Radio Days

Some time ago, I directed a radio play.

I joined a Radio Theatre Group at work. Figured it would be fun and interesting. An email went round a while back saying “Here is an interesting play. Who wants to direct this?” and I thought: Why not. I’ve not directed anything before.

So I volunteered.

In the spirit of passing on what I’ve learned, here are a few useful things to know about directing for radio.

Have a rehearsal

The recording went much more smoothly thanks to the actors knowing who their characters were and what they were doing ahead of time.

It was all quite painless: The actors got sent a copy of the play beforehand, and after a readthrough to get us all settled in, I asked them some questions about their characters, and what they thought the characters knew, thought, felt.

Because we’d thought through these things in the rehearsal, we didn’t have to stop during the recording to ask any questions like “Why am I saying this?” or “What exactly do I mean here?”

Which results in a much more stress-free recording. Which is good for everyone.

Re-format your script

Specifically, number your lines.

A writers’ draft doesn’t need them. For example, check out The King’s Coiner by Philip Palmer for an example of a radio script in the BBC standard format.

But when it comes to recording, it’s immensely useful to be able to refer to an exact line quickly.

So reformat the script with a number next to each speech or sound cue. Try Porshia by Ed Harris for an example.

You could number everything, as this production draft does, or start afresh on each page like I did. Either way, it makes production easier because you can simply say “Let’s have line three again.” or “From line eight on page twelve.”

Listen through after you’ve finished editing

We finished our edit, and didn’t have a listen-through before quitting the edit suite. So of the two takes we could have used for one particular section… we had both. Plus a longish section of me saying “That was it! Let’s have it one more time.” Which isn’t really what you want in the middle of your radio play.

Which leads me to:

Back up your masters

Because if you don’t, and they get accidentally deleted from the computer you’re editing on, you could be absolutely screwed.

Which is what happened.

Fortunately, if you

Always burn a CD of the edit to take home with you at the end of an edit session

You may be able to salvage something.

So, with a special thanks to William Gallagher, who was able to take the edit and cut out the worst of the fluffs and pops and me, here it is.

Politics, by Katharine Way.

The Beckley-Arnopp Cheltenham Scribomeet

If you, like Jason Arnopp and I, are going to the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival this year, you may have several things on your mind.

Like “I don’t know any of these high-powered people. How will I get over my shyness and speak to anyone?”

Or “Whose round is it?”

Fortunately both of those questions can be answered at the same time by coming to the inaugural Beckley-Arnopp Cheltenham Scribomeet. Or possibly the Arnopp-Beckley Cheltenham Scribomeet. Whatever floats your boat.

It’s a non-threatening chance to meet other writers the evening before the festival kicks off. That way you’ll have some friendly faces to talk to over the next three days.

It will begin at 6pm blunt on the night of Monday 30th June in the Harvester pub next to the Cheltenham Travelodge.

Which should make it nice and easy to stagger home to your bed either there or in the Thistle.

Come along.
Say hello.
Drink beer.

Or we will destroy you with our giant floating hands.

42 is not the answer.


If you live in the UK, you may have noticed that MPs in the House of Commons have just voted to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days.

42 days. That’s six weeks.

Six weeks, in which you could be locked up in a cell with no idea what you were being accused of.

Six weeks away from your friends and family.

Six weeks away from your job.

And they don’t even have to charge you with a crime.

But hold on, Piers. These are terrorists, right? They’re bad people who want to kill us. What if they can hold out longer than the current 28 day limit?

Well, in one of the most complex counter-terrorism investigations in British history, the evidence obtained to charge the two suspects charged with terrorism was obtained at four and twelve days respectively.

42 days? Hell, that’s nowhere near the edge of even the 28 days that we currently have. (Which, by the way, is roughly four times longer than that any comparable democracy in the world.)

But it’s not just all political posturing, right? The police and MI5 are asking for this change? Well, actually MI5 don’t, the police are split on the issue, and even the supporters of a longer detention period think that the bill in its current form is unworkable.

The bill will now move to the House of Lords, where we expect it to be defeated.


This is bad law, drafted by a desperate government.

Those behind it deserve nothing but our derision and contempt.

…and breathe.

I’ve just spent twenty minutes restoring a script from its backup.

Which is really good, because for an hour or so there I thought I was going to have to type the whole thing in again. Which would not have made me a happy bunny.

If you don’t have a backup system in place, get one now. The moment of sheer heartstopping terror is bad enough when you do have copies somewhere else.

Robin has lots of useful information on this.

I use one of these.

Worth sixty quid of anyone’s money.