Creating radio drama

The magical worlds of Pink Floyd, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere have all been vividly brought to life on radio. This week’s CoP Show podcast pulls back the curtain to reveal the rules and possibilities of radio drama.

With no need for sets, lighting or costumes producing radio drama can be a liberating and exciting arena for writers and producers.  BBC radio drama has been painting pictures in listeners’ minds for over ninety years, but how do you make compelling radio drama?

Hazel Marshall is joined in the studio by drama producers Dirk Maggs, Jessica Dromgoole and James Robinson to explore how writers and producers can work together to capture the imaginations of legions of listeners and create magical soundscapes on radio.

They discuss their paths into drama production – from traditional television and light entertainment to theatre and writing trainee schemes – and share their experience and interpretation of how radio drama works.   

"The tyranny of the image has no sway in radio – we can go anywhere we like." –Dirk Maggs

They examine the commissioning process for writers and explore the crucial relationship between dedicated teams of producers, writers and actors on a production. They also look at the different skills needed on different types of radio drama and at the shared rules that apply for writers across all genres, from comedy to graphic novels. For the panel, the most important rules are to keep the audience with them, to keep their actors engaged and to help them make their own performances more believable.

The panel end by offering their tips to would-be writers and producers looking to enter the world of radio drama and bring new worlds to life on air.

Dirk Maggs is a producer, director and writer across television, radio and the games industries. He is known for fusing radio drama with modern cinema techniques and produced the concluding novel to the radio production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, achieving huge listening figures and over 10 million hits on Radio 4's website. Most recently Dirk adapted, co-directed and sound designed Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra.

Jessica Dromgoole’s production credits include comic drama HighLites and fictional documentary Obey the Wave, to name but two. She has recently taken the helm on BBC Radio 4’s most ambitious drama serial charting life on the Home Front during the First World War, which will run in real time 2014 to 2018.

James Robinson is a BBC drama producer whose past projects include the Audio Drama Award winning Floating by Hugh Hughes and Darkside, Tom Stoppard’s reinterpretation of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, for Radio 2.