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Professional Residential

July 2009

An exciting new project for NWP

We spent a week in a large house in the Staffordshire countryside, giving four established writers the chance to develop work-in-progress with the help of actors, directors - and each other.

The writers were:

Charlotte Keatley - best known for My Mother Said I Never Should (the most-performed play ever written by a woman! And first developed by NWP)

Lavinia Murray - with many BBC radio dramas to her credit, Lavinia is also a performance poet and creator of multi-media spectacles

and seasoned TV writers Jane McNulty and Lindsay Williams, who between them have worked on Emmerdale, Eastenders and Coronation Street among others.

Bill Hopkinson directing actors in Lavinia Murray's Molecular Gastronomy



The week was demanding, enriching and full of laughter (and the odd tear). The writers arrived with varying amounts of written scripts, and heads full of ideas, questions and uncertainties. Each writer had two half-day sessions with actors and a director (Bill Hopkinson or Chris Bridgman). In the course of the week, characters came and went, scenes were jettisoned and new ones written - and all but one of the pieces had at least one change of title!  But by the end, all four writers were agreed that the experience had made a huge contribution to progressing their plays:

Something marvellous has happened to me through my involvement in this process. Wonderful company, great laughs (and tears) and a real inspiring event. It's been just what I needed to get this blessed play on its way. The whole process has restored me. After taking a personal battering from years writing for the soaps, this has helped me to regain my identity as a writer. Is it too melodramatic to say it has restored my self respect as a writer?

Jane McNulty

The best thing was having the space to try things and make mistakes. At first this was very nerve-wracking, as I'm used to getting things done quite quickly and then moving on; but exploring the scenes and the idea in more detail turned out to be just what I needed. I certainly figured out which character's story it was. This was down to a breakthrough on the last session when I realized where I had been going wrong with the story and the scenes.

Lindsay Williams


Chris Bridgman ponders a point with writers Lindsay Williams (left) and Jane McNulty

Can we get more budget to do this more?...BEST THING NWP DOES I think. Thank you thank you. And- being WITH OTHER PLAYWRIGHTS was so nice- we're isolated by profession, knowing others in NW a great boon.  Also having a resource workshop for more experienced, older writers is rare, and great - most are for new writers !

Charlotte Keatley

Crikey, what a roller coaster! What an intense wonder it all was and how brilliant to see the 4 pieces together at the end. Huge thanks - I really had a most amazing time and feel very privileged to have been part of such a creative pioneering event. Everyone involved was brilliant and a joy to know.

Lavinia Murray

On the Saturday we decamped to Oldham Coliseum Theatre to rehearse extracts from the four plays which were performed in the evening as the final event in the Coliseum's Wordsmith new writing festival.

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