The Writer's Prize: Why write for radio?

Wednesday 31 October 2012, 16:13

Paul Ashton Paul Ashton

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Writer's Prize The Writer's Prize for radio.

You’ve probably noticed by now that The Writer’s Prize has opened its doors to original drama and comedy scripts. Which made us think: are there writers out there who don’t know what a brilliant opportunity radio is?

So here’s a round-up of some of the very good reasons why any writer should want to write for radio:

  • BBC radio is by far the biggest single commissioner of original drama and comedy in the world – full stop
  • The vast majority of opportunities for drama writers on radio are highly individual single, authored pieces (even if you somehow managed to get your movie script made, you’d still struggle to get into the cinema the number of people who would hear it on radio)
  • Many hugely popular and brilliantly original TV comedy shows started their life on the radio – Little Britain, Knowing Me Knowing You, Goodness Gracious Me, Miranda, The League of Gentlemen, The Mighty Boosh, Dead Ringers, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Hancock’s Half Hour, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Day Today
  • A vast array of brilliant writers have worked in radio – from Tyrone Guthrie and Dylan Thomas, to Douglas Adams, Spike Milligan and Marty Feldman, to Tom Stoppard, Caryl Churchill, Anthony Minghella and Lee Hall, to Mike Bartlett, Roy Williams and Katie Hims
  • You can get amazingly successful and celebrated actors to be in your radio play – and they don’t even need to shave/do make up/commit to weeks of filming
  • Radio is the cinema of the airwaves – it’s all about the visual world conjured up in the listener’s head, and the ambition and scope the writer brings to it
  • You can take your story, characters and listeners anywhere in the known (or unknown) universe without the budgetary constrictions you’d get with a film or TV shoot
  • In radio, writers work very closely with producers and are intimately involved with the development and production
  • In radio, writers can have an extremely intimate relationship with the listener – and therefore can tell stories in ways that just wouldn’t work in any other medium

    The Writer's Prize is a brand new opportunity for radio drama and comedy writers to write for BBC Radio.  We are looking for original, multi-character narrative scripts.The prize is the opportunity for a Radio 3 or Radio 4 Drama commission, or a pilot commission for a Radio 4 Comedy.  Find out more.

    Join us on Wednesday 7th November from 11.30pm - 12.30pm for a special Twitter Q&A on The Writer's Prize. Tweet your questions to @bbcwritersroom using the hashtag #WritersPrize.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Hehir - unfortunately that was an oversight at the launch - the terms and conditions state that it's only one suibmissions per person ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Thanks for getting back to me. Will stick to drama then!

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Hi Paul, I have a question about the interview on writers room with Jessica Dromgoole, giving advice to people writing for radio. The interview was excellent, but I am confused about a comment she made, she was asked if there are opportunities for new writers in radio. She replied no. She then explained there are lots of opportunities for writers who are new to radio. I gather from this that she meant if you have some writing experience under your belt then radio has some great opportunities but if you have no previous writing experience then it is unlikely you will get commissioned in radio. Should we read into this that we need to get some plays produced if we are serious about making a career as a writer? Or is it sufficient to have written several radio plays even if they have not been produced? Your advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    JHurrell - I think she's saying that for people who are utterly new to scriptwriting of any kind, opportunities are necessarily fewer and harder fought, harder earned, harder to come by. the more experienced you are, the more that opportunity tends to open up. yes, it is unlikely - but not impossible, and the more brilliant you and your script are, the less unlikely it becomes. but it's important to be realistic and appreciate that the less experience you have as a writer of any kind/description, the harder that first leap is going to be. not impossible. but always hard. and it's also probably true that lots of experienced writers would say that it's never exactly 'easy' to get a commission ... which is why it's ultimately always about the strength of the idea, the strength of the world, the strength of the characters, the strength of the story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Thank you Paul, that's helpful, and I have to say I am not surprised, I guess it's just hard to find a way of getting that experience/ commission when you are new to scriptwriting, the age old catch twenty two! it also shows what a valuable resource we have with the writers room, at least it opens a door, even it's only a tiny crack

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Hi Paul, when do we get an email to confirm receipt of our script? Thanks

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.


    As per other script submissions , do you have the figures for the number of scripts received and how many per catergory


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