Medway Writer Wins Award and Commission From BBC Radio 4

Winners_of_inaugural_BBC_Writer_s_Prize_announced

Playwright and poet Sarah Hehir, from Rochester, Kent, along with published author Mark Wallington and first-time writer Simon Topping, have been announced as the winners of the first BBC Writer’s Prize.

Rock Me Amadeus by Topping and Bang Up by Hehir have both been commissioned for Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama slot, while Wallington’s comedy The Joy of Adult Education has been given a pilot commission.

The judges Jeremy Howe (Commissioning Editor, BBC Radio 4 Drama), Caroline Raphael (Commissioning Editor, BBC Radio 4 Comedy and Radio 4 Extra), Kate Rowland (BBC Creative Director of New Writing), Roy Williams (writer) and Miles Jupp (writer-performer) were impressed by the overall range and calibre of the drama scripts submitted for the competition, with Howe commenting “Sarah Hehir charts the developing relationship between a young offender in a Kentish detention centre and his teacher. It is tough, warm, beautifully observed and written from the inside with real heart. It pulls you into the worlds of the two central characters in such a way that makes you really care for them both, and takes us on a surprising journey.”

Talking about the award Sarah said “It really does feel like a dream come true! All those lonely hours writing late at night, wondering if I’m ever going to make people feel the way I want them to when they read a play – it feels so good to realise I got it right with this one. Hope I can write another now!”.

The Writer’s Prize was established to create a unique opportunity for new and established writers who want to write for Radio Drama and Radio Comedy. Over 1,200 original scripts were submitted to BBC writersroom, before the judges were handed a shortlist of 18 from which to reach a decision.

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Any Questions, Uckfield? – By Alice Stansfield

Earlier this year, students from Uckfield Community Technology College studying politics, philosophy and critical thinking won a competition to have the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Any Questions’ broadcast live from the school on Friday 13 July. Although Friday 13th is known for bringing bad luck, the evening went very well and described as ‘successful’ by one of the teachers running the event, Dan Buschle. Attending the event beside an audience made up of parents, teachers and students were the panelists: David Starkey, Liz Kendall, Jeremy Hunt, Matthew Oakshot and with presenter Jonathan Dimbleby.

 

At the beginning of the event, Charles Hendry said it was ‘brilliant that students had put this together and was pleased to see how the night would go’ as at that moment students were still preparing back stage. What the audience didn’t see was behind the stage were students and some of the panelists choosing questions that audience members has submitted to be discussed on the show and then ten individuals were selected to be on air. One question submitted was by a student named James Baker. His question ‘Has the recent Tory blocking of the Liberal Democrats plans for Lord’s reform sparked the beginning of the end of the coalition government?’ was discussed on air.

Liz Kendall began with ‘it’s a good question’ and that it’s relevant to what’s been ‘discussed at Westminster at the moment’. This was the most discussed question of the night. Kendall continued the discussion to say that ‘Where do we want to take the country? When David Cameron was asked why he wanted to become Prime Minster he said because he thought he’d be rather good at it. You might question that.’ She seemed to be the best speaker of the night gaining the majority of applause from the audience, as Matthew Oakshot remarked as having the student’s ‘parents well trained’.

 

Kendall mentioned earlier ‘Politics seems so small when the problems seem so big’ and this seemed to summarise well how some audience members felt and wanted to know what was being done about it.

After the event some people involved in the event went to the Green Room to discuss the evening’s questions further off air. David Starkey said that the evening was ‘alright, but the politicians were extremely dull weren’t they? I suppose it comes with the job’. Assuming he was speaking from a student view of politicians this seems to mean he enjoyed the evening. Whereas Matthew Oakshot said how it was ‘the first time’ he’d been on the show, but loved the school’s ‘buzzy atmosphere’ and ‘wonderful students’ who made him ‘feel at home’.

 

Special thanks go to all the panelists and members of the BBC for bringing the event to Uckfield; the students for winning the competition, Dan Buschle; Helena Read; Nick Stoker and the music department for organising sound and equipment; members of the audience and everyone else involved who helped bring the wonderful evening together.

 

Content and interviews by Alice Stansfield, photography by Carl Goldsmith. 

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