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Comedy Writers' Success at BBC Radio Scotland

Angela Galvin

Development Producer, BBC Writersroom Scotland

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It was last year when BBC Radio Scotland Commissioning Editor, Gareth Hydes, asked for more BBC Writersroom Radio Comedies and we were more than happy to oblige!

This latest opportunity came off the back of the success of last year’s three radio comedies but now we were funded for four. We kicked it all off with a targeted briefing session for our Scottish Voices Group in November where Gareth and Gavin Smith gave an insight into the BBC Radio Scotland audience and what they were looking for editorially. A few weeks later and a range of very funny radio ideas were being read and after much discussion, we shortlisted six projects to be developed further before finally commissioning four to go into production.

These last three months have been a whirlwind of script meetings, notes, some more notes and copious drafts before we got into the radio studio. As you’ll read in the writers' own words below, it was a full on process, but a thoroughly enjoyable period. I can’t thank Ali, Bryce, Tom and Donald enough for their immense work ethic, resilience and good humour throughout. It was a privilege to direct these four comedies and work with a brilliant cast and production team from beginning to end.

We hope you enjoy listening to The Showstopper, Sunday Roast, Winging It and Sue & John.

Listen to The Showstopper, written by Donald Cameron

The Showstopper - by Donald Cameron

They say true writing is re-writing. What they don’t say is that true re-writing is sitting in a radio studio editing a script to the necessary length just before the actors actually start recording... then you go for a take. That’s true re-writing. I’ve learnt more from this one short production process than I had in the past two years of screenwriting studies and spec' script writing combined.

The Showstopper - writer Donald Cameron with the cast

The BBC Writersroom Team guided me through umpteen drafts across both the planning and script stages, especially as my story started life as a pitch for a comedy monologue, before morphing into a sitcom. Hearing actors bringing words you’ve written to life is really quite something, and Victoria Balnaves, Gavin Mitchell and Anita Vettesse did a grand job with the madness put before them. It’s been a massive boost to get a BBC credit under my belt and I’m hugely grateful to Angela, the BBC Writersroom team and BBC Radio Scotland for giving me the opportunity.

Listen to Sunday Roast, written by Ali Taylor

Sunday Roast - by Ali Taylor

For me, it's pretty apt that Sunday Roast is all about the unexpected happening when a mix of folk get together in a confined space because that's exactly how this project panned out too. I'd wanted to write a piece inspired by an advert I’d seen, so when the pitch opened for submissions I got to work and revisited my idea and notes. I didn't realise, on getting the commission, just how much more digging and revisiting was to be done. But once the Producer/Director and Script Editor came to the table it became a far more family affair.

Sunday Roast - writer Ali Taylor with the cast

One particularly insightful note they gave helped me put meat on the bones; write about the mother that isn't there. Maggie's deceased mum, being the antithesis of Elsie, was what ultimately, would help draw Maggie and Elsie together. Thanks to Jane, Steven, Barbara and Eubha for their wonderful performances and to the fantastic sound engineers for helping us cook, so catastrophically, with gas. I hope you'll pull up a chair and have a listen. And if you've got one spare, invite an Elsie. Just don't let her bring her own bottle.

LIsten to Winging It, written by Bryce Hart

Winging It - by Bryce Hart

I’ve been lucky to work as a writer on great existing shows, ones with their own established voice, but Winging It would be the first time something I had written in my own voice was going to be produced. Like any writer, I was thrilled to be given this opportunity. And once the panic attacks subsided, I got to work.

Winging It - writer Bryce Hart with the cast

I decided to write about the world of parenting. Where privately you can have your fears about being good enough and question the long-term ramifications of every decision you make - whilst publicly striving to give the impression that ‘you’ve got this’. A lot like writing really. The world of the show was brought vividly to life by an incredible cast and I am hugely indebted to director Angela Galvin and script editor Stephanie Modlin for all their help and guidance throughout the process.

Listen to Sue & John, written by Tom Worsley

Sue & John - by Tom Worsley

When I was given the chance to pitch a 15 minute radio comedy to the BBC Writersroom I knew instantly what I wanted to do thanks to my regular weekly phone call back home. Both my Mum and Dad had just retired and so my dear Mum always had an anecdote about their new lives, and quite frankly, I feared for their sanity. From this, Sue & John began to emerge.

Sue & John - writer Tom Worsley with the cast

I'd previously written topical gags and some sketches but my ambition has always been narrative comedy so when I heard my idea was going into production, I was blown away. The whole process was incredibly supportive and I was encouraged to push the characters and really dig deep for the comedy. It was hard work (and cutting your favourite lines is never easy!) but I learnt so much about story and character, it was all invaluable. The recording day was fun, seeing everyone from production to our hilarious cast investing in the project was genuinely lovely. I have to thank everyone at the BBC Writersroom and BBC Radio Scotland for giving me the chance to realise an ambition I've had since I was a kid. And I should also point out to any family or my parents' friends that this is a fictitious comedy. Mostly...

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