Just 11.5% of professional authors can earn a living from their writing
A new survey commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society has found that increasingly few professional authors are able to earn a living from their writing.
The survey, What Are Words Worth Now?, of almost 2,500 working writers, was carried out by Queen Mary University of London. It found that in 2013 just 11.5% of professional authors (those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing) earned their incomes solely from writing, compared with 40% in 2005.
The typical (median) income of the professional author has also fallen dramatically, both in real and actual terms. In 2013, the median income of the professional author was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 in real terms). According to Joseph Rowntree Foundation figures, single people in the UK need to earn at least £16,850 before tax to achieve a Minimum Income Standard.
In contrast to the sharp decline in earnings of professional authors, the wealth generated by the UK creative industries is on the increase. Statistics produced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2014 show that the creative industries are now worth £71.4 billion per year to the UK economy (over £8 million per hour) and the UK is reported as having “the largest creative sector of the European Union”, and being “the most successful exporter of cultural good and services in the world”, according to UNESCO.
Owen Atkinson, chief executive of ALCS, commented: “This rapid decline in both author incomes and in the numbers of those writing full time could have serious implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the UK. If writers are to continue making their irreplaceable contribution to the UK economy, they need to be paid fairly for their work. This means ensuring clear, fair contracts with equitable terms and a copyright regime that support creators and their ability to earn a living from their creations.”
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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.
New report says the creative industries are a hotspot for bullying
Creating Without Conflict report author Cathy John (right) with Anne Marie Quigg
The worlds of the media, arts and entertainments are often seen as glamorous, but a survey of 4,000 workers has revealed these industries are hotspots of bullying, with more than half of those questioned (56%) saying they had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work.
People who contributed to a survey, commissioned by the Federation of Entertainment Unions, ranged from household names, top screenwriters and performers to those at the beginning of their careers.
The results showed shocking levels of ill-treatment and inappropriate behaviour and a culture of silence, with only a third of those suffering bullying and harassment reporting the incidents.
The Writers' Guild Awards were presented in London on Wednesday 13 November 2013
Writers' Guild President Olivia Hetreed introducing the Awards (Photo: WGGB/Simon Denton). More photos: www.facebook.com/thewritersguild
TV Drama Series
Winner: Silk (Peter Moffat)
Shortlisted: The Village (Peter Moffat), Broadchurch (Chris Chibnall)
Winner: Coronation Street
Shortlisted: Holby City, Casualty, Waterloo Road, EastEnders, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Doctors
Winner: Getting On (Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, Joanna Scanlan)
Shortlisted: Fresh Meat (Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain), Him and Her (Stefan Golaszewski)
TV Drama Short Form
Winner: The Girl (Gwyneth Hughes)
Shortlisted: Room at the Top (Amanda Coe), Murder:Joint Enterprise (Robert Jones)
Winner: The Dumping Ground - What Would Gus Want? (Elly Brewer)
Shortlisted: What’s the Big Idea - What is Art? (Alan Gilbey), The Dumping Ground - The Truth is Out There (Emma Reeves)
Winner: Tennyson and Edison (David Pownall)
ShortlistedL The Go-Between (adapted by Frances Byrnes from the novel by LP Hartley), Once Upon a Time There Was a Beatrix (Lavinia Murray)
Winner: Susan Calman is Convicted (Susan Calman)
Shortlisted: Fags, Mags & Bags (Sanjeev Kohli and Donald McLeary), Meet David Sedaris (David Sedaris)
Winner: The Universe versus Alex Woods (Gavin Extence)
Shortlisted: Big Brother (Lionel Shriver), The Card (Graham Rawle)
Winner: Thomas Was Alone (Mike Bithell)
Shortlisted: Tomb Raider (Rhianna Pratchett), Lego City Undercover (Graham Goring)
Winner: What Richard Did (Malcolm Campbell)
Shortlisted: Sightseers (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram), Good Vibrations (Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson), Grabbers (Kevin Lehane),
Winner: My Brother the Devil (Sally El Hosaini)
Shortlisted: Byzantium (Moira Buffini), Skyfall (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan)
Winner: Quietly (Owen McCafferty)
ShortlistedL Brilliant Adventures (Alistair McDowall), The Thrill of Love (Amanda Whittington)
Theatre Play for Young People
Winner: Whole (Philip Osment)
Shortlisted: I, Cinna (Tim Crouch), Mr Holgado (Christopher William Hill)
A special Writers' Guild Award was presented by Lee Hall to David Edgar for his outstanding contribution to writing and writers.
By Olivia Hetreed, President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain
I recently had the privilege of attending the Bryan Forbes Tribute put on by the National Youth Theatre, of which Bryan was, for many years, the enthusiastic President.
Bryan was writer and director of such films as King Rat, Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Whistle Down the Wind.
Through a series of recollections from family, friends and colleagues, punctuated by performances by present NYT members and illustrated by lovely photographs of Bryan on film sets and with his family, we were treated to a wonderful overview of a life lived generously and tirelessly in pursuit of the best work, enabling the brightest talent to shine and in a spirit of tremendous love and generosity.
From the opening, entirely unprintable anecdote to Nanette Newman's on-the-brink-of-tears final words, it was a funny, outrageous, touching and very appropriate memorial to a great man of British film and theatre.
Forbes was treasurer of the Guild in its formative years and in 1962 he won the Guild's Best British Comedy Screenplay Award for Only Two Can Play.
In 1969 Bryan Forbes became managing director of Associated British Productions, at that time the biggest name in the UK film industry. He was sent hundreds of scripts. He welcomed every contribution and then "asked everybody to believe that every single submission would be considered." Those writers who showed promise he directed to the Guild and he was clear that he wanted to make Elstree a Guild studio.
In his memory the family have set up a bursary for directors at the NYT.