23 June 2012
Posted in Theatre
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain passed an emergency motion at its AGM on 14th June deploring Arts Council England's withdrawal of investment in the future of dramatic writing and writers, and resolving to lobby the Arts Council and Government for a change of policy on the issue.
The motion was sparked by the recent rejection of a bid by North West Playwrights (NWP) for Grants for the Arts funding. In recent years regular Arts Council funding has been withdrawn from NWP and similar writer support agencies Script (West Midlands) and Theatre Writing Partnership (East Midlands).
As the motion notes, producing theatres, under the pressure of funding cuts, are reducing their support for writers and new writing. Aside from NWP the only bodies offering development services for scriptwriters independent of theatre companies are New Writing North and New Writing South – both as part of a general portfolio of facilities for all forms of writing.
Julie Wilkinson, who proposed the AGM motion, said: 'Dramatic writing requires a high level of professional skill and experience. Hacking away at the roots of the industry by cutting resources available for new writers will damage the long term future, not only of theatre writing, but television, radio and film as well.
'These cuts mean that support now depends on where you live, with only patchy access to script development services available in a few areas. We have seen great improvements in the diversity of writing and writers on the English stage, since 2003, as a result of strategic funding decisions; but without effective policies to support emerging talent, writers who cannot fund their own training will find it much harder to make their voices heard.'
Guild President David Edgar seconded the motion, saying that playwriting development agencies like North West Playwrights played a vital role in the huge expansion of new theatre writing in England over the last 20 years. Now that so many are losing their funding, he continued, there is a real danger that the next generation of playwrights will be unable to develop their craft as effectively as those who are now dominating the British stage. Founded by the Theatre Writers’ Union (which joined the Guild in the 1990s), North West Playwrights was and is the leading organisation in the field.
The motion was passed unanimously, and the Guild's Theatre Committee, led by playwright Amanda Whittington, will be seeking early contact with the Arts Council.