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Chain Gang on Radio 7 - drama that you write

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Paul Arnold Paul Arnold 16:10, Thursday, 1 October 2009


The nice people at Radio 4 have asked if I'd like to blog about a drama I'm producing for its digital sister-station, Radio 7. It's not something we've been asked to do before, so I'm guessing they, like me, are intrigued by the rather unusual nature of it.

The first thing to say about it is that it's short. Each episode is only a couple of minutes long, but it does mean that we can feature it on 7 in those gaps which would be filled with things like the shipping forecast on Radio 4. And we're hoping at that length it will go down well as a podcast too - we're adding in a bit of behind-the-scenes recording for that.

The other thing about it is that it isn't finished. This isn't just carelessness or brinkmanship on our part, but rather a deliberate ploy to engage our listeners in the process of storytelling. We've asked the award-winning short story writer Robert Shearman to write the first episode. That went out on Radio 7 on Saturday night at 1755, after which we've been asking people to head off to the website to send in their storylines for episode two. We've just been looking through those, and there's an amazing sea of creativity out there. Robert is at work now dramatising the best one which we'll record tomorrow and broadcast on Saturday. Hopefully it will all build to a fitting climax just before Christmas (we've some special plans for this), and we can all sit down with our turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day to enjoy the whole story together for the first time.

And what's the story about? Well, Brian and Susan Ferguson are enjoying a relaxed meal on their honeymoon. Brian heads off to pay the bill, and suddenly there's another woman at the table, issuing Susan with a dramatic warning. The stranger's name? Mrs Ferguson... the other Mrs Ferguson. There is a further twist, believe it or not in a two minute episode, but I'll leave that for you to hear - the whole thing will remain on iPlayer through the Autumn.

Now we know you're a clever lot on Radio 4, curious minds and all that, so it'd be great if we could persuade a few of you to defect for just a few minutes to join our Chain Gang. Listen out on Saturday night, and then and get writing some storylines for episode three...

Paul Arnold is a producer at BBC Radio 7

  • Chain Gang is on Radio 7 at 1755 Saturdays. You can listen to the whole series until a week after the final transmission thanks to the wonders of the 'series catch-up trial'. You're invited to take a survey about series catch-up here.
  • At the end of episode one you can hear a fascinating interview with the drama's cast about the bewildering process of recording a drama that hasn't been written yet.
  • The previous series of Chain Gang won a Sony Radio Academy Award.
  • There's a podcast to subscribe to too.
  • Robert Shearman wrote 'Dalek', the episode of Doctor Who which brought the Daleks into the 21st century.


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