BBC Writersroom TV Drama Festival
After the BBC's first ever TV Drama Writer's Festival in Leeds, I must admit to feeling exhausted but exhilarated. The list of great writers attending was extraordinary, a roll call of the industry's finest. The unique thing about this festival agenda was that it was created by an amazing line up of writers who brought their experiences and thoughts to the table. I had the idea four years ago and have always believed that there was a place for an event for working writers, but the timing had to be right - and this year we celebrate 10 years of BBC writersroom, the team I created to find and nurture writer talent across all BBC drama, comedy and children's programmes.
Television drama drives the TV schedules, bringing huge audiences and great kudos - and writers are the lifeblood, bringing new stories, worlds and perspectives to our homes. But these are also tough times for programme-makers and scriptwriters, so it was a significant time for writers to discuss and debate the challenges they face. We brought together a group of writers to kick-start the thinking process - Tony Marchant (Garrow's Law), Stephen Butchard (Five Daughters), Alice Nutter (The Street), Jack Thorne (Cast Offs) and Toby Whithouse (Being Human). They were unanimous that the festival should be an open, honest platform to explore what it means to be a writer in 2010, not a moaning session. They wanted to be inspired by great work, to appreciate how programmes are made, to understand the craft, the art and the business. They wanted to celebrate individuals. We all agreed it should be for working writers with a broadcast credit or commission. We all wanted it to feel like a big conversation that means something - or as Tony Marchant put it, a heated discussion down the pub. So it was billed as a festival 'by writers, for writers'.
Earlier in the process I met with John Yorke, Ben Stephenson and Polly Hill who all agreed the writers should do most of the talking, but who were also absolutely committed to being involved. Having them - and various other producers and executives - there made all the difference. On Wednesday and Thursday at the Leeds College of Music there was a palpable buzz as over 240 writers gathered from all over the country. Jenny Robins and the whole writersroom team had worked their proverbial socks off to make sure that everything was ready. What we got was the highest level of debate - about the writer's voice, the politics of notes, show-running, selling ideas, new markets, commissioning, the alchemy of the first and last episodes, storytelling from a documentary perspective, writing low-budget drama, and much much more.
The festival was a fitting way to mark the writersroom commitment to being a force for change for writers. We're an open door to the BBC, dealing with 1000's of unsolicited scripts a year and working in partnership across the industry. Our role is to support the inspiring work done across BBC departments and facilitate new ways of working. Our job is to help writers to speak their voice - and the festival was a brilliant place to do just that.
Kate Rowland is the BBC's Creative Director for New Writing
- For writing opportunities visit the BBC Writersroom