Main content

The Glass Constellations

A personal exploration of writers' unexpected muses - place, people and memories. Dramatist Jeff Young considers the unusual array of muses that inform his and other writers' work.

Jeff Young is a dramatist for radio, screen and stage. He wrote the stand out Essay of Radio 3's In the Shadow of Kafka series 2015. His new Essays series reflects on aspects of the writer's craft - structure, imagination, character and so on- by sharing a deeply personal experience of the apocryphal muse, referencing other well known writers and artists and their relationship to their craft.

Jeff says: 'When I was seventeen I hitched to Paris in search of the muse. I didn't really know what the muse was apart from a vague notion that it had something to do with inspiration and probably sex. The fact that I was, at the age of seventeen, already a failed artist and a bad poet didn't deter me. I was in search of the muse - of my muse, and she, it was inevitably a she, was waiting for me. A few years ago I wrote a drama called 'Wormwood' for Radio 3 about my Paris misadventures with a drug dealer called Harry and his decaying girlfriend, the ex-prostitute, Mona. My muses turned out to be two low life hustlers who took me to the cleaners and left me penniless. But they fed into the mythology and ended up in stories and I've never forgotten the smell of their breath.'

An eclectic, erudite and engaging series that offers insight into the craft of writing.

Two: The Glass Constellations

Over the years, Jeff's personal mythology has emerged, rooted in almost hallucinatory memories of childhood and characters. Jeff's remembers his butcher uncles, on trips to Nana's house to share out the abattoir meat and watch westerns on TV; his blind grandfather who spent his entire day listening to his precious Bakelite radio. The banter, slang and jokes, the TV on full blast so that deaf nana could hear it, the vibrant chaos of these Sunday rituals instilled a love of wild, vernacular talk, a kind of slum-poetry. Out of the mouths of these rough men from the slums came riches. Alongside this there came a passion for street characters, pub-drunks, the people in the shadows, drawing on the ghosts of those long dead grandfathers and uncles.

This essay draws on stories of these characters and places to explore the importance of vital dialogue. The guiding spirits of this essay are the poetic Liverpool films of Terence Davies, whose stories in The Long Day Closes and Distant Voices, Still Lives have been a huge influence on the stories he tells.

Jeff Young is an award winning dramatist, with over 30 BBC Radio Drama productions. He also works on collaborative projects in site specific performance, installation and spoken word. Recent work includes 'Bright Phoenix', the 50th anniversary production at Liverpool Everyman Theatre. Current research includes the history of Liverpool's London Road for an Everyman site specific production and Dada artist Kurt Schwitters's exile in the Lake District. He teaches playwriting at Liverpool John Moores University.

Producer - Polly Thomas
Executive producer - Eloise Whitmore

A Naked Production for BBC Radio 3.

Available now

15 minutes


The Book that Changed Me

The Book that Changed Me

Five figures from the arts and science introduce books that changed their lives and work.

Download The Essay

Download The Essay

Download all the episodes from the series and listen at your leisure.