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Commenting on the 2015 Budget, which expanded existing tax credits for TV, film and videogames, General Secretary of WGGB Bernie Corbett said:
"It took a lot of pressure and campaigning to persuade the Government to provide serious tax-break incentives to film, high-end TV and videogames. But we were right, and they are working fabulously well, and it is terrific that George Osborne gets this and is improving these policies.
"But given that Mr Osborne recognises that 'our creative industries are already a huge contributor to the British economy', why does he continue to starve the subsidised arts sector, including BFI and Arts Council England, of cash?
"These are the places where the talent of tomorrow will come from. Tax breaks today are great for people who pay tax today. But strangling emerging culture, arts and entertainment only means that there won’t be anybody there to benefit from tax breaks in a few years’ time."
WGGB has joined Scottish writers in opposing the ban of a play written by WGGB member Gregory Burke. The headteacher of a school in Angus recently banned the play Black Watch (see video above) from the curriculum because of bad language and sexual content.
Her decision has generated controversy and column inches in a number of Scottish papers (including The Herald), resulting in an open letter from a group of writers and endorsed by Scottish PEN. The letter, co-signed by authors Ian Rankin and Louise Welsh and screenwriter Mike Cullen, calls for the ban to be overturned. They describe the text as an “essential piece of Scottish culture”.
Black Watch, which explores the Scottish regiment’s time in Iraq, is based on interviews with soldiers and is approved by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The writers claim that the play “allows us to hear soldiers speak in their own voice about their lives and the effects of momentous political decisions… When we ignore those voices, we step away from an important dialogue about our society, and our understanding is worse for it.”
They say it is “more important than ever for our educators to highlight the fundamental importance of free speech and expression to a healthy society. But it is hard to set a credible example if the school itself feels the need to prevent its students from studying a piece approved by the SQA due to concerns about its content.”
WGGB General Secretary Bernie Corbett commented: “Education is not about being mollycoddled, it is about being exposed to facts, ideas and influences, however uncomfortable. This is the only way human minds can develop and evolve. A return to Bowdlerism would leave our young people ignorant and unprepared for real life. In the Western so-called democracies we are clinging on to free speech as if for dear life. Censorship in schools would be another battle lost in the perilous war against a new dark age.”
Lending his voice to the fray, former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond told The Courier there could be “no blackballing of The Black Watch”. He said the play provides the definitive explanation of the Scottish attitude to warfare: “It explains why as a nation we can be pro-soldier but anti-war; why we understand that very good men can die for very bad reasons. Certainly, some of the language is choice. After all, it reflects the real-life experience of Scots squaddies. However, it would be unwise to ban plays on these grounds. It would rule out most of Shakespeare, for a start. And crucially, we are talking here about fifth and sixth year pupils - ie young people of the age who were entrusted last year with the vote about the future of their country.”
Accustomed to controversy over the play, Burke has remained steadfastly calm. However, he told WGGB: “I would like to thank Scottish PEN and the authors who have spoken out in support of Black Watch. I am also full of admiration for the determination the students have shown to study the play, despite the obstacles which are being put in their way. Hopefully, a resolution to the impasse can be found.”
It wasn’t just an unexpected storm that hit The Archers last week, when the River Am burst its banks, residents were evacuated from homes and farmers battled to save livestock.
The BBC was inundated by complaints from viewers, who took exception to the background rain noise and the live, rolling news updates and real-time blogging which accompanied the week-long storyline.
For some, the high drama was just too much. One listener said: “I thought the acting sounded good last night but the storyline was too stressful. Bring back the Jam and Jerusalem.”
Last week’s episodes were written by our very own Tim Stimpson, WGGB member and Deputy Chair. He has bravely decided to step out from behind the storm clouds and chair a special event on the flood storyline for the Writers’ Guild West Midlands branch.
Joining him will be Archers editor Sean O’Connor, agricultural editor Graham Harvey and Pip Archer herself, Daisy Badger (if her filming commitments allow).
Writers’ Guild West Midlands rep William Gallagher, who has organised the event, said: “Tim, Sean, Graham and Daisy are at the centre of the biggest Archers storyline in years: come to cheer them, come to roast them, but come to find out exactly what's behind their plans.”
The event will take place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25 March 2015 at The Mailbox, BBC West Midlands, Birmingham BR1 1RF. Entrance is free but you will need to book online.
General Secretary Bernie Corbett explains why the WGGB pension scheme will be changing from 2 March 2015
One of the greatest achievements of the WGGB, way back in the 1960s and 1970s, was the establishment of a pension scheme for freelance, self-employed writers. It was instigated by Roy Russell, a WGGB pioneer, who died only a few weeks ago. See obituary.
In those days a pension was linked to an employer. The idea that self-employed writers could have a pension was revolutionary. The idea that you could have a pension scheme without regular, identical monthly payments, had hardly been imagined.
But Roy Russell and his colleagues wouldn’t take No for an answer, and they set up a scheme that has served WGGB members well ever since.
The BBC, ITV, and later independent producers, all agreed to make pension contributions over and above the writer’s basic fee, and that system continues to the present day.
But there have been pension debacles (eg Maxwell) and many changes in Government regulations, and although there has never been a whiff of scandal over the WGGB scheme, recent Government regulations have made it impossible to carry on as before.
Without going into legalistic details, it means that the WGGB can no longer benefit from an advice and administrative service that costed nothing to our members. Therefore we have had to change our arrangements, however reluctantly.
If you are a member of the WGGB pension scheme, you may be in the original Group SERA scheme, which has valuable pension conversion rates (called Guaranteed Annuity Rates) which will be lost if you transfer out or cash it in. Or, if you joined more recently, you hold either a personal pension or stakeholder plan, that is associated with the WGGB because your entitlement to pension contributions depends on your WGGB membership.
Because of the changes in law, the WGGB can no longer use a separate administration company to hold the fort between the broadcasters/producers; the WGGB; and the pension scheme providers, Aviva. The cost of providing this service has traditionally been paid for by commission, but due to legislation, Aviva can no longer pay commission to advisers such as JLT.
All WGGB pension schemes are now under the umbrella of Aviva, one of the country’s biggest financial companies.
From Monday 2 March 2015 the following applies:
- If you are a current pensioner and you have an issue about your pension, please call Aviva on 0800 068 6800.
- If you want to make plans to draw your pension please contact 0800 068 6800.
- If you are unsure about payments into your pension plan, or the way the plan is working, please call 0800 068 6800.
- When calling Aviva, please state you are a member of the WGGB and quote your Aviva policy number. If you can't find your policy number please contact WGGB.
- If you feel you haven’t had good enough service from Aviva, please call the WGGB on 020 7833 0777. We can take your case to a higher level within Aviva.
- If you are still not satisfied, the WGGB can refer your case to our professional advisers JLT, with their expert John Adams, who has decades of familiarity with all the WGGB pension arrangements. But to be referred, you must come through the WGGB office, as this will result in a fee that will have to be paid by the Writers' Guild. Please note that you can no longer call John Adams or JLT Benefit Solutions without prior authorisation from the WGGB office.
Further information about the pension scheme can be found on the WGGB website.
Olivia Vinall as Hilary in The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard (photo: Johan Persson)
Acclaimed playwright and WGGB member Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem is his first play for stage since Rock ‘n’ Roll in 2006.
Running at the National Theatre until 27 May 2015, its central character Hilary (Olivia Vinall) is a psychology student at Loughborough University, conducting experiments on adult motivation and child behaviour patterns.
Renowned for using drama to explore problems, Stoppard poses questions such as: how does consciousness come about? And how much is human behaviour the product of egoism or altruism?
You can book tickets, and see events running alongside the production, on the National Theatre’s website.
For the eighth year running, US thriller writer James Patterson has been named as the UK’s most borrowed author, according to data released on 13 February 2015 by Public Lending Right.
Six children’s authors are among the top 10 most borrowed authors. They are: Daisy Meadows, the brand behind the Rainbow Magic series (2nd); former Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson (3rd); Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry series (4th); Adam Blade (6th); Jacqueline Wilson (7th); and Roald Dahl (10th).
David Walliams is at 74 (up from 157th last year and 430th in 2011/12) in the PLR top 500 most borrowed authors. Other big risers include Holly Webb (up to 41st from 68th last year) and Valerie Thomas (up to 67th from 115th). M.C. Beaton, author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth crime fiction books, is the most borrowed British author of books for adults, at number five.
E.L. James, who was in at number three last year with Fifty Shades of Grey, does not appear in the top 100 most borrowed titles list this year.
Public Lending Right (PLR) was established by Act of Parliament in 1979. It gives authors the legal right to receive payment from government each time their books are loaned through the public library system.
In February 2015, PLR will make payments totalling £6 million to 22,053 authors. This year’s Rate Per Loan is 6.66 pence.
Read more on the borrowing habits of the nation and find out how to register for PLR on the website.