College 5

Well, here is the news release which has just been issued.

"The BBC today announces the six candidates selected to take part in the BBC's College of Comedy training scheme launched earlier this year.

The scheme will train six writers on the job over a year by attaching them to sitcoms and sketch shows, giving each a mentor for original work, and running a series of masterclasses in all aspects of comedy writing.

The scheme has been a huge success receiving just over 1300 submissions, some from as far afield as the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The six candidates selected - which includes one duo and one trio - are:

Leah Chillery a playwright who currently has commissions with Nottingham Playhouse, the Eclipse Touring Theatre company, and Birmingham Rep. With BBC Comedy, Leah is developing a sitcom for BBC Three called Ebony's Yard.

Rob and Neil Gibbons are twins. They have projects in development with Baby Cow, Hat Trick and ITV Productions. They began as sketch writers, and have been developing narrative ideas since 2004. They are currently writing for Steve Coogan's stage show.

Catherine Shepherd is an actress who has appeared in many TV and radio comedies. She wrote and performed on the Peter Serafinowicz Show and Dog Face, contributed to two series of Concrete Cow on Radio 4, and has had an afternoon play broadcast.

Trippplicate are three women who have been working as a team since 2002 and have won glowing reviews for their Edinburgh shows. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm has strong affiliations with the Old Vic which include writing a play performed by Kevin Spacey and Thandie Newton. Verity Rose Woolnough directs live comedy and is a freelance writer working in advertising and PR. Katie Lyons is an actress who was a regular in Green Wing and co-starred in the award-winning Boy A. As Trippplicate, they are developing a new BBC Three project.

Andrew Viner has worked with Aardman, and has written extensively for children's television, notably on Bear Behaving Badly for CBBC, and Skatoony for the Cartoon Network.

John Warburton is a former journalist turned stand-up comedian and comedy writer. He is lead writer on a new sketch project being developed by Baby Cow in Manchester, has contributed to the Comedy North show Scallywagga, and is developing a sitcom pilot with Comedy North.

The scheme is run by Micheál Jacob, formerly the BBC's Creative Head of Mainstream Comedy, and executive producer of My Family, 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, and The Smoking Room. He combines running the college with developing and executive producing programmes.

Micheál said: 'The quality of entries was very high, and we're delighted with the writers who made it through the selection process. I hope the college can help them become regulars in the first team of comedy.'"

And there I go, pursuing my dream of being Arsene Wenger.

I suppose the most frequently asked questions are - why them, what makes them special, and what was the process.

To deal with process first, the assessment worked as an inverse pyramid, starting off with two of us, extending to a further two, and culminating in a panel of six people - including me - voting for the writers they felt impressed most. The writers with most votes were interviewed by me, Kate Rowland from the writersroom, and senior colleagues from the comedy department. Of the chosen six, I had previously met only one in a writing context.

As to the why them question, the answer is quite hard to put into words. Walter Pater, the 19th century aesthete, wrote that all art aspires to the condition of music. For me, good writing sings, and what was common to the all the work of the final six was the fact that they sang, not just to me but to people with quite diverse comedy tastes and backgrounds. Some were Martha Wainwright, some were Mahler, but they were all funny, accessible and felt like only those writers could have written them.

Now I'm planning the first workshop, looking at shows to which writers can be attached and thinking about mentors, and I'll report on progress here.

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