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The Alfred Bradley Bursary Event – Alexandra Denye, Guest Post

Many of you out in enter The Alfred Bradley Bursary every year (I’ve even read a few of your radio plays for it) – so I was delighted to hear Bang2writer Alexandra Denye had been shortlisted. I’ve read for Alexandra lots of times as a TV and film writer and it seems she’s added a new string to her bow as a radio writer too! Here’s how it went for her at the prize evening recently. Enjoy!
“It was a long time to wait from hearing that I’d been short listed (end of April 2009) for the Alfred Bradley Bursary Award to the Award Event itself. But Wednesday 8th July finally came around and I was VERY excited.

I arrived at BBC Manchester in a rather fetching green chiffon dress (yes I was reminded of Maggie Smith’s comment in Gosford Park, ‘difficult colour, green’) at 5pm ready for the start of the award event at 5.30pm.

Around 5.20pm we are escorted into Studio 7, a large recording studio with tiered seating and were handed brochures with details of all the short-listed writers. The writers got to sit in the ‘reserved’ seats on the front row. I noticed that we were all on the same row so that didn’t give me any clues as to whether I would be receive a prize or not.

As we got settled we were treated to extracts from radio plays and a PowerPoint presentation flashed up comments on each of the short listed plays. I heard an extract from a play called Fifteen about a teenage girl giving birth in a park and instantly thought, damn, mine’s not going to be the winner, as my radio play Faith is about a pregnant teenager abandoning her baby in the park.

Sue Roberts, Executive Producer Drama North welcomed us all to the event and said how excited she was to be hosting the Award once again and how the standard of writing this year had been extremely high.

Jeremy Howe, Commissioning Editor of Radio 4, mentioned that 20% of commissions for the Afternoon play were given to 1st and 2nd time writers and that out of the 2007 Alfred Bradley short listed writers, on top of the winners and runners-up, another 4 writers had received commissions.

We were then treated to a video about the BBC’s move to Salford and how exciting it’ll be to have so many departments moving up there (BBC Children’s (including CBBC and CBeebies television and radio); BBC Children’s Learning; parts of BBC Future Media & Technology (including BBC Research & Development); BBC Radio Five Live (including Five Live Sports Extra);BBC Sport.

After the video Sue North announced it was time to put the writers out of their misery. My name was the second to be called and I received a Commendation for my radio play Faith.

Here’s the short pitch:
“If you found an abandoned baby you’d hand it in, right? Gloria, a former mid-wife desperate for redemption, decides to keep baby Faith. She doesn’t bank on the teenage Mum tracking her down and confronting her.”

I shook hands with Sue and Jeremy and checked out my nice certificate when I sat back down again. It now has pride of place on my noticeboard as it awaits it’s framing.

Other writers who got out of their seats were:

Driftwood Something Something by Paul Buie – Commended
Maine Road by Sarah McDonald Hughes – Highly Commended
God and That by Tom Wells – Runner up, £1,000
White Horses by Ben Ayrton – Runner up, £1,000
Playing the Game by Chris Wilson – Winner, £3,000

We were treated to extracts (of around 5 minutes each) from the runners-up and the winner, performed by actors with scripts in hand. All the extracts zinged along and were in turn funny and poignant.

As per the rules, if any of the writers who won a bursary secure an afternoon play commission, the monies received will be deducted from the commissioning fee.

The descriptions of the runners-up and winning play from the brochure are as follows:

God and That by Tom Wells
Three teenage boys are accidentally locked in a cupboard at the catholic school they all attend. As the time passes and they plot their escape sex, violence and drugs all feature.

White Horse by Ben Ayrton
An eleven year old boy, traumatised by the death of a childhood friend struggles to come to terms with his mother’s affair with his uncle. His uncle’s death and father’s alcoholism eventually push him over the edge.

Playing the Game by Chris Wilson
A monologue for a teenaged boy, who has to negotiate his Dad’s growing relationship with his aunt after his mother’s death, his ambitions to be a footballer, school bullies and his acne.

Jeremy Howe then explained that Playing the Game hasn’t received a commission for the Afternoon Play because it had too much wanking in it, and in his own words, ‘Radio 4 doesn’t do wanking’. He hopes the play will secure a slot in the next season of The Wire on Radio 3.

After the last extract was performed Sue Roberts invited us upstairs for a drink. We were treated to red and white wine, beer, orange juice and water (fizzy and still) and crisps and peanuts but I was far too excited to eat anything.

Upstairs I spoke to Mrs Bradley, the widow of Alan Bradley, who comes to all of the award events and several radio producers and Jeremy Howe and Sue Roberts. I was encouraged by Sue Roberts who really liked my play and is keen to get it on the radio. Hurray!

I will now receive a six month mentorship with radio producer, Nadia Moralini, who recently directed the play The King of Sootland which aired on radio 4 on Monday 20th (you’ve got 3 days left to listen on the BBC iplayer). Nadia is in Italy for the Summer so my mentorship will start in September. I’m very much hoping it’ll lead to my first radio commission.

It is interesting to see that two writers who were successful in the 2007 Alfred Bradley Bursary Award have secured commissions. There may well be more, these were the ones I could find upon researching the net.

Deborah Wain who wrote Fifteen received a £500 bursary from the Alfred Bradley Bursary Award in 2007, her afternoon play was broadcast on 6th May this year (sadly I didn’t catch it) but Charlotte Riches from BBC Drama North has kindly put a copy in the post for me that I’m eagerly awaiting.

Mark Shand who won in 2007 with his play Abigail Adams which was broadcast on August 23rd 2007, recently had another afternoon play on the radio Bang Went the Sun 9th June 2009 which was a play about synaesthesia – the mixing of senses – and how a father and daughter rediscover each other.

Here’s a link to the BBC blog about ABBA winners.

If you’re keen to write for radio I’d recommend listening to as many afternoon plays as you can, I did this for a few months before embarking on Faith.

Also, the BBC Writersroom has a selection of radio plays available to download in pdf. I have read all of the plays on there and they are excellent examples of how to write short, medium and long plays. The Sound Barrier by Sarah Daniels is superb and I used it as a template to write Faith.

I’ll keep Lucy posted on my progress once the mentoring starts.


PS. Start working NOW on your radio script for the next Alfred Bradley Award – it is aimed at writers who haven’t had a radio writing credit, not writers who haven’t had a writing credit at all, so you can still enter if you’ve had plays, TV scripts or film scripts produced. You do have to have been born in the North or lived there for at least five years.”
Thanks Alexandra! Really illuminating stuff there. Particularly interested in the fact you can enter if you were born in The North – I didn’t know that (I live in the SW, but was born in Scarborough!). Might give it a try…

Anyone else reading had any luck with The Alfred Bradley Bursary or any other radio scheme/project? Let us know!

GUEST POST CALL: Have you won or placed in a prestigious competition like Alexandra? Maybe you’ve attended an interesting event like my Scriptmarket peeps or been to course like Nicholas (LOST Workshop, July 09) or conference like Helen (The Story Engine, pts 1, 2 & 3)? Or perhaps you have strong views about writing like Adrian (“Why Choose Miss Newbie?”) or Dublin Dave (“Writers Write: A Response to Adrian’s Post”) and want to share them? I would like to hear from you! Just email me on the usual address Bang2write”at”

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