Welcome to our annual end of term report.
The group continues to thrive with a membership of just over 100. Meetings since last September have attracted an average attendance of 22. The largest turnouts during the year were for the open workshop held on 23 May when 33 of us crammed the Cooper’s Loft, followed closely by the reading of John Colborn’s NW2K entry Maria that drew an audience of 32 on 27 June.
Readings and guest speakers have been our most popular meetings since last autumn. As well as John’s play, we’ve showcased work by Brian Weaving, William House, Helen Bradbury, Lori Hill and Sally Allnutt through in-group readings. This year these meetings have not only been an opportunity for writers to get feedback on complete scripts, they’ve also been consolation for some of our competition runners-up.
We’ve been able to welcome some particularly good speakers during this session. In September Jessica Townsend gave a talk on her writing career. Jessica’s play Angels and Saints won a Peggy Ramsay Award in 1998 and was revived by Soho Theatre Company at their new theatre in Dean Street, Soho in June. An early draft of Angels and Saints was aired at a Southwest Scriptwriters workshop meeting.
In November group member Anna Farthing offered a different take on the drama writing process in her talk on theatre directing. Anna has worked on productions ranging from new writing (she directed one of former Scriptwriters’ honorary president Catherine Johnson’s early plays in the New Vic Studio) to grand opera. Anna gave some valuable insights into how theatre directors interpret a script.
Our first talk this year was from local television writer Brian Thompson. Brian’s credits include Byker Grove, The Bill and Grafters. He described his career from its beginnings in fringe theatre and offered advice on how to break into writing for the small screen.
Bristol Old Vic writer-in-residence Lucy Catherine took over from Catherine Johnson as Southwest Scriptwriters ’ honorary president last autumn. She gave a talk on her development as a writer and on the Old Vic’s new writing department in February. Lucy’s play A Tender Prayer won rave reviews for its run in the New Vic in June and she discussed the production with group members in an after-show talk. Her new play Sea Life opens in the New Vic in December.
In April we were very pleased to welcome Cold Feet and Sunburn creator Mike Bullen. Mike illustrated his talk with video clips from Cold Feet, showing how much the actors and production team had contributed to the making of the series.
Southwest Scriptwriters’ chair Andy Graham gave two of his popular talks in the autumn and spring seasons. In the first of these last September he explored the writing, development and presentation of his play Orgasm Addict that we staged as part of our second season of script-in-hand performances in April 1999. In April Andy focused on story structuring — setting members to work with an exercise in storylining.
Our biggest event this year was New Writing 2000 (NW2K for short). This was our third annual season of script-in-hand performances and first full production in the New Vic Studio. Scripts were chosen by a panel of independent readers in a competition held last autumn. The winners were selected from 21 entries and we were able to stage five plays and a screenplay in our five nights in the New Vic.
I was delighted that my play Touchy Feely was chosen as the overall winner of the competition. It was my first full production and I learned a lot from helping to stage the play. It made me realise how difficult it is to bring together all the elements of a production — director, cast, designer, backstage crew etc. Many thanks to everyone involved in the production and all those of you who came to see it.
The other work on show in NW2K — Pat Dallimore’s Women’s Talk; Sharon Stonier’s Skank; Ann Gawthorpe and Lesley Bown’s Over Exposure; Claire Griffiths’ Calling Up and Mark Breckon’s The Camp ’ drew some good audiences and brought together students from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School with local actors and directors. The whole week was a great success and we look forward to New Writing IV, which will take place next spring.
Southwest Scriptwriters is now online thanks to group member Andy Burras. Andy set up our website www.southwest-scriptwriters.co.uk last November and updates the diary page regularly.
The next Southwest Scriptwriters meeting will be an open workshop on Tuesday, 5 September 2000. Meanwhile I’d be very pleased to see any of you who can make it to the production of my play Have-a-Go Hero at the Alma Tavern, Alma Vale Road, Clifton from 26 to 29 July. Have-a-Go Hero was developed with Southwest Scriptwriters.
Have a good summer and do some writing!
- Tim Massey