Radio Head – 12th September, 2012

For the most recent club meeting, we were in the tender hands of vice-chairs, Wilma Scott and Dorothy Gallagher, after El Presidente, Ann Burnett succumbed to illness – a speedy recovery is wished by all.

A warm welcome to our guest speaker was provided by Wilma and we were introduced to Jeff Zykinski, Head of BBC Radio Scotland.

And what a meeting it was as Jeff enthralled us with a plethora of information about writing for radio, writing in general and excerpts of various plays to highlight the sheer diversity of writing for radio.

He began with a scene from a radio play called ‘HMS Surprise’, which opened with sounds of large war ships firing their guns as soldiers and officers spoke in the foreground, bringing a strong sense of realism to a wartime event on a medium many think is reserved just for talking within a single room and clacking coconut shells together.

He encouraged anyone looking to write for radio to really explore only the limits of their imagination, as radio can just as easily portray a tender scene of pillow talk between lovers as a dramatic fight on the roadside of a busy New York Street.
BBC Radio Scotland commission twelve dramatic pieces a year, with eight made in-house and a further four from independent providers.  Whilst he admitted Radio Scotland has a tendency to go for a tried and trusted formula of drama, Radio Three is well known for being more experimental and will often take more of a gamble on newer pieces with exciting new storylines. But this should not stop any writer from contacting him or Janice Forsyth to discuss a potential new idea.

We were then treated to the well known voices of the famous actor, Brian Cox, and comedian, Billy Connolly, starring in the BBC Scotland play ‘Rural Brothers’.

Whilst recording this series, Billy Connolly was delighted to note that he need not learn his lines as, being on radio, he could stand there reading the lines on the page.  This lead his opposite number, Brian Cox, to affectionately label him ‘the laziest actor’ he knows.

Prior to the refreshing tea and coffee break, we were encouraged by Jeff to take a tour of the studios at Pacific Quay in Glasgow.  Applications for these tours sell fast and indeed 2012 have completely sold out.  Get your names down early for 2013!

In the second half of the evening, Jeff took us down memory lane to explain how he first became interested in a career within Radio, when he allowed us into the mind of a young fourteen year old Jeff who had sent in many a short story to be read out by former Radio Presenter Mike McLean.  Whilst admittedly a little grainy on the ears given its age, the recording told a wonderful story of Nelson Pipsqueak, investigator with a handy ‘hotdog he could pull from his pocket’.

Finally, before an entertaining Question and Answer session, Jeff let us in on a very good secret. (Which will be revealed in the google group!)

In the Q & A, Jeff responded to a number of queries and here are just a few:

Q. What age is BBC Radio Scotland’s target Audience?
A. Generally adults 40 years plus.

Q. Do writers have creative control of plays for Radio?
A. Very much so, their input is invaluable, but clearly some edits are possible to fit the schedule.

Q. Does BBC Radio Scotland only consider contributions with a Scottish theme?
A. No, we will look at anything provided it is relevant and meets with the target audience.  Obviously, as the station is based in Scotland, items with a Scottish theme will often be more prominent, but all aspects are considered.

Dorothy then thanked Jeff warmly on behalf of the club followed by a rousing applause for a very interesting evening.
Andrew Leslie

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