Writing may be a solitary task and, frankly, that’s often one of the things that appeals to those of us who do it, but every writer needs help before their work is ready to find an audience. For new writers, it’s essential and that is why resources like the BBC Writers Room cannot fall victim to cuts and austerity.

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Established in 1998 by then Head Of Radio Drama, Kate Rowland, the BBC Writers Room has been through many changes since then, but has always been a key resource for driving forward creativity and supporting the writing community. Rowland left the BBC in April, meaning that Writers Room is now in the hands of Anne Edyvean.

“I wanted to come to BBC Writersroom because it is a special place that brings together some of the most creative people in the country”.

Of course, there’s always the concern that losing its long-term figurehead makes the department vulnerable. When cuts are to be made, it’s often the lower key, community aspects that go rather than more high profile areas, as happened in 2008 when the wonderful BBC Collective interactive culture ‘magazine’ was shut down. This can’t happen to BBC Writers Room.

Here’s why…

Creativity MUST be nurtured

Today’s aspiring writers are tomorrow’s creators of important culture and entertainment. The BBC Writers Room provides them with so much help and support, it would be damaging for generations to come to remove it. New talents need their writing analysed by others and to learn to analyse others’ scripts.

Great track record of successes

From popular CBBC shows like WOLFBLOOD and WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE… AGAIN! and zombie drama IN THE FLESH to this year’s adventurous THE LAST HOURS OF LAURA K, writers have had projects hit the airwaves through the BBC Writers Room. Dominic Mitchell won the BAFTA for Writer – Television Drama last year for IN THE FLESH and said:

“I truly don’t know if I would have had the stubborn gumption necessary to continue developing IN THE FLESH if BBC Writers Room hadn’t been so encouraging and supportive in those early days.”

Chance to have your screenplays read

The old system where scripts could be sent in unsolicited and read has sadly not been in place for a few years, but it’s not just the writers whose works are selected to be produced who receive hands-on development and support. Everyone whose submission is shortlisted benefits from the wisdom of the experts and professionals. Competition for these spots is inevitably intense and common sense dictates that you should wherever possible book a script report from a trusted professional company first, to give you the best chance of honing your script and being shortlisted by the Writers’ Room. Very raw scripts rarely progress unless they show exceptional promise.

Great insights into how TV dramas are made

Even if your interest in script-writing isn’t because you want to actually do it, there’s a treasure trove of information on the BBC Writers Room, not least the epic Script Library. There’s plenty of interviews with and blog posts by professional writers working both in the UK and abroad, talking about their jobs and how their shows are made. Learning from the people who do it for a living is vital.

Support for experimental work

We’ve already mentioned THE LAST HOURS OF LAURA K, a story that’s told across websites and social media and immerses its audience within its world. That’s the kind of experimental storytelling that comes from encouraging and nurturing young creative talent, not the kind that traditional media outlets normally provide.

Here’s more reasons why…

Highlights opportunities for writers across the UK

The BBC Writers Room is based in London and Salford, but spreads its reach across the UK, whether through region-specific awards and competitions or just the invaluable Opportunities section of its website, where production companies and theatres can advertise their calls for scripts to be submitted. A must-view page for aspiring writers.

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Continuing Drama opportunities

The BBC’s Continuing Drama Series department makes shows like EASTENDERS and HOLBY CITY and needs a steady flow of writers and scripts to sustain their many episodes. Scriptwriters with agents are welcomed to apply to be part of Shadow Schemes for each show, where they will be brought up to speed on how to write for them.

It champions diversity

The BBC Writers Room has an important part to play in opening up opportunities for anyone who wants a career in writing, which is incredibly important for communities that are still under-represented in mainstream culture. Earlier this year Shakeel Ahmed’s series of shorts MY JIHAD were shown on iPlayer, while the Trans Comedy Award has seen BOY MEETS GIRL become a transgender sitcom that has been commissioned for BBC Two. Co-writer Elliott Kerrigan explained:

“I saw the Trans Comedy Award on the Writersroom website and I know how important it is to see your life shown on TV in a positive and progressive way. A TV show like WILL AND GRACE meant and still means a lot to me. I could watch it with any member of my family and not feel awkward or like I wanted to watch it by myself in my room. That’s the kind of show I wanted to write”.

It can have a bright future

From being attached to the Radio Drama department back in 1998, the BBC Writers Room has always embraced evolving technology, both in the way it communicates with writers and the opportunities it gives them for presenting their stories. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t continue if it gets the right support from the BBC, keeping it at the cutting edge, where it needs to be.

It’s all FREE

This is so crucial. Because it’s from the BBC, the content, the opportunities, it’s all free, offering resources that few other bodies could do for writers looking to learn their trade. If it goes, it would leave a huge void. So far there aren’t any concrete signs that it’s under threat, but as a community we need to be ready to speak out if there are rumours of it being cut.

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10 Reasons The BBC Writers Room Must Endure
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2 Responses

  1. honeysuckle

    This reminds me of a BBC interview for producer I had once. I gave all my ideas for the show where I was a researcher and the interviewer said “Why aren’t you using those ideas in the show now?’

    You see, I don’t think they do any of the things you say – they don’t facilitate peer-review; they have never suggested getting paid-for readings before submitting (it makes sense but not a level playing-field), ONE success in Dominic Mitchell in all those years for something with pretty mediocre critical response, and this continued BBC obsession with hurting young women (The Fall, Happy Valley) now duplicated in Laura K which, in my view, is a very dubious project to have ever been conceived by Writersroom, as was its under the radar conception.

    I don’t think enough of the Writersroom foundations come from actual writers, just like BBC’s commissioners now departing. You can see when you view the stuff they make that the basics of screenwriting, as anyone studying the craft knows – character arc, building conflict etc etc, do not apply to their productions. Of course, they get all the money they need anyway whether anyone watches or not.
    And so it probably is time for a cash cull and a reboot of the system.

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