Image for the The Writer's Prize for radio.

1200 scripts: when you see them all together stripped bare of their envelopes, it's daunting, a room full of ideas, new worlds, exposition, un-thought through ideas and thank goodness strokes of genius that make you read on and laugh out loud.
So from all these the submissions in different shapes and sizes our readers started their work  in December to find the most compelling drama and comedy scripts. This takes time, and  after weeks of reading and much debate a shortlist was created for both sets of judges. Ten dramas for writer,  Roy Williams and R4 Drama Commissioner  Jeremy Howe and eight comedies for Caroline Raphael, Commissioner R4 Comedy  and Miles Jupp, Comedy Writer and performer, with me reading all of them. 

I'm always asked how can you tell whether it's any good, what do you mean by the writers voice, when you say my play lacks ambition what's really wrong with it. Of course it's got a story say you and I say actually no nothing happens, no one is changed, the stakes aren't high enough, I just don't care what happens to those characters. And with comedy we're looking for original ideas with a strong premise, real characters not cliches, that have the potential to surprise and  engage an audience week after week.  It's not easy,  and we were looking for work to develop and commission so its real time and money at stake. But then something inexplicable, compelling, extraordinary grabs you and makes you turn the page. 

The Writer's Prize Judges: Roy Williams, Miles Jupp, Caroline Raphael and Jeremy Howe

Yes it's all subjective but when the judges met on Wednesday February 6th, all of us with a vast experience of  reading scripts, to consider the  final short list for the Writer's Prize one thing was certain, we did not feel that our time had been wasted. Roy Williams, Jeremy Howe and I were genuinely impressed by the range and calibre of the Drama scripts we were asked to consider. From cycling grannies in space to noir thrillers and pharmacies, boy eating polar bears and the ethical dilemma of which parent do you kill when the food runs out. We were confronted by complex storytelling, boldness and an emotional engagement that comes from writers passionate about their subject.  We were unanimous about the strength of the two dramas we selected for commission-  Rock me Amadeus by Simon Topping and Bang Up by Sarah Hehir.  Jeremy Howe said that "Rock me Amadeus by Simon Topping is a delightful sharp romantic comedy with a difference. Charlie is 16, and has a twin sister. Although he is a boy, he knows he should really be a girl. He has a crush on the German exchange who comes to stay with them, and so does his sister, only he can’t admit it – because he is a boy and he is not gay. It is clever, beguiling and handles a tough subject with a lightness of tone and a freshness of voice that makes it an utterly engaging read. Bang Up by Sarah Hehir is a drama about a woman trying to teach a young offender in a detention centre. Her life is imploding, while his has hope, but through the course of the play she finds her way as he utterly loses his,  it is beautifully written, moving and insightful." Perhaps we were more disappointed by the range of ideas for comedy, the lack of and maybe too many familiar set ups but the selected script  for Comedy development was The Joy of Adult Education by Mark Wallington in which a beginner’s woodwork course and a small earthquake help an everyday couple save their exotic ravioli business. Miles Jupp said " The characters are beautifully and lovingly drawn too, giving a real warmth to this understated joy of a script."

Here’s what the writers had to say:

Simon Topping

“I'm absolutely thrilled, honoured, flabbergasted, flattered, gobsmacked and very grateful that my play has been selected. Thank you bbc writersroom and judges! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, as Kate Bush might have said (the last two wows in a deep voice).”

Sarah Hehir

"Being selected for the  Writer's Prize feels like a life changing moment. I'm so excited about the future!"


Mark Wallington

"Delighted to be working in radio again. I've always thought radio is about as much fun as a writer can have".

Anyway we will keep you in the loop with developments. But don't forget be bold, don't try and second guess what you think the networks are looking for - what do you want to hear?  Write that as best as you possibly can and keep writing. (Oh my god that sounds like Brucie!)

The Writer's Prize was a joined partnership between BBC writersroom and Audio & Music for radio drama and comedy writers.  The prize was the opportunity for a Radio 3 or Radio 4 Drama commission, or a pilot commission for a Radio 4 Comedy.

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  • Comment number 58. Posted by Warren Henery

    on 13 Oct 2013 08:57

    Commedy is something that not everybody can do. There is a role of your personal sense for humor, what audience thinks and also the room acoustics. You can get it done right when everything is in the best order. http://mixmasteredacoustics.com/

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  • Comment number 57. Posted by Ann Katz

    on 29 Apr 2013 12:48

    I have been submitting scripts to the Writers' Room for many decades now. Each time I submit a script I'm told how authentic and powerful my writing voice is. I wondered at what point do the Writers' Room actually take on writers for 'their voice', rather than because they have a script that the BBC think they might want to produce.

    If in reality the Writers' Room do not have the resources to provide production oppportunities for scripts/voices that don't fit their bill, can you please let me know.

    Many thanks for your time.

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  • Comment number 56. Posted by The Spark

    on 22 Mar 2013 22:55

    "And with comedy we're looking for original ideas with a strong premise, real characters not cliches, that have the potential to surprise and engage an audience week after week." And yet you pointed to the script for 'Mrs Brown', and said: 'That's the comedy for us.' If I were a writer, I'd be disheartened to the core, and perhaps even give the game up.

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  • Comment number 55. Posted by The Spark

    on 22 Mar 2013 22:48

    I am of the view that those persons whose task it is to sift through scripts, looking for the hit shows, are missing the diamonds, and are shovelling up coal. Watching television has become a last resort for me, and I sure as hell don't bother with the bland, boring, drivel that seems to blow you lot away. You need to change the way new talent is discovered.

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  • Comment number 54. Posted by Jane Saunte

    on 12 Mar 2013 16:18

    Thans for sharing, Hehir, It would be great to read your blog.

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  • Comment number 53. Posted by Hehir

    on 12 Mar 2013 15:05

    Thanks J Hurrell! I'd definitely be up for writing a blog about the whole process. As far as secrets, if I have any that are useful to anyone else, I'd be happy to share them.

    I carefully planned the structure of Bang Up before I started writing. Instead of making it too rigid, it seemed to allow me to concentrate on the characters instead of worrying about where it was meandering! I know this might not be the right approach for every writer (or even every play) but it's the way I've started working on my next idea.

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  • Comment number 52. Posted by Monumental

    on 12 Mar 2013 13:23

    Sarah? Sarah Hehir? Has she done equally as well as Susan Hehir? Fabulous...

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  • Comment number 51. Posted by JHurrell

    on 12 Mar 2013 12:55

    Sarah, not Susan ;-)
    Yes, congratulations, it sounds very well deserved!
    Writers room - a blog from all the winners would be fabulous, tracking their journey from script development through to production?

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  • Comment number 50. Posted by Georgia

    on 10 Mar 2013 19:37

    Well done Susan! An inspirational tale. So refreshing to read some good news amid so much embittered negativity. It really can happen! It would be great to read a blog from you on here to get a better insight into your script-writing process. Then again you might not want to reveal all your secrets. I look forward to hearing Bang Up when it's broadcast. Good luck...

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  • Comment number 49. Posted by Marc George

    on 7 Mar 2013 15:46

    Nicely put Susan & congratulations :)

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