Wednesday, 28 January 2009

BU screenwriting degree show, Courtyard Theatre

Last week, we finally had the degree show for last year's screenwriting graduates from Bournemouth University, held at the Courtyard Theatre, near Old Street in London.

After a couple of pre-show cocktails, the audience of around 90 graduates, staff and invited industry guests squeezed into the Studio auditorium. Stephen Jukes, Dean of the BU Media School, got things underway, followed by a few words from Carrie Wootten, Screen Academy Manager at Skillset.

Then came the main part of the evening - a rehearsed reading of five-minute extracts from some of the higher-marked final scripts from both the BA and MA courses. The extracts were performed by a group of professional actors directed by Darren Bransford, who did an excellent job of translating the screenplay format into a theatre environment.

The climax of the evening was the presentation of the Alan Plater Prize to the two writers who acheived the highest mark for their major project on each of the courses: Sheila West from the BA and Chris O'Malley from the MA.

We'd been uncertain whether Alan was going to make it, because of an earlier medical appointment, but we were thrilled when he arrived, with his wife Shirley, in time for the presentations.

Remembering the influence of his late friend John Mortimer, Alan gave a very inspiring speech about writing, urging prospective writers to try as many formats as possible and to always remember "they can't stop you".

They certainly can't stop Alan, who is now in his mid-70s. Having just been given the all-clear after a period of illness, he was going to resume work the following day on three projects, including an episode of Lewis and a radio play for the BBC.

After that it was back to the bar for drinks, catching up with old friends and a gradual release of the terror that had gripped me - as joint organiser - for much of the previous four months. Anyway, it all seems to have gone well; everyone at BU was pleased with it, and some of the showcased writers have told me they made useful contacts on the night.
None of it would have happened without the help of my wife Jane though, who ran around like a blue-arsed fly all night to ensure that everyone was supplied with quiche, crisps and gingebread men.

Right, now I'd better spend a bit of time promoting my writing...

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