If you're a writer who is trying to get their first credit you're often inundated with advice. There are books, blogs and actual people who tell you the various ways to land that hallowed commission. The BBC Writersroom is one of the few sources whose advice I would accept without a second thought and they've been instrumental in helping me find my voice as a writer.
I've worked in the television industry for four years now but I've always known that I wanted to be a writer. However when people would ask "What have you written?" I would often just say "Oh you know...this and that". That was a lie. I didn't have the confidence to write up until two years ago. I gave Henry Swindell at the Writersroom my first script as I knew he would be brutally honest and he was! However the main thing I took away from that meeting was that; that was the first time someone told me that I could write.
Since then the Writersoom has been an invaluable asset in my career. I have attended informative talks as part of Northern Writers Group and was invited to the CDN Comedy Studio Residential at Bore Place. This was the first time that I felt like a proper writer; as we developed ideas and dissected comedy scripts with the wonderful Jo Blake. Side note: I also made some very good friends. It was at Bore Place that I was first introduced to the brilliant opportunities that writing for radio offered. As shows like "Miranda" and "The Mighty Boosh" all started on the radio it meant that the scope was as little or as large as you wanted it to be. You could create new worlds and not have to worry about a budget. Brilliant.
That always stuck with me and when the opportunity to submit a script to The Alfred Bradley Bursary Award arose I went in thinking about what I could write that was on a grand scale. I figured out the dates and booked some leave from my day job and then stared at a blank screen for about two days. Well I say stared at a blank screen...I also spent a lot of time legally streaming television online.
But then it clicked. As human beings we are affected by what we hear, which in turn creates powerful imagery and evokes great emotion. We can feel happy or sad just based upon what someone says to us. I ran with this idea and I thought what situation in real life makes us feel like that? Then it hit me that when you're bullied you hear horrible and personal things about yourself on daily basis. Based on those words people can react in different ways; they could lash out, take revenge or even harm themselves. I felt there was a growing number of articles about victims of bullying who had taken their own life. Every time I saw one of those articles I often thought how did the bully who was also a young person carry on? This became the foundation for my radio play "The Spoken Word".
I submitted the play and as it was the first radio play I had ever written I was worried about the formatting and whether some parts wouldn't be right for the medium of radio. I know how prestigious the Award is and how many applicants apply to open call submissions at the Writersroom. Basically I thought I didn't have a chance. Weeks passed and I received an email telling me that I had been shortlisted. I screamed out loud. It was privilege to get that far and again I didn't think I'd win.
Alfred Bradley Bursary Award 2013-14 shortlist
Weeks passed again (Sorry lazy story telling). The day of the Award presentation had arrived and my family and two dear friends accompanied me. There was a great atmosphere and watching everyone's plays come to life was brilliant yet surreal. Did I mention that I didn't think I was going to win? That was tenfold now having seen the works of my fellow nominees. The suspense was killing me as Ian was awarded Special Commendation and Alan was awarded the runner up prize. Then Jeremy Howe was about to announce the winner. He began talking about the play that had won. My heart started to pound when I realised that it sounded an awful lot like my play. As he announced my name it became apparent that screaming runs in the family. My family shouted out and I was gob smacked. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. To win such a prestigious award such as the Alfred Bradley Bursary Award is not lost on me and it's a privilege to join the list of brilliant writers who came before me.
Alfred Bradley Bursary Award Prize-Giving event.
It's not the first time that the Writersroom have been an instrumental part in changing my career for the better. That's not an understatement. I'd like to thank everyone there for all their hard work and thank the judging panel for choosing my script. I'll sign off now as I've just received an email from Gary Brown at Radio Drama telling me that the hard work begins now. I should start by cancelling my subscription to a certain provider of on-demand Internet television.
Furquan Akhtar is the winner of the Alfred Bradley Bursary Award 2013-14. The Award run by BBC Radio Drama North in conjunction with Writersroom, aims is to encourage new radio drama writing in the North of England. As the award winner Furquan will be offered a £5,000 writing bursary, the chance of a Radio 4 afternoon drama commission and a 12 month mentorship with a Radio Drama producer.
Furquan was a 2012 Guardian Newspaper “One to Watch” which is awarded to rising stars of the television industry. After graduating with an English Language BA Hons from King's College London; he cut his creative teeth in the Coronation Street Editorial Department, where he’s just completed a year as a Story Associate. Furquan is about to embark on a new challenge as a Script Editor for Channel 4’s Hollyoaks as of April 2014. His shortlisted radio play, The Spoken Word is an inspired response from reading a series of articles surrounding victims of bullying. It seeks to explore and investigate what becomes of the bully after the victim has gone. The idea and medium of a radio play was selected as we are affected by what we hear, which in turn creates powerful visual imagery.