Waiting for Frank

Writer / Frank Deasy Award Winner

I’ve entered quite a few competitions in my time: the 1995 Castlegregory Wheelbarrow Race; “Win a Grand” with Daybreak; and the occasional raffle. Some of them have even been writing competitions: like the one in Primary 5 where we had to hand write The Lord’s Prayer the neatest we could. It was the nineties. Someone wrote “Harold be thy name” instead of “Hallowed” because they thought it meant him off “Neighbours.” I didn’t, so I came second. I received 50p and a sticker and with it, the respect of my peers. (Not really, but I did get a sticker and my Mum was well chuffed.) The submission process was simple - just give it to the teacher when finished, then go outside and play “Gladiators” with your friends while you wait for the results. The selection process for the Frank Deasy Award was   slightly more rigorous and didn’t involve any children charging at each other whilst pretending to be a sweaty fifty year-old-man with long hair, big guns and a fake tan. Not my experience of it anyway.

For one thing, there were guidelines: like, writers needed to have had at least one professional drama engagement behind them. By that I mean, they needed to have been paid to write drama; not that their day job was proposing on top of a high speed train, while their fiancé-to-be was tied to the tracks as someone played the piano. Writers had to submit an original script and a two-page pitch for a separate idea. Both my entries were based on places I’d known growing up. My Dad’s from Northern Ireland so I spent a lot of my childhood in and around Belfast. I remember going to a fire sale in a toy shop where half the stuff was soaked, and the other half was singed. I realised years later it was because a bomb had gone off - and there we were raking through wet plastic and sooty teddies for bargains. It made me feel uneasy, so I wrote about it. The script I submitted was one I’d based on where I grew up in the East Coast of Scotland. “Big Fish” is a drama about four girls who work in a fish factory who are floundering around in a tight knit coastal community. I wrote all the dialogue in Scots. Scotland is in everything I write. I don’t remember loving it this much while I was growing up. But maybe I had to leave to find this fiery affection I have for it.

Once I’d submitted my entry, then came the waiting. I do not like waiting, whether it’s for inspiration, trains or Godot, I am not a patient person. As a writer I should be good at it, since I seem to do it a lot - the waiting for feedback; the suspense of results. I am not good at it. Waiting makes me anxious. I spend a large portion of my life in a state of semi-anxiety, mostly because I’m waiting. Sometimes it’s because I think I’ve left the gas on; or ghosts; but mostly it’s because I’m waiting. Luckily though, the waiting wasn’t too long. I received an email telling me I’d been shortlisted long before I developed any sort of RSI from pressing the *get mail* button. Then I got another one saying I’d been invited to interview. I read both emails so fast that I only saw the words “we are delighted” and “congratulations.” Both times I had a sudden panic after that I’d got the wrong end of the stick and the email was actually a backward commiseration. Kind of the opposite of when Louis Walsh breaks news to X-Factor contestants; when he’s like, “We’ve made our decision....” Big pause, then: “I’m sorry....” And you can see in their face they think they’ve buggered it up; that they’ll have to go home to Halifax to work in Gregg’s again; and that even when they’re icing buns in their eighties they’ll still be known as the person who *nearly* got through to Live Shows. But then Louis does this little impish smile and goes: “I’m sorry - but you’ll have to do this all over again. You’re in our final three!”

I thought I’d received the inverse of that, via email. “We’ve made our decision.” Big pause then: “Congratulations.....because you don’t have to spend ten hours on a train on a round trip to Glasgow!” Luckily though, it wasn’t like that. I did have to spend ten hours on a train on a round trip to Glasgow; I did have to feel that nervous; I did have to turn up so early for my train, I was early for the one before; I did have to eat all of my lunch at half ten in the morning because I needed to do something with my fingers that wasn’t eating them; I did have to run across Glasgow’s Squinty Bridge because the other one was shut and lateness was a sudden possibility; I did have to go in and talk to the Head of BBC Scotland Drama and the Creative Director of New Writing about my script and idea in deep and exposing detail; and I did have to walk through BBC Scotland reception afterwards and remember how much I’ve wanted to work with the people inside that building ever since I knew I wanted to write. Then the next day I found out I’d be doing that and suddenly the anxiety fell away . Well nearly. I’m still a bit anxious that my kitchen might be haunted. But mostly I have genuine Labrador excitement about the next six months. The last thing I was awarded was an Ocado free gift, but I didn’t order my fifth shop on time. I promise I’ll be more on the ball when it comes to this. 

Kirstie Swain and Katie Douglas are the winners of The Frank Deasy Award and will taking up the position of Writer in Residence at BBC Scotland for a period of 6 months, to develop an original idea for BBC1, with the aim of getting their pieces commissioned as a script on the BBC Scotland Drama development slate.

Kirstie Swain is a Scottish writer originally from Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders. She is now based in London and is a graduate of the BBC Writers Academy 2011/2012. Since then, she has gone on to write for some of BBC One's biggest flagship shows, including Holby City, EastEnders and Doctors. She was recently shortlisted for the BBC Three iPlays strand and is currently developing ideas with BBC In-House and Hillbilly Films and Television. Her play Demolition In Progress was performed at London's Baron's Court Theatre in 2011 and she co-wrote Our Days Of Rage for the National Youth Theatre, which was performed in the Old Vic Tunnels over the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.


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