Simon Brett, OBE Speaks to Hampshire Writer’s Society

Report by Peter Hitchen

The Society’s February gathering proved to be an occasion of great contrast, hosting Marian Forkin of The Book Bus charity and Simon Brett OBE, multi-award winning author of serialised crime fiction novels, radio and television producer and script-writer.

Special Guest:  Marian Forkin.

Marian explained that the fundamental aim of The Book Bus organisation was to enhance the life chances of children in Third World countries through the provision of books and libraries.  These are children who would otherwise be unable to develop their potential.  That simple truth was the catalyst for the formation of The Book Bus project in 2006 by founder, Tom Maschler, remembered as the publisher of Penguin, when he saw first-hand the sheer scarcity of books in the remote areas of Zambia that he was visiting.

The charity is now centred in Malawi, a country where only 5% of children receive a secondary education.  Marian shared a stark and inspirational example of how books can change lives by explaining how African boy, Kelvin Doe, invented a wind-powered electricity generator so that he would be able to read at home in the evenings.  It was Kelvin’s access to a book, helping him realise that simple but life-changing aim, that eventually led him to present at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a 15-year-old and finally to embark on a PhD in the United States of America.

Marian was keen to show how the ethos of The Book Bus organisation was based on a desire to promote enablement through access to books and thereby foster independence and self-determination.  The children accessing the programme have their reading levels monitored and are assessed and measured against standardised attainment targets so that individual progress is a tangible, organisational outcome.  The annual cost of running the Malawian programme is a modest £15k and similar projects seek to achieve equally beneficial outcomes across Africa, Asia and South America.

To round off an inspirational and very affecting presentation, Marian shared a video of the wonderful work that The Book Bus organisation is currently undertaking.  For more information on this important and far-reaching initiative, please visit:

Keynote Speaker: Simon Brett, OBE

After graduating from university, Simon started a long career in both radio and  television, but it is as a prolific writer of crime fiction that he is perhaps most well known.  To date he is credited with over 80 crime fiction novels, his work comprising favourite collections including the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering, and Blotto & Twinks series.  Further to these much loved and intricately plotted books, Simon has also written successful non-series novels with his Shock to the System (1984) being produced as a film starring Michael Caine.

In 2014, in recognition of his lifetime achievement, Simon was awarded the Diamond Dagger for Crime Fiction and in 2016 he was invested with an Order of the British Empire.  Not bad for someone who started his working life as a Father Christmas in a London Department store!

The longevity and breadth of Simon’s success offers a wealth of practical  experience from which he can draw and from this he was able to relate valuable and grounded advice to new and seasoned scribblers alike.  Simon alluded to the idea that to choose to be a writer was by definition to choose a life, if not of loneliness, then solitariness.  For a large part writers have to be content in their own company while they create the worlds of fiction that their characters inhabit.

From Simon’s work in broadcasting – particularly his work in radio (a medium, he said, that lends itself particularly well to the writer)  – he found great inspiration for many of his story ideas and his future writing career.  His early adaptation of a Dorothy L Sayers ‘Lord Peter Wimsey’ adventure was the catalyst that launched him into full-time writing.  Perhaps it was the levity to be found in Sayers’ prose style that was to become part of the wonderful signature humour that underpins much of Simon’s work.  And to this end Simon was keen to explain that writers should not be bound or stifled by the accepted norms of a chosen genre and that taking narrative risk was key to writing with originality while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls of producing derivative material.  He was at pains to highlight the importance of giving characters dramatic moments and that these moments reward the reader as they progress through the story.

As a testament to Simon’s creative intellect,  he told the audience that involvement in the process of producing a first draft is where he finds the greatest artistic satisfaction; that while many writers toil over numerous re-drafts that approach wasn’t for him.

Simon’s presentation was packed with humour and anecdotes from his long and illustrious career.  The audience was treated to wonderfully informative practitioner’s advice communicated in a riveting and very entertaining raconteur’s after-dinner style.

Robin Mukherjee: The Art of Screenwriting

Report by Lisa Nightingale


Robin Mukherjee was pleased to speak to us on Tuesday night. Writers so often deal with their neuroticism’s alone, he says, Hampshire Writers’ Society provides a place to feel safely insane.

Robin is a modernist. He gave us a refreshing take on many of the issues that get writers down. Whatever your type and model.

For starters – structure. Look at it the way Robin showed us? Without structure, that chair you’re sitting on would collapse. Without structure (your skeleton) you would collapse.

Robin Mukherjee

Robin began in what is now the BBC Writers’ Room where he was given a mentor. A stereotypical screenwriter at the time (chain smoking and inflexible) he was afraid that by confining it in a ‘shape’ or ‘form’ his integrity and passion would be suffocated and he rebelled against structure. But much like your skeleton structure goes unnoticed. Until it doesn’t work properly. Your story needs its structure to work well or else it will not move forward naturally. It won’t be nimble.

So on to Dramatic Structure. Think of Drama as an Act (this is what the dictionary defines it as) An act (dictionary – a thing done) can be anything, from making a cup of tea to robbing a bank. It will have a beginning (get cup) a middle (make tea, drink tea) an end (wash up cup) return to start (put cup away)

To perform your act you need:

  1. Time and space. Your story’s environment/world including the when, where, context and theme.
  2. A protagonist (someone to do the act) They need a story of their own. Once they have this they become a character rather than a ‘device’. They have desire/assent.
  3. Effort – immediately there is conflict. No matter how simple their idea, there will be something overlooked and this leads to:
  4. Opposition –
  5. Crisis –
  6. Denouement – it’s over! The protagonist is free of all ‘acts’.

All this sounds like a lot of planning. Let your story have an organic life, Robin says, you have the gift for some bits. Others you will have to work at. There will always be a certain amount of planning. Find out what your project wants.

OK. You have done all this. What do you do with your manuscript then? Be there (there being the industry), have something. Think of the industry as a motorway – no one is going to stop to let you in. You have to get up to speed. Look like you belong there. It is all very well doing the postage thing, but you will stand a better chance if you can back this up with ‘Dear Joe, we met at ….’

Publishers exhibit a fear of change. It is a shame that the genre question now comes first. If you stay true (details remember) to your subject. In the film, Lore which Robin wrote for, some children are throwing stones at a group of Russian soldiers. The soldiers fire at them and they run away. A viewer might say that the soldiers would give chase. But the truth of the matter is that they probably wouldn’t (they are hungry, tired and if their commanding officer is not looking, then they will ignore the children) Portray your truth well and you might not have to follow the troupe. Settling on your genre might be helped by returning to your Time and Space. What happens in your environment? A crime? A meeting? Or perhaps the discovery of a portal to mystical lands.

Special Guest Glenn Fosbraey
 Programme Leader for the in Creative Writing Degree at University of Winchester.

When offered the spot of January special guest and adjudicator, Glenn jumped at it. The Creative Writing Degree at Winchester University includes a module in which the students use a Gothic novel (Dracula, Jeckyll and Hyde) and manipulate it as though it were elastic. Taking text and playing around with it is an excellent exercise in creative writing, he tells us.
Glenn is passionate about lyrics. For too long, song lyrics have been the poor relation to poetry. Writers like Paul Simon are regarded as Poets rather than song writers. A song, however contemporary can hold much more information than immediately meets the eye – a social system, the fight against oppression, the plight of a gender. Song and music are ‘absorbed through osmosis’ and whether we like it or not, a soundtrack to our lives is formed.
So, Glenn has designed a new degree, one which he hopes to incorporate into the Creative Writing department next year – Popular Music.

May Competition Winners 2015

‘Write a comedy script for a sketch in 3 pages.’

Chesil Theatre: Mary Mitchell & Norma York
Chesil Theatre: Mary Mitchell & Norma York

The winning entry was performed by members of the Chesil Theatre Group.

Cecily O’Neill, a renowned authority in Drama in Education was the adjudicator for the May competition. Cecily has worked with students, teachers, directors, and actors throughout the world; leading drama workshops, speaking at conferences, and carrying out research. She said that the task of writing a comedy script was a particularly difficult one but the Hampshire Writers had risen to the challenge.

Cecily’s Adjudication:

1st Place: Paul King, PTFE

“You have taken a typical comedy format, where one actor is the straight man and the other delivers the funny lines. But within this framework you’ve cleverly subverted the stereotype of the elderly countrywoman and created an amusing sketch.”

2nd Place: David Lea, Taking Stock

“Within the tight three-page limit of the brief you managed to draw us into the concerns of the young couple and you achieved this as much by what was left unsaid as by the dialogue. You have allowed the comedy to develop gradually and provided an effective and believable denouement.”

3rd Place: Nikki Wakefield, Coming Out

“This sketch is full of lively dialogue and comic misunderstandings. The gradual build up of frustration is very well handled, and the cheerful acceptance by the parents of their son’s unorthodox lifestyle provides an unexpected and pleasing conclusion.”

Paul King & Nikki Wakefield
Paul King & Nikki Wakefield

Highly Commended: Karin Groves, Billy the Banker

“An amusing and topical take on the economy. A comedy of contrasts as 10 year old Billy demands to be taken seriously.”

Highly Commended: Celia Livesey, Three’s a Crowd

“The relationship of the sisters is clearly displayed in the subtle insults they exchange at their mother’s funeral. They get their come-uppance in a surprise ending.”


The prizes were signed copies of David Nobbs’s books and a Certificate of Adjudication from Cecily O’Neill. The winning entry was performed by Mary Mitchell and Norma York of the Chesil Theatre Group, much to the delight of the audience.


1st Place: PTFE – Copyright © Paul King, 2015

On stage – two ‘older women. They speak with slow, west-country accents. Throughout the scene, using a tea set and plates: tea is poured, stirred and drunk: biscuits and cakes are offered, taken and eaten. Music to top and tail the sketch; something English and rural, like the older version of the ‘Archers’ theme for example.

Music to establish the scene then it fades.

Woman 1: Cup’a’tea?

Woman 2: Don’t mind if I do.

Woman 1: Biscuit?

Woman 2: Don’t mind if I do. (Pause) P.T.F.E!

Woman 1: They be ginger nuts, baked ‘em myself.

Woman 2: No! … P.T.F.E!!!

Woman 1: What?

Woman 2: It’s the black stuff on the bottom of your frying pan.

Woman 1: There b’aint be no black stuff on the bottom of my frying pan thank you very much! I use they Brillo pads.

Woman 2: No, it’s s’posed to be there.

Woman 1: Well it might be s’posed to be on the bottom of yourn but it’s not s’posed to be on the bottom of mine.

Woman 2: No, it’s the non-sticky stuff.

Woman 1: Definitely not my pans!

Woman 2: No… it’s on all of ‘em!

Woman 1: I bet the Vim gets it off; that’ll shift anything.

Woman 2: It’s compulsory: if you got a frying pan you’ve got to have the PTFE. They do call it a ‘non … stick … coating’.

Woman 1: They do?

Woman 2: Listen to this … poly … tetra … fluoro … ethylene.

Woman 1: What’s that then?

Woman 2: Polytetrafluoroethylene.

Woman 1: You’ve been practicing that.

Woman 2: That’s what they do call the black stuff on your frying pan.

Woman 1: How’d you know that then?

Woman 2: I googled it!

Woman 1: You googled it?!

Woman 2: I did!

Woman 1: What made you do a thing like that then?

Woman 2: Well, thing is, I be downsizing … getting a smaller frying pan like.

Woman 1: Your Peggy could do wi’ some ‘o’ that downsizing ‘n’all.


Low fat fairy cake?

(After a pause Woman 2 takes a cake. There is another pause.)

Woman 2: So … I goes on-line and I finds a frying pan that suits my purposes.

Woman 1: Couldn’t you a just popped down Lakelands?

Woman 2: No; I wanted to exercise my rights as a consumer … make a choice like, from the best available.

Woman 1: Why’d you do that, then?

Woman 2: I be a fan of that programme off the telly, that ‘Watchdog’. You watch it?

Woman 1: No.

Woman 2: Oh you should. I learnt all about exercising my rights as a consumer and making a choice from the best available off that ‘Watchdog’.

Woman 1: I always thought it were about pet training.

Woman 2: So … after due deliberation and intensive comparison, I saw this one frying pan that do seem to fit all the criteria; one that were the best value for size, weight and the durability. I read all the reviews, you’m have to do that these days. Everyone does it.

Woman 1: Do they indeed? Fancy that.

Woman 2: So anyway, I read that it had a … ‘non-stick coating’! Well I was curious I don’t mind telling you. What’s a non-stick coating, I says to myself? And is it something I wants to be party to? So that’s when I did the googling; I looked it up on that there Wikipedia. ‘Non-stick is often used to refer to surfaces coated with polytetrafluoroethylene … P.T.F.E.

Woman 1: You learnt that off by heart as well didn’t you?

Woman 2: I likes to expand the horizons of my knowledge and add to my vocabulary whenever possible.

Woman 1: Right.

Woman 2: Have you got one of they computers, then?

Woman 1: Oh yes, I got a computer.

Woman 2: What you got then?

Woman 1: I got a Macbook pro with fourth-generation dual-core and quad-core Intel processors! It’s got that Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 2.

Woman 2: That that sounds very nice.

Woman 1: They do say it be … ‘state of the art’!

Woman 2: Do they indeed?!

Woman 1: They do.

Woman 2: What’s that mean then?

Woman 1: Don’t rightly know … but I do finds it very good for the porn.

Woman 2: Oh … you use that porn then?!

Woman 1: Well I gotta do somethin’ ent I … what with my Albert passing over and that … thing is … my imagination’s not what it used to be. (Pause. She offers another plate of biscuits.) Ladyfinger?


In Conclusion:

The competition secretary, Jim Livesey, thanked everyone who had entered the competition. It had been a good turnout with 16 entries.

December Competition Winners 2014

The Competition for December was to “Write the first three pages of an opening scene in the style of Shakespeare”. A big welcome was given to Dr Mick Jardine, Head of English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester who very kindly agreed to be the adjudicator.

Mick is no stranger to the Hampshire Writers’ Society. In November 2013, he was the Special Guest when Ross Barber presented her talk “Why is Shakespeare’s Authorship doubted. And does it matter” Therefore, It was fitting that Mick was with us again last night when the main speakers, Professor Stanley Wells and The Rev Dr Paul Edmondson presented “Shakespeare beyond doubt”, a counter to Ross Barber’s argument.

The prize for the winners of December’s competition was a signed copy of “Shakespeare beyond doubt”. And to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, the winning entry was enacted by the Titchfield Festival Theatre Group.

DEC 14 Winners_1661

Mick’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: Joan Robinson-Harris, Seeking Love Late

“This prose drama, set in an apothecary’s shop, effectively captured the style of Shakespeare; character, plot and setting are economically established, the language has energy and verve and the play has a strong sense of both the theatrical and the dramatic. It invites the audience in and whets the appetite for what is to come.”

Dramatis Personae

Lord Burgoigne Pawley, general to the King.

Sir Cecil Seamin, his lieutenant

Eleanora, the Countess of Rotherford


SCENE- Partly in England and partly in Italy.

Act I

Scene I : An apothecarie’s shop. Enter the Countess veiled.

Countess: This is the shop, matching in every detail Lady Oakhampton’s description. If this apothecarie has a potion I seek, all will be well.

Enter Apothecarie

Apothecarie: Greetings, good madam! What ointment or tincture may this humble apothecarie provide thee?

Countess: My mistress bid me seek a potion recommended to her by my mistresses cousin’s friend, that was effective for my mistresses cousin’s friend’s husband.

Apothecarie: (aside ) Methinks this maid hath too many mistresses, and is no maid at all, but the lady herself. (to the countess)Pray tell me, in what way was this potion efficacious for your mistresses cousin’s friend’s husband?

Countess: (aside) This man is like a needle, he pierces the tapestry and makes his stitch clear. (to Apothecarie) It was a delicate matter, a matrimonial matter, a husband and wife matter.

Apothecarie: Pray, mistress, how does this man make his way in the world, that way I might understand how he presents himself?

Countess: In plain speech, he is a soldier.

Apothecarie: Forsooth, experience teaches me such men are people of direct action, whose sword rusts not in its scabbard?

Countess: Your wit, good sir, does credit to the world that tutors your knowing. A straight forward approach is a courageous path, much lauded on the field of battle, however, domestic life, nay bliss, needs something of the imagination of the poet.

Apothecarie: Ah, I comprehend you quite. The unlocking of the fantasies of the mind requires a potent brew. (Bringing forth a tincture) This tincture, composed chiefly of mushrooms and other wild and delicate roots gathered and assembled by my own hand, must be taken one hour before commencement, the party must forgo all alcohol for twelve hours, else the effects will be too strong, the speech becoming rambling and the movements madlike. Therefore, administer with all good care.

Countess: (Paying) Good apothecarie, I thank you for your pains

(Aside) With careful risk, much happiness may be gained. (Exit)

SCENE II. The same

Enter Lord Pawley and Sir Cecil

Cecil: Good my Lord, here is the very apothecarie’s shop Lord Oakhampton bid us seek out.

Pawley: Cecil, you have been my loyal lieutenant these two decades past, I am glad of your presence now. These matters of the heart are beyond my compass. I’d rather face the raving Berserker hordes than make sweet moves to Countess Eleanora, as every lover does, even though she be my heart’s desire, and our marriage set for two days hence.

Cecil: Courage, my Lord. This apothecarie will have some liquid remedy that will ease your path to wedded communion.

Pawley: Pray god you are right. Lead on.

(Entering in military fashion)

Cecil: Good morrow, Apothecarie. As quartermaster to our needs, we require something of your skills.

Apothecarie: My skills and knowledge are at your Lordships’ service. (Aside) Forsooth, this be the very soldier the maid spoke of, his military bearing distinguishes him as such. (To Pawley and Cecil) What ointment, pill, potion or tincture, may it please your Lordships to command?

Cecil: The general here must confide in you his manly difficulty, which is no difficulty at all but the merest trifle, only this merest trifle weighs somewhat on the generals mind and mars the prospect of his forthcoming nuptials.

Apothecarie: My Lord general, are you able to say, man to man, in strictest confidence, what this trifle is that so disturbs your future satisfaction?

Pawley: I perceive you have much of the intelligencer about you, you hear the words and understand the story that is not stated.

Apothecarie: The general flatters my humble learning.

Pawley: I however am a man of plain speech, and I give you good notice that should you speak one word of our conversation to any living soul, that very moment will mark the end of your apothecarie-ing days. Do you take such orders.

Apothecarie: Your words have a Trapist of me in this business.

Pawley: Then herein lies the problem. I am to marry these two days a lady. Though she be an acknowledged beauty and a lady of great virtue, I cannot fill that husbands part which is to be a lover to his lady. From a youth I was always in barracks and on battlefields and have always conducted myself as a soldier, which fits well for government and the world of men. With the soldiering life one must needs associate with characters of low morals, and women of low morals also. So to be brief, having spent all my time with prostitutes and bawds, I do not know how to make love to a virtuous lady, I would therefore, have you give me some subtle potion to administer to my good lady that, within the secret confines of our bedroom, renders her more loose, and less virtuous, for our mutual enjoyment.

Apothecarie: Your Lordship makes all clear. I have a potion here that must be administered one half hour before use in water, it has the effect of making the person most affectionate in every way. Take care however to always keep the lady in your sight, for should she see another man, she will be affectionate to him, whether he be stranger or no, for one hour.

Cecil: Thanks good apothecarie, I salute you.

Pawley: The battle of the bedchamber must be fought with this

Ere my lady and I are brought to wedded bliss.


2nd Prize: David Lea, First Do No Harm

“This scene is Shakespearean in its powerful sense of drama, exploiting to the full the inherent tension of the courtroom setting and fashioning some memorable lines of blank verse. The play suggests a modern Faustus dilemma and taps into a topic of urgent contemporary significance, what to do with aged bed-blockers (otherwise known as parents and friends).”

A Tragedy


  • CHORUS 1 Female Very elderly, masked.
  • CHORUS 2 Male Very elderly, masked.
  • DR WISE In his fifties.
  • COUNSEL FOR THE (PROS) Middle-aged. Could be
  • PROSECUTION male or female.

Photographs of Dr Wise’s thirteen ‘victims’ are projected onto a back-cloth with their printed obituaries. Nine are already there. As the CHORUS figures read the last four obits, the images of the dead join the others. (Alternatively, given the resources of the R.S.C, thirteen masked old people appear out of the gloom from deep Upstage: the thirteen chorus members are Dr Wise’s ‘victims’.) Dr WISE is Centre Stage, confined and lit by a single spot. The Counsel for the Prosecution (PROS) is able to move about the stage at will. The dialogue is written in blank verse.

CHORUS 1: Rachel Vivienne Colebrook

Died aged 73 years. After a long battle with cancer, she left us peacefully at the end.

A wonderful wife, mother and friend

Donations to Cancer Research

DR WISE: Diamorphine.

CHORUS 2: Victor Charles Stanley Forester

Passed peacefully to his rest aged 89 years

Beloved husband of Margaret and a loving grandfather. Thanks to Winnie and staff at Oakwood and to Dr Wise

DR WISE: Insulin

CHORUS 1: Monica Hilda Easterby

At Oakwood Nursing Home after a short illness aged 78

Mum and Dad are together again at last

Always in our memories – Keith, Sheila, Theo and Jade

DR WISE: Nembutal

CHORUS 2: Eric Leslie Thorogood, “Les”

Will be much missed by family and friends, particularly those in the golfing and racing fraternity.

Donations to Battersea Dogs’ Home

DR WISE: Nembutal

PROS: Dr Wise, your memory is most precise:

The victim and the means of death, the place

The time and the device by which you hid

Your crimes from prying eyes are carried still

In mind so subtle and so cunning that

Thirteen lives have ended at your hand.

But why recall in such particularity

The endgame of the souls you part

From bodies at your will, if not to hold

Them still for later satisfaction and delight,

To examine them at leisure and to take

A future pleasure in the snuffing of the light?

DR WISE: I remember them and what I did because

It is no small thing to be an agent

In another’s death. I do not take it

Lightly now; nor did I then. They live in me

And me in them.

PROS: You speak as though a priest in holy orders:

As though their passing were a sacrament.

And yet we know that you believe in nothing:

In nothing that we recognize as God,

In nothing more than your own earthly power

To wield the tools of Chemistry and Science;

And exercise dominion for yourself.

You are a murderer.

“Thou shalt not kill,”

The bible says: the law of God on which

Our human law now stands.

DR WISE: I had it in my hands

To ease another’s pain when I could see

The ways and means of medicine had so outstripped

Our moral sensibility as to allow

Indignity, and suffering and pain.

Science strives officiously to keep alive

Those who have by far outlived their natural span

And whose life is then a burden to themselves,

To those who love them and to those they love.

PROS: And by what right are you to choose the manner

And the time at which these “burdens” shuffle off

Their mortal coils. You plead “Not Guilty”

To the charge of murder as ‘tis defined:

But you have killed “with malice aforethought,

When in sound mind and good discretion”

Fellow creatures that had not themselves the means

To choose the way that they were heaven-sent.

DR WISE: I have had time to study my predicament

And how it stands in law while waiting for my trial

And shall conduct my own defence. I do admit

That I have killed unlawfully, but still refute

The charge of murder. My “learned friend” will know

Full well the quote to which he now alludes:

“When a person of good memory and discretion

Unlawfully kills any reasonable

Creature with malice aforethought that is murder”: *

Of those that perished by my hand, but three

Could be described as “reasonable”:

They had, long since been stranded and in

Need of constant care to stay alive at all,

Their reason long since lost beyond recall.

PROS: And who appointed you the arbiter

Of life and death, omniscient, divine?

DR WISE: The judgements and the actions were both mine,

Made from compassion, not from malice.

I knew my actions were against the law

I also knew the law was wrong.

I knew that I could face arrest and trial,

As I do now; the vilifying press; the bile

Of common gossip on family and friends,

My reputation’s ruin and a life in jail.

PROS: (To the audience)

And be assured that we shall ask for “life”

And ask for it to mean exactly what it says.

Dr Wise, at least, does have a life.

His patients now have none: no pulse, no breath,

No choice about the manner of their death.

* William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England set out the common law definition of murder, which by this definition occurs when a person, of sound memory and discretion, unlawfully kills any reasonable creature in being and under the king’s peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied.

The rest of the play moves between scenes of the trial and flashbacks, which illustrate the circumstances of some of the deaths. The final death that results in the arrest of Dr Wise is explored in scenes that establish a parallel time-line with those of the trial. The masked chorus figures comment on the action when in mask, but also play other parts in other scenes, unmasked.

The scenes in court are always written in blank verse, as are the lines of the chorus. Flashbacks are written in prose.


Highly Commended: Anne Eckersley, Apologies to Henry and Others

“Written with comic zest, this culinary tour de force is highly entertaining and transports something of the Elizabethan kitchen into the world of Nigella Lawson; an all-round Christmas treat!”


The prizes were signed copies of “Shakespeare Beyond Doubt”, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication from Dr Mick Jardine.

The competition secretary thanked everyone who had entered the competition, and invited members to enter next month’s competition, which is to write 300 words for a Magazine Article, entitled “A Secret place in Wessex”. Heidi King, editor of View magazine, will be the adjudicator. The winning entry may be featured in the magazine.

February Competition Winners 2014

‘Write the first four pages of the opening of a stage play – any period. ’

Cecily O’Neill Artistic Director of the Chesil Theatre was the adjudicator for the February competition. This served as a preliminary to the one that the Chesil Theatre is launching with a deadline of April 30. (Chesil 10 x10 Drama Festival).

A renowned authority in Drama in Education, Cecily works with students, teachers, directors, and actors throughout the world; leading drama workshops, speaking at conferences, and carrying out research.

Cecily’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: Anne Eckersley, A Family Affair

Anne Eckersley skillfully sets up the opening of a very funny piece of theatre. Within the first four lines of dialogue she establishes the situation, clearly indicates the tone and the relationships of the characters and makes a joke. She rapidly sketches in an increasingly bizarre past and has the audience anticipating equally intriguing future events. I look forward to reading the rest of the play.

A one act play in three scenes. Setting is Gran’s house: Small sitting room, still decorated in 1960s style. There are flying geese on the wall. Old fashioned large television occupies corner of the room. Net curtains at the windows. Furniture is dark and heavy, with white anti-macassars on all chairs. There is a large knitting bag by the fireplace and the floor is covered with a heavily patterned rug or carpet. In the centre of the room is a table covered with plates of sandwiches and cake.

Scene One

A telephone can be heard ringing in another room which is answered and on the television is a news bulletin that sets the scene as very much in present day.

Father enters, looks at the television, turns it off, then wipes his hands on his trousers and helps himself to sandwiches, picks up one in each hand.

Mother comes in carrying another plate of food, looks for somewhere to put it down, tutts, tries to pass it to him to hold. He thinks she is offering him more food, stuffs the

rest of a sandwich into his mouth and reaches out for another sandwich.

Mother Just take the bloody thing.

(Pause. Father holds tray while mother makes space for it on the table.)

Mother And where have you been all morning?

Father Garden with George from next door. He’s quite upset.

Mother {Taking the tray} Don’t sound so surprised.

Father He said he’ll miss her and I don’t think he was joking. Wanted to know whether we were having her buried or cremated. I said we weren’t taking any chances, we were doing both. {He picks up a piece of cake)

Mother You don’t think she’ll mind being cremated?

Father When it comes to your mother, I stopped thinking a long time ago.

Mother I did ask her once what she wanted us to do.

Father What did she say?

Mother I don’t know dear. Why don’t you surprise me?


2nd Prize: Mike Rawlins, Happy Families

Effective and witty dialogue in this piece by Mike Rawlins presents the family conflict very subtly and economically. The characterization is clear and having raised our expectations he subverts them in the final lines.


Anne – 33, wife of Colin

Belinda – 58, mother of Colin

Colin – 35, himself


Belinda: (She begins to arrange the flowers in the vase) Are you fond of Peonies, Anne?

Anne: Between you and me, I think they’re pretentious; a bit overdone and blousy. They try too hard.

Belinda: Colin has always liked them (beat) ever since he was a boy. He used to call them Mummy’s Flowers.

Anne: Such insight in one so young.

Belinda: Indeed. Where has it gone, I wonder?


Belinda: Did you not enjoy the salmon? I couldn’t help but notice that you’d hardly touched your lunch.

Anne: The salmon was fine, really.

Belinda: Are you sure. It can be a bit rich for some tastes. Perhaps I should have laid on something a little less (beat) refined.

Anne: Thanks for your concern but it’s ok; I’m just not eating much lately.

Belinda: You’re not unwell are you?

Anne: No. I’m fine, (pause) thanks.


Colin: For goodness sake, Ziggy! Will you please sit … good boy. Now, stay. Ziggy, stay.



3rd Prize: Niki Wakefield, PTA

This play begins very promisingly, and the characters of the likeable but disorganized Hailey and the kind but rather pompous head teacher are effectively established. I enjoyed the amusing dialogue, but the lack of any real forward momentum makes me wonder if this is meant to be a one-act play.

Act One, Scene One

Lights up. The stage is set up as a headteacher’s office, with a desk and three chairs.

There’s a small bin and various items on the desk, including a phone and an ugly trophy.

Mr. Sharpe, a Headteacher in his mid-fifties, writes at his desk. There’s a knock at the door.

Mr. Sharpe: Come in.

Enter Hailey Reeves, early thirties, wearing a coat, loud pyjamas and novelty animal slippers. She looks nervous, like a naughty school girl.

Hailey: Good morning, Mr. Sharpe.

Mr. Sharpe: Bad morning, Mrs. Reeves?

Hailey: Huh?

He points at her pyjamas. She looks down. Horror! She quickly covers them up with her coat and sits down.

Hailey: Headmaster, if it’s about the pet Ed brought in for animal week… we didn’t know it was an alligator.

Mr. Sharpe: Seven children and a teacher had to see the school nurse, don’t you know?

Hailey: I’m really sorry. The guy at the car boot said it was a newt.

Mr. Sharpe: Don’t you know the difference? An alligator’s a brutal animal, part of the reptile family, native to China and the U.S. The Newt’s a member of the salamandridae family. We have several endangered natives here in the UK.

Hailey: So the difference is one’s a protected species and the other you need protecting from?

Mr. Sharpe: Well, yes… I suppose you could say that.

Hailey: We thought something was up when it ate all the goldfish.

Mr. Sharpe: Alligators are fascinating creatures. Fascinating. Their ancestry dates all the way back to the dinosaurs. They’ve been found in fossils, don’t you know? But they don’t belong in an infant school. (Pause) Anyway, I didn’t ask you here about that. I asked you here because… well…

He picks up the phone.

Mr. Sharpe (cont.): You can let them in now. I’m sorry about what’s going to happen next.

Feb 14 Nikki Wakefield Mike Rawlins Anne Eckersley
The Winners

Highly Commended: Karin Groves (pseudonym Georgie Jensen), Trench Truce

Georgie Jensen has set her play in the trenches of WW1 where two wounded soldiers from opposing sides encounter each other. Our sympathies are engaged by these likeable characters, although Heine’s perfect English is not explained. The challenge for the playwright will be to keep these two characters connected in spite of wounds and wartime.

Highly Commended: Sally Russell, (pseudonym Erin Clay), The Visitors

There is some lively dialogue in Erin Clay’s play and a growing sense of menace as one couple plan to take over the home and lives of the other older pair. Although the exposition could be clearer, this is an ambitious attempt to handle quite a complicated plot.


The prizes were journals, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication by Cecily O’Neill. The opening page of the first, second, and third competition winners is shown as follows:

In Conclusion:

Cecily O’Neill said that she very much enjoyed reading the entries, and that the standard of work was so high, she wished she could have given everyone an award.

Scriptwriter, Steve Hawes speaks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society

Report by Carole Hastings

Chairman Barbara Large introduced this evening’s guests and told the audience about Chawton House Library’s Jane Austen Short Story Award 2014 see: for details.

The special speaker was Deborah Edgington, head of marketing for the Chesil Theatre. The theatre’s home for the last 40 years has been a former 12th century church.  It is one of the oldest buildings used as a theatre today and is one of the oldest dramatic societies in the country, celebrating its 150 anniversary this year.  They have six productions each year and are always looking for new members to be involved on a number of fronts.  In 2008 they performed 10 plays written by members of the Nuffield Theatre that were 10 minutes in length.  In 2010, The Chesil set up the 10 x 10 Drama competition open to members of the Chesil Theatre and local interested parties.  This was extended to a county wide competition in 2012 and in celebration of their 150th anniversary this will be a national competition open to all writers over the age of 16.  The deadline is April 25.  For details on the competition, membership and to find out what’s on:

 Feb 14 Steve Hawes

Steve Hawes joined Granada Television as a sports journalist in 1976 where he became Head of Drama. He produced sport and documentary features for ITV’s regional and national networks 1978-82, and adapted Arthur Ransome’s fishing stories for Michael Hordern, Rod and Line, Channel 4 1982.   He started producing drama in 1984 and subsequently moved to Paris to produce the first twelve episodes of the Maigret series starring Bruno Cremer, which ran until 2006 when the 54th episode was aired. For the last few years of the run he was lead writer on the series.

He is currently polishing The Great Charter,  a play about the Magna Carta and his adaptation of Dimitri Verhulst’s novel, Probelmski Hotel, with Director Manu Riche and a multinational cast, as a joint film and theatre association between the Flemish film fund (VAF) and KVS at the THÉÂTRE NATIONAL in Brussels.   His version of Beauty and the Beast, with songs by Stephen Solloway, ran for the Christmas season 2011/12 at the Haymarket Theatre Basingstoke, where his play set in a Venetian convent, Original Sin, also opened in 2009.Steve opened his session with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

Let me have men about me that are fat;

Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights:

Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;

He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

He remarked that a university campus has too much thinking going on and was as such a dangerous place.  He counselled writers to trust their instinct when writing, to write viscerally, shut off their critical self and to avoid over thinking.  Keep to gut feeling rather than intellect.  To keep focused on what will create the best drama, he suggested making notes with the opposite hand that you use normally, avoiding a lengthier version which may take you away from the heart of the piece.  He pointed out that major turning points in drama are about the visceral.  Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Aeschylus’s Oresteia are good [and bloody] examples of this.

When Steve was researching The Great Charter he discovered that of the 63 clauses in Magna Carta, a third relate to men possessing women and that women were fundamentally jailed by the church in marriage.  When he set about his plan for it he focused on suspicion, aware that the only time a person’s word was trusted was when they spoke to a priest.  Hence the need for the Magna Carta and due process requiring the state to respect legal rights of all individuals.

He set his first act in Winchester Cathedral with King John being re-anointed as King.  He is avoiding confession as he and the Archbishop both know that there are things that the Archbishop should not know about.  However the Queen inveigles the Archbishop into hearing her confession and she tells  him things he otherwise would not believe.  Steve creates this dramatic action by drawing the queen to the front centre stage, has her dropping to her knees facing the audience and positions the Archbishop directly behind her, fading out all lights on stage other than on their faces.  An act of pure theater.

This juxtaposition of time works well on stage, where time is more elastic but on film another solution would be needed involving relocating away from the body of the Cathedral.

Steve feels closeups are a key benefit of film as expressive faces and eyes can create a contrast between text and subtext not achievable on stage.

He cites that on film you need to advance or retreat in each scene but not run on the spot as you can in theater where some of the most rewarding moments can be when time stands still.  This view is also held by Robert McKee who asks “what is the value of this scene?” in determining whether it should stay or cut.  In a film version of Hamlet with Laurence Olivier, the scenes in the second act were reduced from eight to three keeping the drama moving on in each scene.  Steve maintains that the key to effective drama is maintaining an unstable equilibrium.

Steve talked about breaking down the fourth wall between actors and audience and said that in his experience actors like moments of complicity with the audience, but producers and editors don’t.  He warned that often a writer’s favourite elements in his own play are often too writerly and often need editing.  He reminded us that often the visceral moments are the quiet moments and left us with plenty to think about…

October Competition Winners 2013

by Celia Livesey

‘Write a Pitch on any Subject for a Radio Programme – 200 words’

Our Special Guest and Competition Adjudicator for the evening was Sasha Twining. Sasha’s career started in local radio, and currently she regularly presents a Saturday Breakfast show on BBC Radio Solent. She has also worked on television as a news anchor and correspondent on international and national news channels for the last six years as well as being an announcer on the BBC for a number of years before moving on to ITV. Sasha has also presented a number of high profile daytime shows, including Sunrise with Eamonn Holmes and Sky News Today with Dermot Murnaghan.

Unfortunately the BBC changed her work schedule at short notice and so she was unable to be with us last night. Copies of the competition entries were, however, forwarded to her last Wednesday, so she was able to judge these and send in her adjudication.

Sasha’s Adjudication:

Thank you very much for all your entries, they were all really interesting, and I especially liked that everyone had written about something that meant something special to them. Radio is a very, very personal medium. It relies on emotion and connection, and any radio show HAS to have both to stand any chance of gaining an audience in today’s market. I judged the entries on the following criteria.

  • Could I imagine listening to this programme.
  • Could I place the programme in a particular time of day/type of radio station/audience.
  • Was there enough information in the proposal to interest a prospective programme maker.
  • Did the entry include any information about HOW the programme would be made (length, time of day, cost implications, legal considerations, audience profile etc.)

While most people touched on the first three criteria, I’m afraid hardly any mentioned the logistics of a programme. Most programme producers want to be given a rough idea of HOW a strand will be made in a programme pitch.

Having said that, I enjoyed reading the pitches – and there are a couple that I could easily imagine being slightly re-worked to become useable on radio.

1st Prize: Alternative Realities – Olivia Stephenson

I like this idea, and could imagine it working in the 6.30pm comedy slot on Radio 4. In essence it is a slightly changed version of Room 101 (the television show) but nicely re-worked for radio. I thought Olivia had picked a great example of a starting topic, which would easily spark the interest of a producer. However, like many of the entries it lacked the logistical information. Time, audience profile, length of show, suggested panellists etc. Having said that, I feel this entry overall had the best idea for a prospective show.


The main premise for the radio programme is the idea of removing something seemingly insignificant from our world, thus creating an alternative reality where the object, creature, mineral, etc. does not exist. Each half hour programme would be hosted by the same presenter, joined by a panel of three guests, each with a varying degree of knowledge concerning the removed item. For example, the host could introduce the alternative reality of life without cherry pie. This would lead to a discussion of how the world would differ if cherry pie did not exist, with varying opinions from the seemingly futile consideration of what it could mean for the popular nineties TV series, Twin Peaks, to how radically different our reality could be, and even to a voice which argues that we could do without it. The programme would then conclude with the host asking each guest whether they would choose to live in the alternative reality or to remain as we are. The purpose of the programme, besides the light-hearted notion we all often play, that of “what if such and such didn’t exist?”, would be to challenge the way we experience the world whilst gaining a deeper understanding of the hypothetically removed object through the program’s guests.

02_ Oct 2nd Prize Gill Hollands2nd Prize: Endless Story – Gill Hollands

I picked this idea as I could imagine it being used as part of a BBC local radio late show. I particularly liked that Gill had included the website in her pitch. Radio these days has to be multi-platform, and involve other types of communication, particularly the web. I liked the idea of a strand that would run over a week – and could imagine this building a real following. I personally would open it out to anyone sitting at home (not just writers’ groups) as the BBC Local Radio late night audience would love to listen and get involved.


This is a programme for writers and listeners, a two-way entertainment. Each week we join a different writing group who start the story. For example:

‘In the chill silence, all she could hear was dripping. The smell of mould had invaded her sinus. Her numb hands dangled from the rusted shackles. She licked long-dried tears off her cracked lips, taking a deep breath. Agony seared her shoulders as she yanked the anchors from the rotting wood. Her arms wrenched forward, dragging her down. The damp flags were hard to her stiff knees. Her dry sobs echoed off the dim walls…’

The public then ring in with the next sentence and the writing group would then follow in turn with the next, which gradually builds into a whole new story. Prompts can be sound effects which are used in the background.

The aim would be to recap at the beginning of each day, offering pointers along the way, with a view to finishing it on the Friday. The finished story could then be published to the radio website for everyone to enjoy. The aim would be to give exposure to creative writing and local writers’ groups.

03_ Oct 3rd Prize Sara Sims3rd Prize: Talking to Myself – Sarah Sims

I have given this entry third place because I think there’s a real gem of an idea in there. I feel with a bit of work, this could be a nice idea for a ten minute ‘pause for thought’ type piece. I imagine it more along the lines of writing letters, and each participant starts the segment with a brief explanation of who they have written to (that they no longer speak to) and then reads a letter that they have written to the person. I could imagine this as a short feature series in Woman’s Hour in Radio 4. What we call a ‘stand alone’ feature. Well done – I liked it, and I think with a good producer, and some excellent choices of participant, this could make an excellent piece of radio.

This documentary is about talking to someone who isn’t there. All of us have people in our lives to whom we can no longer talk, in the real, face-to-face sense. Someone we love dies, or moves away, and the thread of conversation that interwove our daily existence is snapped.

That is painful enough. What’s equally – some would argue, even more painful – are those people we cannot talk to because they will not talk to us. Perhaps there’s been a sudden rift, following a blazing row. Or perhaps the rift was more gradual, a slow attrition, the relationship worn away by accreted misunderstandings. Either way, these people may be physically gone, but very often, we still talk to them. We might fantasize about winning that last argument. Or, in our more gentle moments, we may appeal to them for clues about what went wrong. We may even discuss everyday things with them, so that, without their volition, they remain enmeshed in the fabric of our lives. Six people let us into these one-sided conversations, revealing enduring sadness, anger, and hope.


Highly Commended: Pardon Them for Living – Andrea Stone

I’m giving this a Highly Commended because the subject choice is superb. BBC radio stations are increasingly aware of the need to produce programmes to challenge preconceptions about the elderly, and indeed about their care. However, I didn’t award this entry a place in the competition because I felt it was not sufficiently well-formed to be a proposal. It lacked all logistical information, and didn’t explain what sort of programme the idea would form. Having said that, Andrea used some wonderful phrases, and it was very evocative.

Highly Commended: Sound Bite – Celia Livesey (pseudonym Susan Shaw)

I awarded this a Highly Commended because this entry came the closest to looking like a proper proposal. It explained the format of the panel quiz, and gave a few examples. I could imagine this idea forming part of a Radio 4 comedy quiz show. It narrowly missed out on being placed – so many congratulations.


In Conclusion:

On behalf of the HWS I’d like to give our thanks to Sasha for such a wonderful job of adjudication, which was very much appreciated by the winners. Many of our contestants said they found writing a pitch for a radio programme quite challenging, but 16 entries were still received, so it was a tremendous response.

Finally, Sasha has agreed to come back as a main speaker and bring her recording team for a workshop – definitely an evening not to be missed.

Gala Evening at Chawton with Julian Unthank

Chawton HouseThere can be no better location for the finale of the HWS season than Chawton House and Library.  Stephen Lawrence, Chawton’s Chief Executive and author Lindsay Ashford, his partner, made us feel at home as we toured the house, ventured into the garden when the rain stopped and ate strawberries and cream in the courtyard and kitchen.

June 2013 123 HWS Chairman, Barbara Large introduced the special guest, Professor Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester who praised Barbara for making the HWS and The Winchester Writers’ Conference the respected and successful organisations they are today.  She described her own role at the university as falling into three parts: a business woman, a diplomat and a politician.


Barbara reminded the audience that the HWS was borne out of a £2000 grant two years ago and then gave a creative synopsis of events that the HWS had enjoyed this second season.  The speakers that have given us pleasure and inspiration across the past ten months were:  PD James, Mark Morris, Nicolette Jones, Steve Tasane, Rosalinda Hardiman, Graham Hurley, James McConnachie, Jane Wenham-Jones, Christopher Reid, Julian Stannard and Madeleine Milburn.  She encouraged people to join the society before the end of June for £25 – this is less than £1 per hour for time spent listening and learning!

June 2013 122Treasurer, Crispin Drummond assured the audience that the finances are in good shape and that a constitution will be circulated to members for comment and approval preceding an AGM in October

Events Secretary, David Eadsforth introduced the superb guest speaker, screenwriter Julian Unthank who grabs our attention in Doc Martin, New Tricks, The Bill and various other TV dramas.  Julian started as an animal trainer for films, then went to film school with the intention of becoming a producer but then decided he’d prefer to write the scripts himself.  His first film was a short, Potemkin: The Runner’s Cut and had Charles Dance as the main character.

Julian UnthankJulian also won numerous awards, including Raindance Film Festival, for his short film, Love at First Sight starring John Hurt and Phyllida Law.  He has used this film as his calling card in the increasingly competitive film world. Many experienced and good writers are finding it tough to get work as so much drama has been cut.  He cited the old TV soaps as the breeding ground for talent but these don’t exist today so even getting into the business is more difficult than it has ever been.

Julian’s illuminating and energetic presentation, Hidden in Plain Sight – the Secret Structure of the Screen Story, made sure that we will never look at films or TV in the same way again…

Using four distinctly different creative genres:  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Love at First Sight, The Apprentice and a 40 second Dulux commercial, Julian outlined his 17 beat structure that makes for a successful dramatic outcome.

Act One [1/4 of the total length of feature]

1          Opening image [generally an opposite image from the final one]

2          Set up [approx 10 pages – can take up 50% of writing time]

3          Controlling idea [character might state the theme e.g. Do you believe in love at first sight?]

4          Inciting Incident [spurs movie on]

5          Debate [moment of self doubt?]

6          Turning Point

Act Two [1/2 of the total length of feature]

7          B story [contains controlling idea]

8          Promise of Premise [trailer material – easiest to write]

9          Mid point [the mood hangs on this]

10        Things go wrong

11        False defeat or victory

12        Moment of Truth

13        Turning Point 2 [creating more build up]

Act Three [1/14 of total length feature]

14        Finale

15        Climax

16        Resolution [often the main character usually has the last word]

17        Final Shot [defines how the story has moved from the opening shot]

Julian hung all four “dramas” onto this structure and we were amazed how accurately it worked.  He uses Final Draft software for script writing and encouraged everyone to write as visually as possible as so much film has less dialogue than it used to have.  He cited that in the UK drama tends to have 65% dialogue against 35% in the US. Shane Black is his favourite writer of action genre [Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, the Last Boy Scout]  and his recommended books are:

How to Write a Movie in 21 days – Viki King

The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler

Screenplay: the Foundations of Screenwriting – Syd Field

Save the Cat – Blake Snyder

Story – Robert McKee

Teach Yourself Screenwriting – Ray Frensham

The Screenwriter’s Bible – David Trotter

Dr Gary Farnell led a resounding applause from the audience who had been privileged to hear the equivalent of a full day’s workshop condensed into an evening.

Barbara wrapped up the evening by extending her thanks to everyone who had made the evening such a success.  She gave bouquets to Lindsay Ashford and Laura Hubner and was presented with one herself by Crispin Drummond for her constant and indefatigable efforts on the Society’s behalf.
Report by Carole Hastings

What our members say:

“Dear Barbara, Thanks very much to you and your lovely team for another wonderful finale to Hampshire Writer’s Society’s second season. It is especially magical being in Chawton House with all its literary associations.

We had a fun evening, melting in the atmosphere and enjoying a picnic and the tour.

Obviously the highlight of the evening was Julian Unthank who was so enthusiastic and open about how to write a screenplay! Fantastic stuff! It almost makes one want to have a go!

Many thanks again!”

Joan Robinson-Harris


“What a fabulous evening! And a cracking end to our second season. Julian’s talk/workshop/insight into being a scriptwriter was electrifying, and I shall certainly be reviewing everything I’ve written.

Karin and Gary stole the show though, when they nearly brought the house down with Karin’s comedy sketch.

Thoroughly enjoyable, all the best, Celia. “


“…It was a memorably great evening and we all enjoyed it very much. One of my students, Jan won a prize for ‘Toggles’ which made the evening even more special. Thank you and all the committee for organising such a special evening and all for £2.50 or £5. Amazing!…”