Public statement on the English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

on Monday, 03 December 2012 17:07. Posted in General

The Writers’ Guild would like to register deep concern at the exclusion of the arts as qualifying subjects in current proposals for the English Baccalaureate. While recognising the importance of certain subjects – such as English, maths and science - we believe that core recognition of cultural and artistic subjects, both appreciation and practice, is also a vital component of a rounded education.

In addition the UK’s education system needs to recognise that culture, the arts and education do in fact contribute greatly to the economy. The creative industries provide six per cent of Britain’s GDP, £16 billion in exports, and employ at least 2 million people.

In particular, the Guild is concerned about:

  • The lack of any prior consultation with teachers, students, parents or creative writers before EBacc was brought in
  • The disincentivisation of schools to offer arts subjects, through the retrospective recalculation of the school league tables according to EBacc subjects
  • The particular impact of EBacc on the teaching of drama, and the knock-on effect this will have on plays, playwriting and performances in schools.

Introducing The Writers Foundation (UK)

on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 13:04. Posted in General

By Rupert Creed

The Writers Foundation (UK) is a new company and registered charity established by the Writers’ Guild. Its aims are to promote the craft of writing across all disciplines, to advance writer education & training, and to offer welfare support for the writing community. 

The Writers Foundation (UK) has secured seed funding via donations from The Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) and is now open to applications for events and programmes of work from Guild and non-Guild members alike. 

Arts are a lottery for Tories

on Friday, 12 October 2012 14:43. Posted in General

Jayne Kirkham reports from the Conservative Party Conference 2012

Three conferences in three weeks and I’ve reached the point where I feel like writing, ‘Tories, Birmingham: went’. Partly because I’m tired but mostly because there really isn’t an awful lot to write about. I arranged my stay around any Culture, Media and Sport speeches and activities both within the main conference agenda and the fringe. They were, however, far and few between and then mainly concerned with the OIympics Legacy with celebratory cheering scheduled as a warm up for the Prime Minister’s speech.

It was all rousing stuff: I cried. However, I think the tears were justified when, having told us that jobs, influence and investment are the real legacy of the Olympics and rolling out two wide-eyed medallists to prove the point, sports minister Hugh Robinson said, ‘The message is clear: please go out and buy your lottery tickets.’ It was a stark reminder that no matter how much culture, media and sport bring communities together, or enrich our understanding of who we are or who we can be; there is no real government support. Lord Coe may highlight the “nourishing and sustaining role of laughter”, but we have to pay for it ourselves through the Lottery. We could spend hours in the pub debating the merits of the Lottery but here, all I’m saying is Mr Robinson neatly summed up how the Conservatives view themselves as the party that helps people who help themselves.

Most over used word of the conference? ‘Strivers.’ I think everyone had been schooled to use it, including the barista in the coffee bar. Although, blessings upon him: he used it with delicious amounts of froth and irony.

Child's play with the Opposition

on Thursday, 04 October 2012 18:13. Posted in General

Jayne Kirkham, Chair of the Guild's Children's Committee, reports from the Labour Party Conference in Manchester

Yep, like the Lib-Dems in Brighton last week, the Labour Conference in Manchester was another gathering of the clan. But Labour’s conference is bigger and redder. You would hope so, wouldn’t you? Although actually, I thought the branding was rather blue – blue lighting, blue Union flags: a bit Stella McCartney really. And I was surprised to still be tripping over ice buckets in the Midland Hotel lobby; despite us being one nation under a groove, there’s still quite a lot of champagne socialism around.

Oh, you will have read the reports of the speeches and press releases and know that we’re half way between elections so there were no exciting policies or lines being drawn in the sand in the conference hall. I came in half way through one debate and didn’t realise the speakers were on the other side of the stage. I spent quite a long time watching five purple cushions on a sofa. With a head full of kids’ television, I thought soft furnishings that talk were normal. Although I did remark to my neighbour that their argument was somewhat fabricated. He tutted and said something about cloth ears. Likewise the fringe was not what you’d call dynamic. Walking round the exhibition hall the most exciting and thought provoking thing was a display by some guide dogs. Although I did see Alistair Campbell on a kayak ergometer machine. That was more distracting than anything: I was having a useful conversation about select committee process at the time and there he was, paddling like Goldie Hasler himself on the Boating Alliance’s stand.

I am very pleased that I went, though. Labour aren’t just the lot that lost: they are Her Maj’s Loyal Opposition and while last week I pompously spouted that it was my job to hold the likes of David Laws to account, it isn’t. That job belongs to the likes of Stephen Twigg. So I had arranged meetings and picked out useful fringe events, on the look out for more political allies and friends for the Guild and the Children’s Media Foundation. I didn’t have to search too hard. At least not when I talked about the issues around children’s media and arts. With the Communications Green Paper having been kicked into touch, there was little obvious interest in wider issues such as intellectual property. But it’s a bit like picking raspberries: there will always be some more on the canes.

As I said last week, whether all this has been successful will become clear with time when (not if) policies and laws change. In the meantime, forgive me for not saying too much publicly. What I will tell you is that one senior politician still had the dry cleaning ticket pinned to his suit, Film Four will be screening a movie about the Rochdale Pioneers in early November and that one purple cushion whispered to its comrade, ‘How long do we have to stay before it’s not rude to leave?’

Lobbying in the midst of a storm

on Thursday, 27 September 2012 10:47. Posted in General

Jayne Kirkham reports from the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton
Photo: David Laws MP, Minster of State for Schools

david lawsBrighton is supposed to be a sunny, rather hedonistic place isn’t it? Not sure that’s how I would describe the Lib-Dem conference there this week. The weather was cold, wet and blustery and, given the furore about Nick Clegg’s apology and their position in the polls, you might think that would describe the conference too. But, while politicians are always full of wind, everything was rather… fuggy: warm and soporific with any genuine angst or anger covered in a blanket of goodwill.

It is of course a gathering of the clan and, Lib-Dems are no different to the other parties in the midst of a storm: smiling while holding their skirts down firmly lest the wind woofs up and shows us their pants.

So do I have anything new to report? Anything that you couldn’t read in the main papers or hear on TV? Quite possibly I do. Because my agenda was not that of the main press nor of the Lib-Dems. I went as a writer. And a children’s writer at that – someone who believes children deserve the best we can give them. So I went looking to hear from ministers and spokespeople for Education, Culture, Media and Sport about their policies on art, media, children’s art and media, art in education, education, soft education, hard education (beginning to sound like toffees), the creative industries, intellectual property rights…

I didn’t hear very much. On some subjects I was the one doing the telling: about how the new English Baccalaureate will affect the teaching of and children’s access to theatre, music and art; how British children’s TV is the best in the world, yet crippled by an un-level international playing field; how so little public arts funding is spent on children.

What was very satisfying was that they were listening. Now, of course, the important bit is the follow up – will those meetings I had really result in questions at Prime Minister’s Question Time? Have I really found new advocates that will do rather than just say? Will we see changes to policy regarding arts in schools or the funding of children’s arts? In his speech, David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools (pictured above), said ‘A good education is the cornerstone of a liberal society. A good education for all is the cornerstone of the society our party wants to create. My job is to deliver just that.’

My job then is to not let him forget it.

Jayne Kirkham is Chair of the Writers’ Guild Children’s Committee