A Star of Essex Radio
As I hibernated through the recession the effects of this were more acutely visible elsewhere when, as part of a never-ending series of cutbacks, the Council did away with their Arts Development Officer post and therefore putting the kybosh on the local writing group.
It had been previously aimed at people of all abilities, and thus attracted some right wacky local characters, but in amongst the group there was a hardy core for whom this parting of the ways only presented an opportunity: to form and run our own more dedicated group.
I wrestled control of this group from the start – named Script.Com19 – and set out my stall to push these dozen hardy souls who were willing to cover the monthly costs and to use them in return to help push me to produce work that was more serious, less frivolous.
To begin with I needed a worthy challenge to inspire the group and I’d spied an advert from a amateur group in Essex who were after radio scripts to produce. I immediately contacted them to ask if I could set this challenge for our new group: to write, edit, and hone such scripts then send them along as a job lot with the hope that we could gain a radio credit. The reply wasn’t as positive as I’d have hoped – and much more in the vain of no, for the love of God please stop, no – as it turned out that this original offer had been made face-to-face, to one group of people, in one room, and that it had subsequently been posted up on the internet by someone which soon saw them being bombarded with requests and scripts from all over the place.
It must show something of the effects of life lessons learnt how I took this categorical “no” only as their opening offer and then proceeded to win them around with charm to the point where I was given one of their former presidents, John, as a go-between who would receive the scripts from our group, offer feedback, and when he deemed them ready he would allow us to pass them onto the committee.
I therefore hosted our first Script.Com meeting and, after giving a carefully thought out lecture on radio drama, with clips, presented them all with this opportunity. I would go on to discover, ultimately, that despite having the impetus of the deadline and the chance to get their work performed, none of them were interested.
Oh, the best laid plans.
But that didn’t stop me and over a few monthly meetings I wrote and edited a half hour fast-paced dark romp which I hoped fitted the Essex criteria and only surfed around the edges of their no-go topics.
I posted this off to John – who it amusingly turned out was an heir to a custard fortune – in Essex where the old technology still reigned and he apologised telling me that didn’t have too much time to attend to feedback in the five solid pages of helpful feedback which he’d clacked out on his manual typewriter. His first impression of my play was that it was very good – an A minus, to a B plus-plus – but that with work it could be excellent. His standout comment about my script, or maybe about myself, was that its effectiveness relied upon “pace, plot and a consistently jaundiced view of human nature”.
After many letters, phone calls, and script versions zipping up and down the country in the post, John finally told me that I was ready – like a master to a young apprentice in a Japanese martial arts film – and that he was happy for me to submit it to the committee. He gave me their secret space age details for my new go-between – or their e-mail address – and I touched base with her before sending off my script, titled The Wedding: Plan B, and after that all I could do was wait.20
It again must say something, of life lessons learnt, through applying for too many jobs, that after a good while I got all proactive and wrote back to politely enquire whether there had been any news.
I never heard from them again.
19 – Not by me. I think it was Mrs. G.
20 – The Essex Audio Theatre (EAT) have made many dramas for local and hospital radio and the long list of stipulations for writers I received included that depicting minority groups should be avoided, based upon the make-up of their volunteer actors at that time, but commonsense or not this didn’t stop me from immediately referring to them as the Essex Aryan Theatre from then on. Not to their faces, though, obviously.