Jean McConnell, a founder member of WGGB and a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, died on 6 January 2015 in Tunbridge Wells.
Jean was also a Vice President and former Chair of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists.
Her funeral will be held at 12 noon on Thursday 22 January 2015 at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery Chapel, Benham Mill Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 5JJ, followed by a wake at the Oast Theatre, London Road, Tonbridge TN10 3AN.
Donations in memory of Jean, for the continued work of the Oast Theatre, where many of her plays were previewed, or to a charity of choice.
By Gail Renard
Brian Clemens, screenwriter and long-standing WGGB member, died on Saturday 10 January 2015. His prolific career spanned decades.
Clemens started as a messenger boy at advertising company J. Walter Thompson and, whilst there, sold his first thriller screenplay, Valid for Single Journey Only, to the BBC. He went on to write many of the most popular ITC drama series, including Danger Man, The Persuaders and The Professionals. Clemens also wrote the pilot of the original The Avengers television series, and went on to be its script editor, associate producer and lead writer for eight years. His output was so vast he often used the pseudonym Tony O'Grady.
Clemens also worked in America on the Father Dowling Mysteries, Perry Mason and Diagnosis: Murder.
It's not surprising that writing formed a large part of Brian Clemens' DNA. He was related to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). In recognition of his contribution to British television and film, Brian Clemens was honoured with an OBE.
His work was the background for many of our childhoods. Brian Clemens was a unique writer. Our sympathies to his wife Janet and family.
Writers’ Guild West Midlands representative William Gallagher joined hundreds of campaigners to condemn proposed cuts to the Library of Birmingham, at a public meeting in the Library’s Studio Theatre last night (Wednesday 7 January 2015).
In a passionate speech, he said the cuts – if they go ahead – would be an embarrassment to the city:
"Birmingham is supposed to be a great place to do business. But we are showing the world we can't even keep our library open."
Sam Owen, a member of staff at the library, branded proposals to cut staff "short-sighted" and said only basic counter services would remain if cuts were approved.
She said the building's specialist archive and research staff would be lost, and collections would be "irreparably damaged".
If the cuts go ahead to the £188-million library, 100 staff will lose their jobs and opening hours will be reduced from 73 to 40 hours per week.
Birmingham City Council has said it was exploring alternative ways to save services.
You can hear William Gallagher’s full speech here.
Bernie Corbett, General Secretary of WGGB, said: “We deplore the shocking murders of 10 journalists and two police officers in the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.
“While journalism is not the prime concern of the WGGB, nevertheless all writers, whether dramatists, novelists, poets or whatever, need the oxygen of free speech to deliver meaningful and significant work.
“It is not free speech to say that we can publish only material that will not offend or upset anyone. The whole point about free speech is that anyone can say anything they like, whether it is unkind, offensive, satirical, obscene, defamatory or even plain untrue.
“In our society, we have those rights and we must protect them. Of course we have to accept the consequences of exercising those rights. If what we write is against the law of the land we can be prosecuted. If it is defamatory we can be sued. If it offends a particular group, then we must be prepared for them to exercise their own right of free speech and argue against us and perhaps even demonstrate against us in the streets. But murder is simply a crime, and the ultimate denial of free speech.
“The guiding principle is that there must be no prior restraint, no censorship, no arbitrary limits. If we can’t uphold that principle, free speech will be extinct.”
The Federation of Screenwriters in Europe, which WGGB is affiliated to, has issued the following statement:
"European screenwriters, represented by the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe, are horrified by the cowardly, murderous attack on the creators and editors of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7th. As screenwriters we are shocked by this assault on our freedom to speak our minds, our freedom to create. Freedom of Expression is the essential prerequisite of creativity. The slaughter in Paris is an attack on our right to speak, to voice our opinions, to tell our stories. In solidarity with those who lost their lives, we reject terror, silence and submission."
Britain’s relationship with the European Union will be one of the issues in this year’s General Election. WGGB’s Europe Consultant, Pyrrhus Mercouris, warns writers to pay close attention.
I started working on a Policy Paper for the WGGB only to blunder on an obscure European Commission “policy paper”.
Just before Christmas the EC published a “Communication” which sets out its approach towards the next five years. I can conclude that it is rather unpleasant reading.
The newly appointed Commission is planning to be as “business friendly” as possible. That means its funding programmes more than ever will focus towards business interest and projects enhancing the “free market”. Meaning less money for culture and for tackling social problems.
Plus the regulatory and legal framework of the EU is to be reviewed with a focus on simplifying the rules for business. That is coded language to go after social and employment laws, health and safety and environment rules. The document even says that any ideas on standardising maternity leave are out.
The Communication has half a page on “a Connect single digital market”. It states: “The Digital Single Market holds one of the main keys to a new dynamic across the European economy as a whole, fostering jobs, growth, innovation and social progress. All areas of the economy and society are becoming digital. Europe needs to be at the forefront of this digital revolution for its citizens and its businesses. Barriers to digital are barriers to jobs, prosperity and progress”.
The document goes on to say that the EC is developing a strategy around six strands:
1. Building trust and confidence,
2. Removing restrictions,
3. Ensuring access and connectivity,
4. Building the Digital economy,
5. Promoting e-society,
6. Investing in world-class ICT research and innovation.
To do these six things the Commission will continue “ongoing” inter-institutional negotiations on proposals such as a common European data protection reform and the regulation of a “Connected Continent”. But what kind of consultation does “inter-institutional” mean? The parliament is still new, they have only just now started talking about it.
There will also be new initiatives, legislative and non-legislative, “to bring the Digital Single Market to the level of ambition needed to respond to the existing challenges”.
In this context, the Commission will:
- Tinker with or radically change rules applied to telecoms (does this mean making the rules even more “business friendly”?),
- “Modernise” EU legislation on copyright and audiovisual media services (does this mean reducing authors’ rights?),
- Simplify the rules for consumers making online and digital purchases,
- Facilitate e-commerce,
- Enhance cyber-security,
- Mainstream digitisation across all policy areas.
If you are a professional writer, you need to worry about all these trends. The EU is looking to reform the relationship between businesses and consumers – but is ignoring the creators whose work is essential to our culture and entertainment.
One thing is for sure – the WGGB will continue and strengthen its work in lobbying senior European Commission executives and key members of the European Parliament.