Guild negotiates increases for writers
The Writers’ Guild has negotiated a 2% increase in minimum fees for BBC radio writers, backdated to 1 August 2013. The flagship rate for an original drama by an established writer goes up to £91.73 for two transmissions, while the fee for an episode of The Archers goes up to £920. Other rates include a scale between £183 and £374 for a 15-minute short story, and £10.58 per minute for abridgements. The new rates replace those implemented on 24 January this year and will be reviewed again with effect from 1 August 2014 - download full details (pdf)
There is also good news for playwrights working for leading theatres – minimum rates for the Royal Court Theatre, Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company were increased by 2.2% with effect from 1 April 2013, bringing the basic rate for a full-length play to £11,759 - download full details (pdf)
Remembering Marie Banks and Robert Leeson who both died at the end of September
Marie Banks, former Assistant General Secretary who worked for the Writers' Guild for 28 years, died on 28 September.
Marie's contributions to the Guild were many, not least her phenomenal memory, which allowed her to place the names – and usually the faces – of hundreds of members. Much of her time was spent dealing with the finances of the Guild, working closely with several treasurers.
She started work for the Guild in the basement of No. 7 Harley Street on 15 March 1962 as an office temp, and 25 years later she was fêted at a celebration at the Café Royal. President Maureen Duffy presented Marie with a glass rose bowl and the Chair, Robert Leeson (who has also just died -- see below) announced that grateful members had subscribed no less than £6,500 towards her pension as a testimonial of gratitude.
Marie died of cancer at University College Hospital, London.
Robert Leeson, chair of the Writers’ Guild in 1985-86, died on 29 September aged 85.
He was a prolific writer of novels for children, publishing more than 70 titles, including Maroon Boy, Never Kiss Frogs, Tom’s Private War and several Grange Hill spin-offs. As chair of the Guild’s Books Committee in the early 1980s he played a vital part in negotiating minimum terms agreements with the leading UK publishers of the time. A full obituary will appear on the Guild’s website shortly.
The funeral will take place in Harlow, Essex on Wednesday 16 October. Any former colleague of Robert wishing to attend should contact the Guild office for full details
Nick Yapp adds:
I suppose everyone who's ever sat on any sort of committee has their idea of an ideal committee member. Mine would be Bob Leeson - modest, an extremely good listener, constructive, and always contributing the mot juste, the helpful suggestion, the faultless gathering together of every contribution as the discussion nears its end. Bob was way ahead of me. He'd had years of experience before I joined the Books Committee back in the late 1980s. I sat at the bottom end of the table in the Meeting Room upstairs at the Guild's Office in Edgware Road, listening carefully to what Bob said in the hope that one day I would have the skill and wisdom to follow in a master's footsteps. I never could, but that wasn't Bob's fault.
He was most active in the Guild during difficult times (come to think of it, aren't they all). The Books Committee was struggling to persuade all the major publishing houses in the UK to agree to a standardised Minimum Terms Contract for writers. The struggle was long, intense, and largely successful, and Bob played his part.
In short, Bob was one of those remarkable colleagues who make the rest of us proud to be part of the same Guild as them.
The Writers' Guild Awards will be presented in London on Wednesday 13 November 2013. The shortlists in 13 categories are published below.
TV Drama Series
Silk (Peter Moffat), The Village (Peter Moffat), Broadchurch (Chris Chibnall)
Holby City, Casualty, Waterloo Road, Coronation Street, EastEnders, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Doctors
Getting On (Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, Joanna Scanlan), Fresh Meat (Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain), Him and Her (Stefan Golaszewski)
TV Drama Short Form
The Girl (Gwyneth Hughes), Room at the Top (Amanda Coe), Murder : Joint Enterprise (Robert Jones)
The Dumping Ground - What Would Gus Want? (Elly Brewer), What’s the Big Idea - What is Art? (Alan Gilbey), The Dumping Ground - The Truth is Out There (Emma Reeves)
Tennyson and Edison (David Pownall), The Go-Between (adapted by Frances Byrnes from the novel by LP Hartley), Once Upon a Time There Was a Beatrix (Lavinia Murray)
Susan Calman is Convicted (Susan Calman), Fags, Mags & Bags (Sanjeev Kohli and Donald McLeary), Meet David Sedaris (David Sedaris)
The Universe versus Alex Woods (Gavin Extence), Big Brother (Lionel Shriver), The Card (Graham Rawle)
Tomb Raider (Rhianna Pratchett), Thomas Was Alone (Mike Bithell), Lego City Undercover (Graham Goring)
Sightseers (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram), Good Vibrations (Colin Carberry, Glen Patterson), Grabbers (Kevin Lehane), What Richard Did (Malcolm Campbell)
My Brother the Devil (Sally El Hosaini), Byzantium (Moira Buffini), Skyfall (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan)
Quietly (Owen McCafferty), Brilliant Adventures (Alistair MacDowall), The Thrill of Love (Amanda Whittington)
Theatre Play for Young People
Whole (Phillip Osment), I, Cinna (Tim Crouch), Mr Holgado (Christopher William Hill)
Stephen Potts on how he combines careers in medicine and writing
A few years ago I stood at a crossroads, uncertain which way to go. Should I quit the day job and throw myself into writing full-time, or continue trying to combine the two? I wrote about the decision in this magazine, and many readers offered advice. As so often, events – two young children – took over and made my decision for me. I could inflict the financial uncertainties of a full-time writer’s life upon myself, but not upon my family. So I carried on, and now find myself invited by the editor to offer views on the day job question.
I read somewhere that only 15% of published writers earn a living from their writing. So nearly all of us need a day job, raising questions about how we regard it; how it relates to the writing; how we assign our time and energies between day job and our writing projects; and how we shut off from one when engaged in the other.
My day job is in medicine. I’m a psychiatrist in a busy general hospital, seeing people in A&E, the medical and surgical wards, and the transplant unit. Medicine is a notoriously hard task master, and I bemoaned its ‘all or nothing’ nature in my earlier article. I’ve worked part-time for most of the past 16 years, though currently part-time means 36 hours a week plus one weekend in four on call. This is far too much like full-time work for me, but if I am to do less, someone else has to do more, and that’s not been an option for some time, though I live in hope.
There is one day a week when I am not in the hospital. I try to be ruthless in protecting my writing Wednesdays, though I do still get calls. I suppress irritation about them, aware that writers’ day jobs are often resented. In the extreme (and I am not here talking about my own job) they leech upon our time, our energies, our enthusiasms, perhaps our creative sparks: and we endure them only for the income they bring, for they offer nothing reciprocal in the way of new perspectives, new insights or new skills to carry into our writing lives. If it is hard for a non-writer to get up each day and drag her weary frame into a dreary workplace, then – perhaps – how much harder for a writer who wants to break free, who scribbles and taps away in stolen moments, and dreams nightly of the Big Break which will allow her to walk into the boss’s office with a smirk and tell him where to put his P45. But if the Big Break doesn’t come, going to work each day with that extra burden of desperate hope will eventually become intolerable.
Olivia Hetreed is the new President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, following a vote at the Guild's AGM
Olivia, best known for scripting the hugely successful film Girl With A Pearl Earring, has served for several years as Chair of the Guild's Film Committee and a member of our Executive Council. Olivia started her career as a documentary, drama and film editor and moved into writing with a series of family films for ITV including The Treasure Seekers and The Canterville Ghost. Other credits include the award-winning Man of Law’s Tale for the BBC and the feature film Wuthering Heights, released in 2011. She is currently in development with Philip and Liz, the love story of the young Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. Olivia’s unopposed election as President was announced at today’s Guild Annual General Meeting. She takes over from the eminent playwright David Edgar, who has been our distinguished President for the past six years.