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By Gail Renard
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, in association with the British Comedy Awards, has named the 2014 Comedy Writer of the Year.
Brendan O'Carroll (left), famous for writing and starring in BBC TV's Mrs. Brown's Boys, is this year's winner.
It took O'Carroll a long time to become a success. Mrs. Brown's Boys started as a radio play in Ireland in 1992, grew into novels, and a few years after that O'Carroll formed his own theatre company, using his friends and family to cut down costs. When the actress playing Mrs. Brown failed to show, O'Carroll put on the dress and 12 years later the Mrs. Brown's Boys TV series became a hit.
O'Carroll was touched to receive the WGGB award, which he hadn't expected. "It only took me five novels, two screenplays, seven plays and three series to get here."
Brendan O'Carroll is a lesson in hard work, perseverance and self-belief. He also makes millions of us laugh. What better reasons to honour a writer?
The British Comedy Awards will be broadcast at 9pm on Channel 4 on Wednesday 17 December 2014.
Watch a clip of last year's Mrs. Brown's Boys Christmas special:
Photo of Brendan O'Carroll by Ming Ho
The West Midlands Writers’ Guild has joined library staff, visitors and campaigners in condemning planned cuts to the new Library of Birmingham, which opened last year.
The plans, announced by Birmingham City Council last week, would mean the loss of around 100 staff, and opening hours cut from 73 to 40 hours a week.
"In its short time, the Library of Birmingham has become a huge focus for every kind of artistic, educational and media work that goes on in this exciting and vibrant city,” said Writers' Guild West Midlands regional representative William Gallagher. “You can't make a building be important but when it is, when it has become vital, you can easily throw all of that away.
"A Library of Birmingham that is staffed, open and used to the potential we were promised and that we have seen in action is a cause for civic, artistic and regional pride. A library that is closed is a defeat.
"That we have to fight for the library after only a year is an excoriating embarrassment for Birmingham. But that we will fight, that the writers and artists and public of our city are fighting for the library, is testament to what this building and its staff mean to us."
The £188-million library is Europe’s largest and the Labour-controlled Birmingham Council said it had no choice but to press ahead with plans in the light of Government cuts, which have seen the number of libraries in the UK fall by 7.5% since 2010.
“As the largest and most visited public library in Europe the Library of Birmingham is not only of regional importance but of national and international importance too. It should be treated as such,” said Writers’ Guild Deputy Chair and Birmingham resident Tim Stimpson.
“At a time when Manchester has just been awarded £78 million by central Government for a new ‘flexible art space’ it is not acceptable that Birmingham’s cultural sector has been left to fend for itself yet again.
“The West Midlands Writers’ Guild calls on the region’s citizens, its institutions and interest groups to come together to demand that the Library of Birmingham is given the financial support it requires.”
Stark statistics on wages for those working in the creative and entertainment industries were outlined at a Performers’ Alliance House of Commons reception on 9 December 2014.
Kerry McCarthy MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, whose member unions include the Writers’ Guild, Equity and the Musicians’ Union, also drew attention to the increasing practice of asking musicians, actors and writers to work for free.
In her introductory speech, in the House of Commons Strangers’ Dining Room, she highlighted that:
- The Writers’ Guild Free is NOT an Option survey last year found that 87% of TV writers had experienced a significant increase in the amount and kinds of work they had been asked to do for free.
- Research from the Musicians’ Union showed that more than half of professional musicians work for less than £20,000 per year, and that 60% had worked for free over the previous year.
- A survey conducted by Equity last year found that virtually half of actors earned under £5,000 per year and 86% less than £20,000 per year.
Other issues affecting all three unions’ members included a “triple whammy” of arts funding cuts – at a national and local level, plus greater difficulty getting funding outside London.
The need for more effective equality monitoring, and diversity across the creative industries, was also highlighted.
Members from all three unions take part in this annual event, which gives them the opportunity to lobby MPs, peers and ministers on individual issues. The In Battalions campaign, by Guild member and playwright Fin Kennedy, was the result of a conversation he had with Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey MP at the Performers’ Alliance 2012 reception.
Ed Vaizey MP attended again this year and drew attention in his speech to the Government’s announcement, in the recent Autumn Statement, for tax breaks for children’s TV.
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Harriet Harman MP was also present and stated in her speech that access to arts, culture and creativity should be the right of everybody, not the few.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Sajid Javid MP also attended.
Live action children’s TV got a tax boost in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday 3 December 2014. Shows that qualify as UK productions will benefit from a 25% tax relief.
The move follows earlier action by the Coalition Government to create an easier tax regime for high-end TV drama, animation and videogames – and these schemes, in addition to the long-standing film tax break, seem to be paying off handsomely for the UK entertainment industry.
WGGB General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: “We welcome the new tax break and we hope it will be effective. This should help to redress the balance between live action and (often imported) cartoons on kids' channels.
“We want to see more commitment to children's programmes by ITV and indies, as well as the BBC, plus there will now be less excuse for broadcasters and producers to treat children's TV writers as the Cinderellas of the industry.”
Writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer Sandi Toksvig will present the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain annual Awards at RIBA, in London, on the evening of Monday 19 January 2015.
High-profile writers from the worlds of TV, film, theatre, radio, books, poetry and videogames have been regulars at this annual, red-carpet event through its 50-year history.
The Awards, which launched in 1961, give professional writers from across Great Britain the opportunity to honour their peers, and celebrate the importance of writing to the creative industries, both nationally and abroad.
A special award for outstanding contribution to writing and writers is presented every year.
“As a long-standing member of the Writers' Guild I am delighted to be presenting the WGGB Awards,” said Sandi Toksvig. “I am looking forward to an evening of fun and fanfare.”
The shortlist in 13 categories is as follows:
TV Drama – Long Form
Line of Duty (Jed Mercurio), Happy Valley (Sally Wainwright), Peaky Blinders (Steven Knight)
TV Drama – Short Form
The Great Train Robbery (Chris Chibnall), Turks & Caicos (David Hare), Marvellous (Peter Bowker)
TV Drama – Long Running Series
Doctors, Series 15, Episode 66 “Silver on the Heath” (Toby Walton), Holby City, Series 16, Episode 13 “Self Control” (Rebecca Wojciechowski), Doctors, Series 16, Episode 42 “Boiling Point” (Dale Overton)
TV Situation Comedy
Up the Women (Jessica Hynes), Him and Her (Stefan Golaszewski), House of Fools (Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer)
Best Children’s TV Script
Bye Bye (Denise Cassar and the Bing Writing team), Wizards Versus Aliens: The Thirteenth Floor part 2 (Phil Ford), Strange Hill High: MCDXX Men (Mark Oswin & James Griffiths)
A Night Visitor (Stephanie Jacob), Magpie (Lee Mattinson), Dangerous Visions: The Bee Maker (Anita Sullivan)
Helen Keen’s It is Rocket Science (Helen Keen & Miriam Underhill), The Brig Society (Marcus Brigstoke with Jeremy Salsby, Toby Davies, Nick Doody, Dan Tetsell & Steve Punt), John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme (John Finnemore)
Best First Novel
The Shock of the Fall (Nathan Filer), A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Eimear McBride), Barbarians (Tim Glencross)
Best Writing in a Video Game
A Machine for Pigs (Dan Pinchbeck), 80 Days (Meg Jayanth), Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (Kevin Beimers)
Best First Screenplay
Pride (Stephen Beresford), The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard), Starred Up (Jonathan Asser)
Filth (Jon S Baird), Metro Manila (Sean Ellis & Frank E Flowers), Philomena (Jeff Pope & Steve Coogan)
James I (Rona Munro), Visitors (Barney Norris), Dr Scroggy’s War (Howard Brenton)
Best Play for Young Audiences
Minotaur (Kevin Dyer), The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Mike Kenny), Girls Like That (Evan Placey)
Follow the Awards on social media: