All News & Features

Writing war: with Julia Lee Dean and Antony Owen

on Friday, 16 May 2014 15:40. Posted in Events

The latest Writers' Guild Off the Shelf at Black's event


11am-3pm, 2 June Blacks Club, 67 Dean Street, Soho, London
To sign up or to read your own work, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Cost: £30 (payable to Blacks as an after-lunch bill)

Join Julia Lee Dean and Antony Owen to discuss writing war. The day starts at 11am with coffee or tea. After the reading and Q&A, Blacks hosts a two-course lunch with wine. Up to three audience writers are invited to read 10 minutes each of their own work afterwards.

The writers

Julia Lee Dean is a novelist, playwright and tutor, and was a member of the Young Writers’ Programme at the Royal Court Theatre in 2003. She has performed as a stand-up comic in London & Edinburgh and has produced three of her own plays for the Camden and Belfast Fringe festivals. Her new novel And I Shall be Healed looks at the emotional and psychological damage of the First World War. Dean is now working on her second novel, The Lost Son of Ambrose Garfield.

Award-winning poet Antony Owen’s first collection of poetry My Father’s Eyes Were Blue was published by The Heaventree Press in 2009. His work often explores the emotional effects of conflict and this was reflected in his second collection The Dreaded Boy (Pighog 2011). His latest work, The year I loved England (Pighog), is a collaboration with Irish poet Joseph Horgan and will be published in July. He was invited to meet Irish President Michael D Higgins in Coventry on his first state visit to England in April in recognition of this Coventy/Cork collaboration. In 2013, Owen had an exhibition of poetry and photography accepted by the curator of the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

The London Library – a writers’ haven

on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 18:17. Posted in Books and Poetry

Chloe Brookes from The London Library explains what they can offer writers

“An intellectual refuge, essential research centre, treasure-house…” (Andrew Marr).

The Art Room London Library by Paul Raftery

Founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle, the London Library in Piccadilly is one of the world’s largest independent libraries, a literary oasis housing a million books in the arts and humanities, all freely available to browse and borrow on 15 miles of open access shelves. With books dating from the 16th century to the latest publications in print and electronic form, throughout its history the Library has sought to be ‘contemporary in every age’ and acquires 8000 new books every year.

The London Library offers an ideal space in which to write, think and discover in the heart of London. Equipped with purpose-built Reading Rooms and numerous quite study areas nestled amongst the book stacks, the Library is a place for serendipitous inspiration.

The Library is Wi-Fi equipped throughout and members enjoy access to an extensive range of online resources including JSTOR and a host of online archives and subscriptions. For those who may not be able to visit the Library in person, there is a postal loans service which will dispatch books and periodical volumes to readers anywhere within the UK and Europe.

‘After day one I realised I was going to come here every day. You have company – you don’t have solitude… It’s extraordinary how comforting it is.’ (Victoria Hislop).

Of the 1 million books in the Library, notable collections include Literature and Fiction with a huge range of novels, poetry, plays, essays and literary criticism. Other notable collections include History, Biography, Topography, Travel and exploration and the Art collection of books on art and architecture. There is fine coverage of the history of science, the social sciences and philosophy, and the Religion collection houses an exceptional range of theological texts and studies in comparative religion. The foreign languages are served with books in over 50 languages, with particular riches in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian collection.

Membership of the Library is open to all.

'The London Library is my favourite place in the whole of London. A unique resource and a wonderful place in which to read and research.' (John O'Farrell)

Membership Benefits:

  • Browse and borrow more than one million books
  • Benefit from generous book loan periods and no fines
  • Access to 750 magazine & periodical subscriptions
  • Free access to electronic resources, from JSTOR to Private Eye and Who’s Who online, wherever you are in the world
  • Postal loans service anywhere in the UK & Europe
  • Wi-Fi equipped Library & reading rooms
  • Membership and discounts to other organisations in the literary community

Annual membership: £475 per annum. (£39.58 a month payable by direct debit)

Young person’s membership (age 16-25): £238 (£19.83 a month payable by direct debit)

Those who cannot meet the membership fee may apply for assisted membership from The London Library Trust.

The London Library, 14 St James’s Square, London SW1Y 4LG

Photo by Paul Raferty

At the turn of the century

on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 09:16. Posted in News & Features

To celebrate the life of for Writers' Guild President, Bill Ash, who died last month, we reprint a version of an article he wrote in 1999.

What enables writers in Britain to face the future in a changing world with some confidence? The answer is the continued existence of their own trade union of professional writers which is affiliated to the Trade Union Congress and which enjoys a relationship with writers’ unions in the United States and across the world – the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

The Writers’ Guild is not simply a voluntary association of writers in some particular field offering its members advice and encouragement for a nominal subscription fee. It is instead a group of highly committed professional writers of books, plays, film scripts, radio and television programmes willing to work for each others’ good in a closely ordered democratic framework complying with TUC rules, with earnings-related subscriptions, agreed mandates and disciplinary procedures and a regularly elected executive council.

It is the trade union character of the Guild which has empowered it, on behalf of writers of books, stage plays, film scripts, creative radio and television programmes, to negotiate officially with appropriate authorities in establishing minimum terms and acceptable conditions for the sale of all written works. It has also established for the benefit of writers such institutions as Public Lending Right which compensates authors for the loan of their books from public libraries and the Authors’ Licencing and Collecting Society which collects for authors copyright payments for the foreign use of their works.

Obituary: Bill Ash 1917-2014

on Tuesday, 06 May 2014 16:49. Posted in General

By Nick Yapp


Bill Ash was a man of great charm and humour, soft-voiced and modest, and rock solid in his integrity. His political beliefs shone through all his extraordinary wartime adventures and through all that he did for the Guild, as a member of the Executive Committee for many years and as joint-chair from 1982 to 1983 and from 1995-1996. All his life, he battled for the causes he so passionately believed in, whether he was fighting against fascism in the 1940s, or against the chairman and governors of the City of Westminster College in the mid-1990s – the latter being responsible the shameful closing of the Soho Theatre after a prolonged and bitter struggle.

Bill was an outstanding champion of the Guild, the trade union that he loved and valued so highly. He was also an inspiring advocate of the causes for which the Guild fought. On the eve of the 2000 Millennium, he described the Writers’ Guild as a 'group of highly committed writers of books, plays, film scripts, radio and television programmes willing to work together for each other’s good'.

Perhaps, at this sad time for all those who worked with Bill, and in this revolutionary time for all writers, it would be appropriate to recall other words that he wrote for the Guild magazine, the Writers’ News, some 20 years ago: 'What enables writers in Britain to face the future in a changing world with some confidence? The continued existence of their own trade union of professional writers.' The message is timeless; the writer was unique.

On a personal note, Bill’s book How to Write Radio Drama is the best book about the craft of writing that I have ever read. It ought to be compulsory reading for every producer and commissioning editor, but I bet it isn’t.

Bill Ash's funeral will take place on Friday 9 May at 11.15am at West London Crematorium, Kensal Rise, London W10 5JS. A commemorative event will be held on Friday 16 May from 5.30pm to 9pm in central London. Further details will be announced later.

Read the Guardian obituary by Guild member Brendan Foley.

Playwrights' Progress showcase

on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 13:21. Posted in Theatre

Free tickets still available for showcase at Leicester Square Theatre at 2pm next Friday 9th May, to celebrate the ‘best of British’ new writing for the stage.

WesternizationDrawn from over 220 plays submitted nationwide, the Playwrights' Progress showcase features Imran Yusuf’s Westernization (pictured) and Kate Davidson’s The Ostrich. They are an exciting reflection of this unique script development project, promoted by the Writers’ Guild in partnership with Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and Leicester Square Theatre.

So don’t miss this exclusive Guild promotion at this exciting central London venue. And book for free now via Leicester Square Theatre.

WESTERNIZATION by Imran Yusuf - A married couple in crisis takes a comic journey from East to West. Over one night of metaphysical flight and fantasy, they navigate a world of authority figures, taking in gender politics, gymnastics, green tea and God; they argue, fumble and dance a way through the fundamentals of their relationship. What on earth can they – or any of us - do when the ground beneath their feet is shifting at a rapid pace?

THE OSTRICH by Kate Davidson - Middle-aged banker Teddy gets a shock when he goes home for his mother’s birthday to find that her dementia has significantly deteriorated. With neither of his sisters able to pay for nursing care, Teddy must make the tough choice about whether to put his feisty mother into a home. In this witty and poignant family drama secrets come to light, but does Teddy face up to painful reality or keep digging his head further into the sand?

This showcase will be a staged reading, performed by actors of the highest calibre, largely drawn from Central’s alumni, as the culmination of a whole process of readings and workshops, which have been led by the distinguished directors Gwenda Hughes, Tim Trimingham Lee, Janette Smith & Grainne Byrne. And is the distillation of our eight chosen playwrights and their plays.

The performance will run no later than 5 pm, when the theatre bar will be open for refreshment.

This project is funded by Arts Council England and the Writers’ Foundation (UK) with further financial support from RCSSD & Leicester Square Theatre.

Bonus scheme agreed for Doctors writers

on Saturday, 26 April 2014 06:34. Posted in TV

The Writers’ Guild and the BBC have reached agreement on a “loyalty bonus scheme” to ensure that writers on Doctors and other popular long-running series do not suffer swingeing pay cuts later this year.

The problem arose because a former 15% additional payment for iPlayer use and repeats on BBC3 and BBC4 has been ended in favour of generally better arrangements. Under a transitional arrangement, the payment was extended until July this year for Doctors, Casualty and Holby City, but will then disappear.

Guild general secretary Bernie Corbett explains the dilemma: “The trouble with ‘transitional’ arrangements is that they come to an end, and meanwhile it became clear that Doctors writers in particular are unlikely to benefit significantly either from the iPlayer or higher repeat fees on secondary channels.”

The Guild responded by organising a meeting of members and non-members from Doctors and arranged for a writer from the series to address the BBC negotiating forum. Email forums sounded the opinions of those who couldn’t attend and a united position was established. The BBC responded with an offer of new money through a “multi-episode bonus scheme” (MEBS).

It means that any writer who is commissioned to provide at least three episodes over a year will receive a 15% bonus payment on every script delivered in that year.

The Guild and its negotiating partner, the Personal Managers’ Association, pressed for further improvements, but the BBC rejected those suggestions.

Nevertheless, according to Corbett, the new scheme is “a positive development, and a life-saver for some writers whose earnings could have fallen off a cliff. We will monitor this carefully in its first year and will continue to press for a general uplift in the pay of LRS writers, particularly on Doctors, which looks to us like the lowest-paid continuing drama on UK network television.”

The BBC unilaterally offered to extend the scheme to Casualty and Holby City, which was welcomed by the Guild, although as those shows produce fewer episodes each year, a smaller number of writers will benefit. MEBS money is in addition to the Writers Digital Payments money from the use of iPlayer that will soon be coming on stream, and does not buy any further rights – it is a straight bonus.

In a separate development, writers on the Welsh language soap Pobol y Cwm found themselves facing a substantial cut in earnings due to the cancellation of the Sunday omnibus and a cut from five to four episodes per week. As all Pobol y Cwm writers are Guild members, they were able to organise a strong and rapid response. The BBC has offered the Guild significant increases in episode fees and other improvements, and the offer is currently being considered by writers in Wales.

Corbett commented: “We are still in negotiations, but it is already clear that what would have been a huge blow to writers’ earnings will be substantially softened due to the united action of the writers on a 100% union show.”

The collective efforts of the Guild and the Doctors and Pobol y Cwm writers in confronting the BBC with a united front and a coherent, well-argued case have been crucial. Guild Television Committee chair Bill Armstrong says: “There is no reason that this should not work for other shows. The Guild continues its efforts to contact writers who aren’t members, identify their interests and help them to come together, organise and argue their case for better terms and conditions. We welcome any information – from members and non-members – that helps us help you.”