A Little Bit Of Latitude - Writer on Location


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This whole thing started when I woke in my tent after a mad night at a festival with a pounding hangover and vague memories - wondering what the worst situation you could wake up to the morning after a night at a festival. Cut to: A couple of years later, I’m waking up in my tent about to record a radio drama about the worst situation you could wake up to after a mad festival night- fortunately the hangover’s not so bad this time.

“A Little bit of Latitude” was my first radio drama, having written mainly for television before. As a TV writer I don’t get out much, so I was excited to hear I’d be at the recording especially as it was on location at Latitude Festival. I get to leave the office and go to a festival – happy days! Producer Charlotte Riches had explained that it’s good for the writer to be there to hear how the play works and deal with any issues that arise on the day.  But I still assumed I’d just be there to smile nicely at the actors and try not to trip over the sound boom – Oh how much I had to learn.  

The day started with a read through in a festival café. I was relieved to hear the script flowed well and had a really good pace about it, such a good pace that it a lot was shorter than we had anticipated. We had to find another five minutes, at least. So as director, Nadia Molinari was recording the first scenes, I sat in the grass figuring out how to find extra time, while occasionally being called upon to play an extra. I worried adding in new material to the main character’s story would risk muddying their journey. So after talking it through with Nadia, we decided to add a new strand between a Security Guard and a Detective as the actors had really brought these parts to life in the read through.

It was a challenge coming up with new scenes on the back of a script, in the middle of the field, but being able to work with the director and actors meant we could try out material and script edit on the spot. After that, I was less nervous about adapting the script when needed. I worked with the actors on expanding a magic act, covered some of the issues from Hayfever to the muddy weather; but the strangest rewrite of all was when we arrived backstage to record a scene with Guy Garvey to be told  “ Can you write Stuart Marconi in the scene too”

Everyone pulled together to do different jobs and far from standing round trying not to trip over things, I ended up being in the play - Drunk cocktail girl 2 (Perfect role for me) – I also spotted for the crew as they were walking backwards recording the action, (They only crashed once), held one of the sound recorders to record a flash mob scene, and at one point even sang too.  

It was one of the most collaborative experiences I’ve ever had and I loved every minute from the brilliant development process, right down to the credits being recorded. Favourite moment was the recording of a scene with two actors inside a porta-loo, while the rest of us crowded round a closed porta-loo door straining to hear what was going on inside. We got some very strange looks but it certainly beat sitting at a desk all day.
Thanks to Charlotte, Nadia, the crew and Radio 4 for a fantastic experience, I’m already working on my next radio pitch–I’m thinking something at a club in Ibiza, maybe on a beach in the Caribbean.... 

A Little Bit of Latitude is broadcast on Radio 4 on Friday 24th August at 14.15 and is available as a download from Friday for seven days via the drama of the week website

You can also access it via BBC iPlayer


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