Festive image with the words Season's Greetings from WGGB The Writers' Union

Farewell 2023

This past year has been another busy one for our union and we wanted to give you a round-up of what has happened and to thank our members and supporters for their activism, activity and achievements. You can also find details of our Christmas office closure below, alongside sources of support over the holiday period.

January: We kicked off the year in style with our Writers’ Guild Awards red-carpet ceremony where we honoured a stellar line-up of winners representing the cream of British writing talent. That month also saw the culmination of our (and others’) successful campaign to Save Channel 4 from privatisation, as the Government rowed back on its controversial and damaging plans.

February: Off the back of one campaign success came another! Our Scotland branch and sister unions joined an emergency campaign following the Scottish Government’s announcement that it was going to make a £7 million budget cut to the arts funding of Creative Scotland, which was swiftly revoked. Our Welsh branch has been equally active in its lobbying and other work throughout the year.

March: This month we announced Anita Sullivan as the winner of our annual Tinniswood Award, honouring the best audio script of the year. Our author members sharpened their pencils and wrote to their MPs to support an early day motion calling for VAT on audiobooks to be reduced to zero. And on the lobbying theme, March saw us respond to the Draft Media Bill, welcoming an enhanced role for Ofcom and moves to make streaming providers more accountable for their UK content, whilst also raising other concerns.

April: We were delighted this month to announce a 5% rise on minimum fees for ITV writers.

May: The ITV successful negotiation was followed swiftly by another – 4% for audio drama writers working for the BBC. This month heralded what later became known as the “hot labor summer” in the US, as members of our sister union the Writers Guild of America downed their pens, shut up their laptops and went on strike. The outpouring of solidarity from our members was astonishing and our casework team supported an unprecedented number of members with their contracts and provided one-to-one advice on the implications of the strike to writers in the UK.

June: The WGA strike would continue until the autumn but it was in the sweltering summer heat that we hosted a huge protest in London’s Leicester Square – with over 200 members and others turning out, as part of a Global Day of Solidarity with the WGA.

July: It may have been the summer holidays but campaigning continued without missing a beat. The Government’s announcement earlier in the year of new anti-strike legislation represented a very serious threat to the trade union movement and workers’ hard-earned rights on pay and working conditions. We joined the TUC’s campaign to fight the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, a fight that continues. July also marked the launch of our major policy statement on AI.

August: Continuing on the AI theme, we held an event this month exploring how writers can take the best from AI while protecting their rights, with Dr Gavin Mueller, Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. It was a busy month in our member training schedule too – with workshops on Canva and Productivity for writers.

September: Streaming video on demand, a big issue in the WGA strike, came into focus again during TUC Congress – WGGB sent a delegation and proposed a motion (which was passed) on streaming and fair pay for writers (watch WGGB President Sandi Toksvig OBE introduce the motion here). September also saw the launch of our survey on ageism (the results are due in 2024 – watch this space!) – other surveys this year have included non-broadcast audio drama and a TV fees census.

October: This month we learned that the continuing drama series BBC Doctors was to close after 23 years and launched a campaign to Save BBC Doctors. Carmen Marcus was awarded the Faber New Play Award (part of our New Play Commission Scheme) for And The Earth Opened Up Under Her, and we also issued joint guidance with the Society of Authors following the news that thousands of books had been used without consent to train AI systems. This month also saw an Accessibility in videogames event – one of a number of successful panel and networking events this year from our games committee. We celebrated Black History Month with a special online event, and our Film Committee sponsored a panel and hosted a meet-up at London Film Festival.

November: We responded to the devastating conflict in the Middle East. Later in the month we hosted our fourth online AGM – thanks to all of you who came! Following the publication of a Creative Diversity Network Project Diamond ‘deep dive’ report into writers, directors and producer directors, we called for an urgent reset and an independent inquiry to address systemic issues of racism, sexism, ableism and all forms of discrimination that exist within the creative industries.

December: December was UK Disability History Month and we celebrated with a special event and the meeting of one of our growing number of Member Networks for under-represented writing groups. We also celebrated our Olwen Wymark Award winners, who had given exceptional encouragement to our theatre-writing members over the past year.

Thank you if you joined one of our events or campaigns this year, lobbied your MP, signed a petition, came on a protest, or helped us celebrate #HeartUnions Week. You have made your union stronger for it. And a special thank you to WGGB activists across the different craft areas, nations and regions, all working writers whose tireless, voluntary work drives union negotiations and campaigns, improving the lot of all writers. If you’d like to join them in 2024, do drop us a line at admin@writersguild.org.uk.

Christmas closure

We will be operating a basic membership enquiries only service from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 December. Our office will close fully from Thursday 21 December and reopen again on Tuesday 2 January 2024. If you have any enquiries during the shutdown, please email them to admin@writersguild.org.uk and we will respond in 2024.

Support over the holiday season

If you are by yourself, feel anxious or worried and need support, you can find mental health support resources on our website.

We would like to wish all our members, wherever you are in the world, a restful and restorative holiday and a happy New Year.