Several years ago, like many emerging writers, I sent my scripts to the BBC writersroom. One script led to an invitation to a ‘Speed Dating’ event at Television Centre where writers were encouraged to approach BBC executives. With my heart in my mouth I approached BBC radio producer Toby Swift and told him that I was interested in writing for radio. That led to my first commission, Burned to Nothing, for the Radio Four: Afternoon Play. Soon after that was broadcast I was commissioned to write Lover’s Rock for Radio 3: Drama on 3.
Lover’s Rock, about the New Cross Fire in London in 1981, was an idea that I had had for several years and been researching with the help of some of the families of the victims. Following a charity event that I organized with the families’ blessing, Remembering the New Cross Fire: 30 Years On, I approached Radio 3 with the idea for the play.
Writing a full-length radio play is a challenge, akin to writing a feature film script, an hour and a half of drama. I thought more visually than aurally when writing Lover’s Rock – picturing the scene and then the sounds that go with them was extremely beneficial. I also had reams of research that I had to refine into a story and, on top of that, the case of the New Cross Fire has never been solved. With the help of my producer, David Hunter, we decided that no real people should be depicted since the theme of Lover’s Rock is the difficulty the protagonists have finding the truth. Music is also a key part of the drama, the beating heart of the play. David and I worked to find inventive ways to infuse music into the dramatic highs and lows, so that it is not simply incidental or always in the background.
The part I most enjoyed was raiding my record collection for those Lovers Rock tunes that I used to listen to as a kid. Records by Donna Rhoden, Matumbi and Victor Romero Evans not only punctuated the play, but also brought back memories of a night in January 1981 that we must never forget.
Rex Obano is the writer of Lover’s Rock for Radio 3: Drama on 3 – listen back to the play on BBC iPlayer.