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Grassroots Writing

on Friday, 11 October 2013 14:19. Posted in Events

7-9pm, Derby Theatre Studio, Saturday 23 Nov 2013


An evening of insight & discussion, for anyone interested in new writing or pursuing a career as a writer, with wine and refreshments.

Meet our three distinguished Midlands guests who have all, in their way, been strongly influenced by their background and formative experience.

Amanda Whittington - highly successful local playwright, describes how she has to empathise with her characters, however notorious or extraordinary they may be. Her play about Judy Garland opens at Nottingham Playhouse in the New Year.

David Belbin - novelist and creative writing lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, tells how he keeps in continual contact with his community, especially the youth culture he works closely with, for his highly acclaimed young adult fiction.

Naylah Ahmed - award winning playwright, TV dramatist, BBC Radio producer, poet & short story writer, will talk about how her particular cultural background and Birmingham roots have inspired her work.

This event is a joint promotion of The Writers’ Guild with Derby Theatre Arts. Tickets £9. Concessions £6. Box Office 01332 593939 or

FREE to Writers' Guild Members. Ring box office on 01332 593939 to book and bring membership card to collect your ticket.

No Fat Juliets

on Monday, 07 October 2013 15:02. Posted in Theatre

Sue McCormick tells the story behind her new play


The basic storyline for No Fat Juliets had its beginnings on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank over 10 years ago but was never realised as other projects kept me too busy to develop it. The commissions I’ve been lucky enough to get since then have been for plays with a specific historical setting so when I decided that it was time to write a contemporary play, I went back to the idea I had for No Fat Juliets - a madcap comedy set in a failing Lakeland hotel, with a love story, a ghost, original songs and a good-humoured sideswipe at the pressure on women to conform to a physical ideal. There are broken hearts, broken limbs, songs, storms and seductions before we are finally served the obligatory happy ending!

As an actor I created the role of Jan in Ladies Day and Ladies Down Under by Amanda Whittington and I wanted NFJ to have the same warm-hearted accessibility that audiences had loved in those plays, with something to think about overlaid with bags of fun and frolics! As always I wanted to write strong roles for women and for the first time, as the lead was drawn in many ways from personal experience, I decided to pitch the project as writer/actor and double my workload!

Marie Banks and Robert Leeson

on Sunday, 06 October 2013 18:28. Posted in General

Remembering Marie Banks and Robert Leeson who both died at the end of September

Marie Banks

Marie Banks, former Assistant General Secretary who worked for the Writers' Guild for 28 years, died on 28 September.

Marie's contributions to the Guild were many, not least her phenomenal memory, which allowed her to place the names – and usually the faces – of hundreds of members. Much of her time was spent dealing with the finances of the Guild, working closely with several treasurers.

She started work for the Guild in the basement of No. 7 Harley Street on 15 March 1962 as an office temp, and 25 years later she was fêted at a celebration at the Café Royal. President Maureen Duffy presented Marie with a glass rose bowl and the Chair, Robert Leeson (who has also just died -- see below) announced that grateful members had subscribed no less than £6,500 towards her pension as a testimonial of gratitude.

Marie died of cancer at University College Hospital, London.

Robert Leeson

Robert Leeson, chair of the Writers’ Guild in 1985-86, died on 29 September aged 85.

He was a prolific writer of novels for children, publishing more than 70 titles, including Maroon Boy, Never Kiss Frogs, Tom’s Private War and several Grange Hill spin-offs. As chair of the Guild’s Books Committee in the early 1980s he played a vital part in negotiating minimum terms agreements with the leading UK publishers of the time. A full obituary will appear on the Guild’s website shortly.

The funeral will take place in Harlow, Essex on Wednesday 16 October. Any former colleague of Robert wishing to attend should contact the Guild office for full details

Nick Yapp adds:

I suppose everyone who's ever sat on any sort of committee has their idea of an ideal committee member. Mine would be Bob Leeson - modest, an extremely good listener, constructive, and always contributing the mot juste, the helpful suggestion, the faultless gathering together of every contribution as the discussion nears its end. Bob was way ahead of me. He'd had years of experience before I joined the Books Committee back in the late 1980s. I sat at the bottom end of the table in the Meeting Room upstairs at the Guild's Office in Edgware Road, listening carefully to what Bob said in the hope that one day I would have the skill and wisdom to follow in a master's footsteps. I never could, but that wasn't Bob's fault.

He was most active in the Guild during difficult times (come to think of it, aren't they all). The Books Committee was struggling to persuade all the major publishing houses in the UK to agree to a standardised Minimum Terms Contract for writers. The struggle was long, intense, and largely successful, and Bob played his part.

In short, Bob was one of those remarkable colleagues who make the rest of us proud to be part of the same Guild as them.

Writers' Guild Awards 2013 shortlists

on Saturday, 05 October 2013 08:51. Posted in General

The Writers' Guild Awards will be presented in London on Wednesday 13 November 2013. The shortlists in 13 categories are published below.

TV Drama Series
Silk (Peter Moffat), The Village (Peter Moffat), Broadchurch (Chris Chibnall)

Continuing Drama
Holby City, Casualty, Waterloo Road, Coronation Street, EastEnders, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Doctors

TV Comedy
Getting On (Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, Joanna Scanlan), Fresh Meat (Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain), Him and Her (Stefan Golaszewski)

TV Drama Short Form
The Girl (Gwyneth Hughes), Room at the Top (Amanda Coe), Murder : Joint Enterprise (Robert Jones)

Children’s TV
The Dumping Ground - What Would Gus Want? (Elly Brewer), What’s the Big Idea - What is Art? (Alan Gilbey), The Dumping Ground - The Truth is Out There (Emma Reeves)

Radio Drama
Tennyson and Edison (David Pownall), The Go-Between (adapted by Frances Byrnes from the novel by LP Hartley), Once Upon a Time There Was a Beatrix (Lavinia Murray)

Radio Comedy
Susan Calman is Convicted (Susan Calman), Fags, Mags & Bags (Sanjeev Kohli and Donald McLeary), Meet David Sedaris (David Sedaris)

The Universe versus Alex Woods (Gavin Extence), Big Brother (Lionel Shriver), The Card (Graham Rawle)

Tomb Raider (Rhianna Pratchett), Thomas Was Alone (Mike Bithell), Lego City Undercover (Graham Goring)

First Screenplay
Sightseers (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram), Good Vibrations (Colin Carberry, Glen Patterson), Grabbers (Kevin Lehane), What Richard Did (Malcolm Campbell)

My Brother the Devil (Sally El Hosaini), Byzantium (Moira Buffini), Skyfall (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan)

Theatre Play
Quietly (Owen McCafferty), Brilliant Adventures (Alistair MacDowall), The Thrill of Love (Amanda Whittington)

Theatre Play for Young People
Whole (Phillip Osment), I, Cinna (Tim Crouch), Mr Holgado (Christopher William Hill)

WGA calls for solidarity in ITV negotiations

on Thursday, 03 October 2013 09:05. Posted in TV


WGGB supporting the WGA: (left to right) former WGGB Chair Robert Taylor, Anne Hogben and Roger Willams

My First Play

on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 17:53. Posted in Theatre

My First Play: An Anthology of Theatrical Beginnings is published by Nick Hern Books to celebrate 25 years of theatre publishing.


All royalties from the sale of the book are donated to the Theatre Section of the Writers' Guild. To buy a copy with a 25% discount off the cover price of £9.99, go to (discount valid until 31 December 2013).

The extracts below are reprinted with kind permission of the authors and Nick Hern Books.

Introduction by Nick Hern

In 2013, the year I’m writing this, the publishing firm I set up in 1988 celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. As a publisher I naturally wanted to publish something special to mark the occasion. Rejecting the idea of a ‘Reader’ consisting of bleeding chunks of plays and books by the various authors on the Nick Hern Books list, I hit instead on the idea of asking pretty well everyone whose plays or books had been regularly published by NHB to write a little piece on ‘My First Play’.

I explained to them that this could be ‘the first play you ever saw, the first play you wrote/acted in/directed, the first one that blew your socks off, the play that made you want to go into the theatre etc., etc.’ And I attached a piece I had just written on the subject by way of proving to myself it could be done – and that it could be fun.

The result was instantaneous. Pieces started coming in that very evening. The first was by Caryl Churchill with a note that read: ‘This is the sort of thing that if I don’t do it at once the time will rush by and I won’t do it at all.’ Then a piece by Ella Hickson, full of the joy of a fascinating discovery. Then Larry Kramer, Stephen Jeffreys and Alexi Kaye Campbell all came through within a day or two. After the trickle came a gratifying flood, the results of which fill this book.

People who were absurdly busy were often the most punctilious – Bruce Norris and Dominic Cooke both sent pieces while opening The Low Road at the Royal Court, Richard Eyre from Chichester where he was opening The Pajama Game, Howard Brenton from Hampstead where he was arresting Ai Weiwei, Joanna Murray-Smith from the opening of her new play at the Sydney Theatre Company, Oliver Ford Davies from the exhaustion of an extended tour of Goodnight Mister Tom, and Polly Teale from mid-rehearsals for Alexi’s Bracken Moor. Tanya Ronder struggled out from under the Table at the National to deliver her piece, while Conor McPherson managed his while attending to the revival of one play, The Weir, and the premiere of another, The Night Alive, both at the Donmar. It wasn’t all theatre, though: Elaine Murphy, six months pregnant, overcame ‘baby brain’ to write a piece, while Chloë Moss delivered hers soon after giving birth. And these are just the stories I heard about. Everyone whose pieces appear here generously put aside pressing obligations to make their contributions, for which I’m humbly grateful.

And what heart-warming, revelatory, hilarious and touching pieces they are – all in all a marvellous birthday present to NHB. I read many of them with eyes misting over at the joyous – yet complex – innocence on display. And it occurred to me that each of them in their way is the story of a love affair…