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A tribute to Olwen Wymark

on Friday, 21 June 2013 06:25. Posted in Theatre

David James remembers writer Olwen Wymark who died last week

Olwen was extraordinary. Vibrantly alive and present, raffishly glamourous, fiercely intelligent, often maddening, and with great human fragility. She was a real dame (in the American sense) and the full deal.

Olwen loved writing and writers, and one of her greatest passions was championing writing as a viable profession that would pay the bills. On the Theatre Committee, we always spoke of the ‘career playwright’ and their need for support (she had little truck with funding initiatives aimed at the likes of ‘Mrs. Ding-dong’s Bell-ringing School’). Olwen was chair of the Theatre Committee from 1989 through 1999. She worked closely with David Edgar on drawing the Theatre Writers’ Union into the Guild, was tirelessly involved in endless Arts Council dialogs as a member of their now-gone Drama Panel and through meetings with New Writing officer Charles Hart. She deeply mourned – as did all of us on the Theatre Committee -- the losses over a decade ago of ring-fencing for new writing and of blue-sky bursaries, which gave writers the chance to freely explore new ideas and themes. Often together or with others like Neil Duffield, we trawled the regional ACE offices, talking to Drama Officers, some of whom, like Alison Gagen at West Midlands and Ian Tabron in Manchester were cherished allies, and some of whom felt like a total waste of space. But we kept at it. It was a time when regional new writing policy very much depended on the commitment of the officer in place. She was always in a dialog with SOMEBODY.

Olwen’s own writing was very precious to her. Although I can’t speak fully about her writing credits, her most prominent play was certainly Find Me (1977), which is still often a set text on UK school syllabi, and she would glow with pride when receiving a letter from a student, about how the play remained relevant. She approached every project, from the smallest to the biggest (which included a massive – and brilliant – adaptation of Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward, with her old friend Paul Schofield) with equal commitment. She would go to the British Library day after day in her little car to write SOMETHING on a yellow pad in her great, scrawling hand; and – as for all of us – it pained her deeply how difficult it was to actually get something commissioned and produced. I remember a late reading at John Calder’s bookstore (John was another old friend) when she spoke so movingly about how she always struggled with her writing.

Don't give up the day job

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 18:42. Posted in General

Stephen Potts on how he combines careers in medicine and writing

Stephen PottsA few years ago I stood at a crossroads, uncertain which way to go. Should I quit the day job and throw myself into writing full-time, or continue trying to combine the two? I wrote about the decision in this magazine, and many readers offered advice. As so often, events – two young children – took over and made my decision for me. I could inflict the financial uncertainties of a full-time writer’s life upon myself, but not upon my family. So I carried on, and now find myself invited by the editor to offer views on the day job question.

I read somewhere that only 15% of published writers earn a living from their writing. So nearly all of us need a day job, raising questions about how we regard it; how it relates to the writing; how we assign our time and energies between day job and our writing projects; and how we shut off from one when engaged in the other.

My day job is in medicine. I’m a psychiatrist in a busy general hospital, seeing people in A&E, the medical and surgical wards, and the transplant unit. Medicine is a notoriously hard task master, and I bemoaned its ‘all or nothing’ nature in my earlier article. I’ve worked part-time for most of the past 16 years, though currently part-time means 36 hours a week plus one weekend in four on call. This is far too much like full-time work for me, but if I am to do less, someone else has to do more, and that’s not been an option for some time, though I live in hope.

There is one day a week when I am not in the hospital. I try to be ruthless in protecting my writing Wednesdays, though I do still get calls. I suppress irritation about them, aware that writers’ day jobs are often resented. In the extreme (and I am not here talking about my own job) they leech upon our time, our energies, our enthusiasms, perhaps our creative sparks: and we endure them only for the income they bring, for they offer nothing reciprocal in the way of new perspectives, new insights or new skills to carry into our writing lives. If it is hard for a non-writer to get up each day and drag her weary frame into a dreary workplace, then – perhaps – how much harder for a writer who wants to break free, who scribbles and taps away in stolen moments, and dreams nightly of the Big Break which will allow her to walk into the boss’s office with a smirk and tell him where to put his P45. But if the Big Break doesn’t come, going to work each day with that extra burden of desperate hope will eventually become intolerable.

Olwen Wymark dies at the age of 84

on Tuesday, 18 June 2013 08:50. Posted in Theatre

The American-born playwright Olwen Wymark, who spent much of her working life in England and was a long-standing member of the Writers' Guild, has died.

Her plays include Find Me, Gymnasium, Loved, Best Friends and Strike Up The Banns. Olwen also wrote for extensively for radio and television.

Olwen was Chair of the Writers' Guild Theatre Committee for many years.

Obituary by David James

Obituary by Michael Coveney in The Guardian

Olivia Hetreed is new President of the Guild

on Friday, 14 June 2013 19:37. Posted in General


Olivia Hetreed is the new President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, following a vote at the Guild's AGM

Olivia, best known for scripting the hugely successful film Girl With A Pearl Earring, has served for several years as Chair of the Guild's Film Committee and a member of our Executive Council. Olivia started her career as a documentary, drama and film editor and moved into writing with a series of family films for ITV including The Treasure Seekers and The Canterville Ghost. Other credits include the award-winning Man of Law’s Tale for the BBC and the feature film Wuthering Heights, released in 2011. She is currently in development with Philip and Liz, the love story of the young Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. Olivia’s unopposed election as President was announced at today’s Guild Annual General Meeting. She takes over from the eminent playwright David Edgar, who has been our distinguished President for the past six years.

Science fiction theatre: the theatre of tomorrow?

on Friday, 14 June 2013 15:04. Posted in Theatre

Christos Callow Jr. introduces a call for papers for a conference on science fiction theatre

Stage The Future will be, to my knowledge, the first academic conference on science fiction theatre. The idea for such an event came last year when I realised that science fiction and theatre can produce fascinating results when combined.

The first thing to do was to decide where a conference should happen and with whom I would organise it. There are almost no academics researching this subject, but there’s another PhD student – and fellow SF playwright – Susan Gray, who’s researching SF Theatre for her PhD. I wrote to her and I’m happy to say she accepted, so we started planning the conference.

But just what is SF Theatre exactly?

Science fiction theatre could be the answer to how – and why – theatre would survive the modern digital age; it could also attract an important part of the young generation, namely the geeks, to theatres where they’d get much more than the big budget visual effects of Hollywood.

As a genre, science fiction theatre can contribute to both science fiction and theatre, offering new insights, new ways of exploring the relationship between humanity and technology and, of course, new challenges for theatre-makers. Indeed, this could well be the theatre of the future.

Britain's Got Bullies

on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 12:24. Posted in Events

Dinah Rose QC (author of the BBC's Respect at Work Review) will be part of the panel at an event staged by the union BECTU on Tuesday 18th June called Britain’s Got Bullies: Bullying in The Creative Sector.

The session will be chaired by Lisa Campbell, Broadcast editor. Other contributors will include Graham Russell (Change Associates), Donna Taberer (BBC), Anne-Marie Quigg (author of Bullying in the Arts) and Rebecca Peyton (actor and playwright) and sister to the former BBC journalist Kate Peyton who was killed in Somalia in 2005.

This is part of a larger event, the BECTU Freelance Fair , which has sessions covering professional development and networking for film and TV workers people.

There is a booking fee of £10.00 to attend any of the sessions including Britain’s Got Bullies for those who are not BECTU members.

Full details: