On 13 May 1959, a group of writers gathered in a basement in London’s Harley Street to form the Television and Screenwriters’ Guild – later to be renamed the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
Their aim was simple – to stand up for the rights of writers, and 60 years on WGGB now counts amongst its members videogames writers, playwrights, animation and comedy writers, authors, poets, librettists and musical theatre writers, as well as those original film, TV and radio writers.
The minimum rates we negotiate with leading industry bodies mean that even though writers are self-employed they receive pay protection and regular rises. We also ensure they have other rights enshrined in their contracts too – for example, the right to attend rehearsals, or to be paid expenses, and to have the textual integrity of their work respected.
We campaign and lobby on behalf of writers – our members were instrumental in the campaign for the Public Lending Right in the 1970s and 80s, for example – which means British authors now have a legal right to receive payment for the free lending of their books.
Fast forward three decades to 2018 and our Equality Writes campaign to tackle inequality in the screen industries. Or to our long-standing Creating Without Conflict campaign against bullying and harassment, which we were shouting loudly about before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, #MeToo and #TimesUp catapulted these issues out of the shadows and into the limelight.
With dizzying advances sweeping the digital landscape, we stay one step ahead of the game, ensuring writers get paid if their work finds its way into podcasts or on other platforms like iPlayer.
And our annual Writers’ Guild Awards, which have been celebrating the cream of British writing since 1961, are the bedrock of our work in raising the profile of the profession and standing up proud for freedom of speech.
But it is vital that we keep this pressure up. Threats to copyright, writers’ earnings and working conditions come as thick and fast as changes in the technological backdrop to which they work.
So, we are asking you to help become part of our success story. If you are a writer, at whatever stage of your career, you can join us. If don’t have professional credits yet, or are juggling an emerging writing career with another profession, you can join as a Candidate Member for just £9 per month. If you are already an established writer you can join as a Full Member. And if you are an agent or someone else engaged in a professional relationship with a writer you can join as an Affiliate Member. Full details, including online joining, can be found here.
The more members we have the stronger we will become. By joining us you will play a vital role in the work we do for writers, as well as receive a whole range of member benefits too. And our members regularly tell us that joining WGGB has been one of the best career moves they have made – allowing them to network, support one another and become part of a vibrant community of writers, all working hard to help each other.
Photo from a WGGB Meet the Radio Drama Producers event: Em Fitzgerald