BBC announces Galton & Simpson bursary for comedy writing

At a time when everyone is feeling the effects of isolation it’s particularly apt to celebrate the life and work of two people who originally met in a sanatorium and went on to define what television comedy could be.

Published: 29 April 2020
Great comedy is often born out of adversity, as the imagination sparks creative expression. This bursary is aimed at giving opportunity to new comedy voices in these trying times.
— Shane Allen, Controller, BBC Comedy

Aimed at writers and writing partnerships, the bursary will award £5,500 to develop a script for broadcast consideration under the guidance of established industry practitioners and BBC Comedy Commissioning.

Ray Galton and Alan Simpson met as teenagers in a TB sanatorium in 1948. They were probably afflicted by boredom and a sense of alienation as well as their illness, because all the other occupants were much older than them. Writing saved them, and together they wrote themselves into good health, going on to become one of the best loved and most enduring writing partnerships in comedy history.

They never forgot where it all began, however, and deeper comedy drama themes are threaded through their most successful creations, from Hancock to Steptoe & Son.

Now BBC Comedy celebrates this moment of comic creativity by launching a new Galton & Simpson Bursary for Comedy Writing, aimed at helping a new comedy writer or writing partnership to build their career.

The family of Ray Galton said: “The Galton family are proud that the BBC have decided to honour dad and Alan’s achievements with this Bursary Award. They never forgot the advice and encouragement they received when starting out and were always keen to help newcomers to the profession. We hope this bursary will reflect their beliefs and their outstanding contributions to their craft, inspiring others to come forward with new ideas.”

Tessa Le Bars, Galton & Simpson’s manager, adds: “I am delighted that the BBC is honouring Ray and Alan’s legacy with this bursary. In doing so it recognises the importance of their achievements and influence as the originators of British sitcom.”

Shane Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy, says: “These comedy founding fathers met in adverse circumstances and went on to set the template for the modern British sitcom. Their work has endured and been appreciated for decades past and no doubt decades to come. Great comedy is often born out of adversity, as the imagination sparks creative expression. This bursary is aimed at giving opportunity to new comedy voices in these trying times.”

This bursary is a collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation since research has again and again demonstrated that creativity can help mental well-being by providing a channel of release and self-expression. Mental health and well-being is one of the biggest social issues of our time: one in six of us in the UK will experience mental health difficulties every week, and many more of us will experience them via family members and friends.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director of the Mental Health Foundation, says: “Being involved in creative activities can have a powerful and lasting effect on our well-being and protect our mental health. We welcome the Galton & Simpson Bursary for Comedy Writing which pays tribute to these great writers and because comedy is a wonderful way to bring people together in laughter and hope.”

The bursary will be open to all and will be for a writer or partnership of writers working on any theme. Applicants must submit a sample script of 30 pages/30 minutes MAXIMUM duration, supported by a series development plan and a short (one page) biog/statement.

BBC Comedy will shortlist four projects for further consideration. One final award winner will have their script developed for broadcast consideration, with advice and input from leading industry practitioners, and receive a bursary of £5,500.

Sample scripts, series plans and biog/statements can be submitted to Galton& The application deadline is 5 June 2020.

Pictured: Alan Simpson and Ray Galton outside BBC Television Centre, 1970


Terms & Conditions

What you need to submit
A sample comedy/sitcom script of 30 pages/30 minutes maximum
A series development plan
A short one-page biography/statement

How to Submit
Sample scripts, series plans and biog/statements can be submitted to: Galton&
Deadline: Friday 5th June2020

Individual / group submissions
Writers can submit individually or as part of a writing duo (maximum of two people). Only one entry per person is permitted including any group entries.

Bursary reading process
The BBC will employ professional script readers to assess all the submitted scripts. They sift the scripts by reading at least the first ten pages. If a submission doesn't sufficiently hook our attention at the sift stage, it will not be considered further. The BBC reserves the right not to read additional pages if it is clear that the quality of the writing or subject matter is unsuitable or is in breach of any of the terms and conditions.

If a submission hooks our reader’s attention it progresses to the second sift, to be re-read by another reader. Writers who progress beyond the second sift are then recommended to BBC Comedy Commissioning. BBC Comedy Commissioning staff finalise a shortlist and then invite those writers or writing partnerships to attend an interview.

The names of all selected entrants may be made public. Entrants must agree to take part in any post-training scheme publicity if required.

We do not accept

  • Writing samples written for existing or previously produced shows/characters - we only want to see your original work
  • Samples or extracts from scripts - we need full scripts as well as the series plan and biog/statement
  • We do not read further writing samples or samples we have already rejected, or given feedback on
  • Novels, unpublished prose manuscripts, or another writer's work you wish to see adapted
  • Scripts over 30 pages
  • Short film scripts over 30 pages
  • Adaptations for broadcast of another writer’s idea
  • Poetry
  • Scripts from writers under the age of 18
  • Resubmissions of work previously considered, even after rewrites - make sure you make your sample is as good as you possibly can before sending it to us
  • Ideas, pitches, outlines, synopses, or treatments on their own
  • Multiple submissions at one time. We can only accept one application from each writer/writing team
  • Links, DVDs, audio tapes or any video/audio material accompanying, or instead of, a writing sample
  • The BBC reserves the right to disqualify entries that are inconsistent with the BBC Editorial Policy Guidelines or which may bring the BBC into disrepute, including any entries which profit from criminal activity
  • In order to be eligible to apply you should be either resident in the UK, or be an EU or UK national resident in an EU member state
  • Scripts have to be written in English

The BBC reserves the right to amend these terms and conditions at any stage, including changing or substituting the selection process and the development opportunities. In this event, a notice will be posted here.

Copyright and Protection
All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe the rights of any other party. The BBC accepts no liability if entrants ignore these rules and entrants agree to fully indemnify the BBC against any claims by any third party arising from any breach of these rules.

By applying for the Galton & Simpson Bursary for Comedy Writing, entrants warrant that they have legal capacity to enter and agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.

The copyright of all writing samples and scripts sent to the BBC rests with the writer - you do not need to formally copyright work before you send it in to us. Writers are often anxious that their work may be stolen or plagiarised. However, similarities in writers' ideas, material, and scripts occur surprisingly often.

In the event that a producer wishes to option an unsolicited script, the BBC would necessarily agree appropriate contractual terms with the writer in line with standard BBC agreements. For further information on legal and contractual issues for writers, you may wish to contact the Writers' Guild of Great Britain.

The BBC receives a great many submissions, and similarities of subject matter often occur. We cannot undertake to compensate you if material similar to yours, received coincidentally from another source, is subsequently commissioned or produced.