of awkward silences and frustrated faces.