New Archers scriptwriter - Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti
Writer, The Archers
This week's scripts are written by a newcomer to the team, the award-winning drama writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. She writes about joining this intimidating institution.
Before I embarked on writing my trial script for The Archers last year, I studied the show as if it were a science, I took notes, drew diagrams and listened and listened. As the Bridge Farm E coli story unfolded, I recall being devastated for Clarrie when she went to sign on. When David read out the letter in which Elizabeth took guardianship of the twins away from him and Ruth, I gasped in shock in my kitchen.
These heartstopping, heartbreaking moments were taking their toll. I was falling in love with the programme and desperately wanted to write for it.
Consequently, I was delighted to receive the email which invited me to join the writing team. I had listened to the show on and off for many years and was always amazed at how drawn in I immediately felt whenever I tuned in, I was impressed by the way stories felt rooted in truth and were given space to breathe and develop.
So, I was on. Very quickly the nerves set in. There had been no deadline for the trial script and I knew the turnaround for actual scripts was incredibly tight. Yes, I had written extensively for theatre, radio and television but this...this was The Archers. An institution, not just a show, which had more than 60 years of history and a fanatical following. Could I really do it?
When I came to my first script meeting in January, I was instantly struck by how down to earth and friendly everyone is. There is a genuine and no-nonsense feel to proceedings, a strong sense of stability and care for both characters and stories.
Having been accustomed to the jeopardy and craziness of television, it's hard to believe that a programme with such a huge output runs so effectively and smoothly.
I also got to meet a few of my writing heroes, in particular the legend that is Mary Cutler. Meanwhile Julie Beckett, the senior producer, handed me a picture she had drawn of the table, setting out everyone's names and where they were sitting. I can't imagine that ever happening in telly.
In March I wrote my first scripts. I have been a drama writer for 13 years and can honestly say that writing a week's worth of The Archers in about ten days is one of the hardest things I've done. The sheer volume is huge. Moreover I was conscious of needing to get the characters' voices right and trying to make my words sound as if they belonged in the show.
I'm still nervous and doing my best to get the hang of the meetings so I can contribute usefully. I expect I'll probably feel like the new girl for a long time, but I really am enjoying myself, learning loads from the other writers, and I feel very lucky to be part of something so significant in British culture.
I've had some real highs (and lows!) during my career. I remember the joy (and fear) I felt when my first play was produced, the shock when I got my first commission for television and my family's pride when they watched a film of a screenplay I had written in their local Cineworld.
Listening to my first episodes of The Archers will definitely be up there.
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti is an Archers scriptwriter
- Learn more about Gurpreet on Wikipedia
- Picture shows one of Gurpreet's first scripts