Friday, December 21, 2012

Challenge Vaizey: One week on

It was one week ago today that I posted my original article about my meeting with Tory Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, in which he issued his challenge to prove that Arts Council cuts were damaging new playwriting in the UK. I've been quite overwhelmed with the response, so thought I'd give you a little update before the world ends later today.

The blog post itself became my most widely circulated ever - on Twitter, Facebook and via email - so far clocking up 3,000 hits, and counting. That might not sound like loads, but it's 20 times what my average blog article gets, and theatre's a fairly small sector. I was at an industry do on Monday at which some actors I'd never met were talking about it! My blog stats also suggest it's been moderately well-circulated in Europe and the USA. And I couldn't help noticing a few hits from the Houses of Parliament...

I've been inundated with offers of help, from theatres and theatre professionals across the UK. On Wednesday I posted 52 surveys to theatres up and down the country, with a further 20 going out via email yesterday. (I owe a big thank you to The Writers' Guild for covering the costs of stamps, envelopes and sticky labels.) An Oxford PhD research student, Helen Pickford, has come forward to help me structure the questions; she has also kindly volunteered to help crunch the data once it comes in, and to write it up into a form that will appeal to DCMS civil servants, with their interest in "evidence-based policy" (if only we'd seen a bit more of that before now).

There's still time to contribute - the deadline I've set is 14 January, which will give me and Helen one week to collate everything into a long-form report for Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner. Lyn will then do her stuff with it for the Guardian blog (and I'm quietly hoping the paper edition too) during week commencing 21 January. I'll post the longer version on here, and link to the piece Lyn writes. After that we'll send everything to Vaizey and the DCMS. So, if you work for a theatre company which produces new writing, and if you feel that your work has suffered since those April 2012 cuts kicked in, please get in touch and I'll send you a survey.

But this isn't just about what's been cut, and stories of woe. It would also be great to hear from companies who have had an uplift, or became new NPOs, and what that increase has allowed you to do in terms of new writing development, which you couldn't do before. It will be just as useful to our case to demonstrate how a modest investment can reap huge benefits further down the line.

I'm going to edit together many of the emails and blog comments I've been receiving into a body of anecdotal evidence, for use as vox pop insets alongside the survey results. I'm hoping some of these might also appear in Lyn Gardner's piece. I'll be calling these 'The View From...' and they will feature contributions from playwrights, literary managers, producers, regional venues, new play publishers, writing development agencies, devising companies, musical producers and others. Some quite high profile names have agreed to be quoted. If you'd like to join them, drop me a line. I've got further meetings today with a London new writing theatre and the representative of a West End producer. I'm hoping both will agree to go on record.

I've also had BBC Radio 4 Front Row presenter Kirsty Lang pick up on the campaign on Twitter; she's asked to be kept informed of the survey results. In fact, in terms of the news cycle we seem to have timed this quite well - Vaizey was on Front Row only last night, being harangued by the heroic Tom Morris of Bristol Old Vic. (You can listen again here if you missed it.) As an issue I think this is only just getting started, and will run and run into the new year and beyond.

Phelim McDermott of Improbable Theatre has been in touch to suggest dedicating one of their monthly Devoted & Disgruntled open space sessions to this in the new year. He even suggested we invite Ed Vaizey along. After all, a challenge can cut both ways.

So all in all, not bad for a week's work. But I don't feel can take much credit - this has gained so much traction because of all of you. All I did was hit a nerve at the right time. You lot are the wind at my back. I really hope we can continue to capitalise on this together in the new year.

So, if you receive a survey over the break, please respond. And if you'd like one, or if you'd like to submit a more general statement for the vox pops, please get in touch.

Thank you all - and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Calling all Theatre-Makers! An extraordinary challenge from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey

Earlier this week, I attended the Performers’ Alliance Parliamentary reception, co-hosted by Equity, the Musician's Union and The Writers’ Guild. It's an annual event in the Terrace Pavilion in Parliament, and a chance for actors, musicians and writers to meet MPs and discuss any issues of concern. The Culture Minister and Shadow Culture Minister both come along and make speeches (Ed Vaizey and Dan Jarvis respectively) as do representatives from each union. MPs with an interest in culture also attend, like Ben Bradshaw, former Labour Culture Secretary and now member of the Culture Select Committee.

I was there to lobby about proposed changes to the English Baccalaureate, which regular readers will know I've been banging on about for ages. But as it turned out, something else came up as a more immediate challenge to those of us involved in new play development.

As the speeches ended and the mingling began, my Guild colleague - theatre, TV, radio and computer games writer Andy Walsh - bravely took on bullish Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Andy decided to use the opportunity to take Vaizey to task over recent Arts Council cuts to theatre companies, and how those were impacting the development of new plays.

Vaizey's response was extraordinary. After hiding behind the principle that the Arts Council was an arms-length body, and the government is not responsible for its decisions (which wasn't what we were suggesting) he went on to assert in no uncertain terms that the cuts the Arts Council had imposed were in any case having no effect whatsoever on the British theatre industry. On the contrary, he said, new theatre writing was thriving - he cited in particular Soho Theatre's expansion into a third auditorium, and the Bush Theatre.

Andy and I were dumbfounded. I tried to explain to Vaizey that in tough times theatres contract around their main stages and protect their core work. What gets cut is the complex web of development which backs up the main stage work, such as writer attachment schemes and schools work. I cited Hampstead Theatre's recent decision to cut their entire education department, including their phenomenally successful Heat and Light youth theatre. In the short term, of course such work isn't essential to what takes place on the main stage. But in the medium and long term, it absolutely is. Where else will the new talent come from?

The fact is that 25 theatre companies or venues have suffered 100% cuts to their Arts Council grants, along with 5 writer development organisations. Further big cuts have fallen on some of our finest playwriting powerhouses, including the Almeida (39%), Soho Theatre (17.6%) and Out of Joint (27.9%). Smaller new writing companies who are busy nurturing the next generation, often in inner city or regional areas, have also been targeted - these include Red Ladder (39.6%), Theatre Centre (22.3%) and Talawa (21.9%). Even those who got off relatively lightly, like the Bush, Tamasha, BAC, ATC, Clean Break, Cardboard Citizens, Hampstead, the Tricycle, the Orange Tree, Bristol Old Vic and Salisbury Playhouse still suffered an 11% cut.

But Vaizey stuck to his guns: none of this was having any effect at all. And then he set us an extraordinary challenge. If we could provide evidence of our claims that Arts Council cuts were affecting new play development in the UK, he promised to read whatever we sent him. Moreover, if there was evidence that new play development was being adversely affected, he would bring it up on our behalf with the Arts Council.

At first, I couldn't decide whether Vaizey was being disingenuous or merely ignorant of how our sector worked. On reflection, I think it was probably the latter. The long tail of development which lies behind any new play is of course invisible to the public, Vaizey included. It's pretty specialist knowledge to understand how plays travel the long road from inspiration to opening night. That tail might be one, two, even three years long - sometimes far longer. Jez Butterworth is on record as saying Jerusalem was seven years in the making.

This is a fragile ecology which only those working within it truly understand. What you see performing on the nation's stages on any given night is like gazing up at the stars - it is a vision from the past. Those productions were first seeded years ago, long before the current round of cuts. Indeed, you could even say that much of what's playing right now is the final fruit from a pre-financial crash era of new play development. It would be an understandable mistake for a layperson to take a look around at Soho, the Bush, even the West End and say: new plays are thriving, what's the problem?

The answer is that the problem will be in two, three or seven years hence.

So I think we have to take Vaizey at his word here and, in good faith, to pick up the gauntlet he has thrown down. It is an opportunity not only to explain to him, but to the wider taxpaying public, precisely how new play development works, and how the cuts taking place now are hacking away at the roots of our future output.

So I've decided to take up Vaizey's challenge - but I'm going to need your help.

In the next month, I will be writing to theatre companies around the country to ask how the cuts which were made in April are affecting new play development. This might take many forms, for example:

  • Producing fewer new plays overall
  • Programming plays by household name writers rather than those less well-known 
  • Having fewer writers on attachment or in-residence 
  • Offering fewer full commissions 
  • Cutting back on literary department staff 
  • Cutting back on education or youth work 
  • Reassigning dramaturgical functions to associate directors rather than literary staff 
  • Programming musicals, comedy or revivals in slots where new plays would once have played 
  • Going dark for a few weeks 
  • Putting plays on for shorter runs 
  • Winding up writers' groups or other developmental schemes 
  • Limiting actor workshop time on new plays in development 
  • Having to give notes to writers primarily driven by cost - such as smaller cast size
  • Offering fewer playwriting workshops to beginners, or to the general public

I would emphasise that this categorically isn't about 'naming and shaming', or suggesting anyone isn't doing their job well. Rather, it is about celebrating our fantastic expertise, while lamenting its inevitable curtailment. Evidence can be submitted anonymously, if desired (though I would suggest it is more powerful to someone like Vaizey if theatres are prepared to go public). I would hope that, en masse, we can demonstrate a wider trend here which goes beyond individual theatres - that we're all in the same boat, struggling to continue what we do best under reduced circumstances, but that something, somewhere has to give. This is about explaining where, how and why those tough decisions have to be taken - and the likely knock on effect. When we look around us in three years' time, will it still be possible to say "new writing is thriving, what's the problem?"

As luck would have it, this week the Guardian's Lyn Gardner published a timely piece entitled Do theatres have to close down before government acts on the arts? In it, she references an earlier piece by the Independent's David Lister, pointing out that theatres need to get better at evidencing their claims of the damage they are suffering.

Well, now's our chance.

I got in touch with Lyn about Vaizey's challenge and she got straight back to me. She has agreed to publish on the Guardian Theatre blog an article, or even a series of articles, looking at the results of my research.

To be honest, I'm a bit anxious. It's a lot of work and I'm going to have to do it in my own time, unpaid, squeezing it in around other work. But I'm serious about doing it. And I would be immensely grateful for your help.

Do you run a theatre company or literary department? Would you be prepared - anonymously or otherwise - to contribute specific examples of how the cuts are materially affecting your new play development?

Or are you a writer or director? Have you had a commission rescinded, a tour postponed, an education package cancelled? Or, do you have good relations with an artistic director or literary manager who you could ask, on my behalf, about contributing to this research?

Perhaps you work outside London, or predominantly in youth or community settings. Is provision for the development of new talent where you are drying up?

In all cases, I would love to hear from you, either in the comments box below, or privately on

This is it, theatre-makers. A challenge to each and every one of us. It's time to put up or shut up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Speeches from The Gatekeepers

Last Saturday, I chaired a panel debate among literary managers at the Free Word Centre on behalf of Spread The Word. Entitled The Gatekeepers (to the irritation of some) it was a really great evening, with a packed house of emerging playwrights, all keen to get a rare insight into the minds and departmental workings of those charged with sourcing new plays for some of the biggest theatres in the business. 

It was a two hour event, with an hour's drinking and networking afterwards, so you'll forgive me if I don't reproduce a blow-by-blow account. But the whole thing was audio recorded and I hope will be up online somewhere at some point, so I will be sure to let you know about that.

In the meantime, what I do have ready to go, which might give you a flavour, are the two opening speeches. The first is from playwright and Chair of The Writers' Guild Theatre Committee, Amanda Whittington. The second is my own opening to the panel debate itself. Amanda and I agreed that they seemed to complement each other nicely, so here they are (with thanks to Amanda for her permission to reproduce it here.)

If you have any specific questions about whether anything in particular came up, then do ask in the comments box below, and I'll do my best to dredge my memory.

But for now, here are the speeches with which we kicked off the night.

Amanda Whittington opening speech

Legend has it, in days gone by, the great undiscovered playwrights of the 20th century would tap out their masterpiece on a tinny typewriter, put it in a brown envelope, send it to a great agent or producer who’d recognise their genius, put the play on, untouched and make history.

It worked for Joe Orton and Shelagh Delaney, I once thought, so why not for me?  Orton’s from Leicester and I lived in Nottingham.  Delaney was 18 years old.  So was I, more or less. That’s what I decided to do.

Twenty years ago, almost to the day, I was ready to follow their lead. I’d written a play on a portable typewriter; photocopied it at the library. Bought brown envelopes and the Writers and Artists Yearbook. I packaged it up - off it went: to Nottingham Playhouse and Leicester and Derby the Royal Court, the National, probably.

And I sat. 
And I waited. 
And nothing happened. 

Well, a few things happened.  Two-line rejections came back.  Occasional script reports too, and a rainbow of reasons why the play wouldn’t be produced. 

Once, the script was returned with a hand-written note scribbed on the back page:  “This play will be done on the fringe and disappear without trace.”  


Three years and two plays later, I realised the fairytale was just that. No theatre, producer or agent was going to wave a magic wand, turn a pumpkin to a carriage and take me to the ball. The gate was locked and bolted.  How on earth was I going to get in?

Back then, in the very early-90s I’d set up as a freelance journalist. No training, no experience, just a sheer, bloody-minded commitment to making a living from words. I wrote for the Nottingham Post and one day, I interviewed a woman who ran an pub theatre company in the city. At the end of the interview, I said, under my breath: ‘By the way, I write plays’. She asked to read one. She liked it. She said she’d put it on.  And God love her, she did.

There was no funding. We all worked for nothing. I put in £250 and that just about got the show on the road. I designed the posters, put them up around town, built the set, found the costumes and props, did a bit of directing when the director dropped out. And as I watched the play on its four night run in front of an audience - sixty people a night, big time - I started to see what worked – and what didn’t … and I knew something had opened a fraction.

From the run came a decent review.  It was only the Nottingham Post but I sent it off with the script all the same, to theatres and agents, as proof I was being produced.

And I sat.
And I waited.
And I had a letter.

Soho Theatre were building a new writing venue on Dean Street and in preparation for that, they ran workshops. ‘Writer’s workshops’. For a week, free of charge. It’s hard to believe now but I genuinely had no clue what that meant. But I turned up to find there were six of us and a workshop leader, who seemed more like a guru to me.

We did writing exercises (I’d never done those). We discussed our plays (I’d hardly done that). We had notes (What are notes? I certainly know now). We worked with actors. (Professional actors!) All of a sudden, my work seemed to matter to somebody other than me. And I started to feel like a writer.

The relationship with Soho led to what you might term my breakthrough play, Be My Baby.  Written over two years in the mid-90s; first staged for One Week Only in 1998; then again in the opening season of Dean Street. I got national reviews and an agent – and at last, the big gate was open.

And I didn’t know at the time but the birth of this play coincided with the birth of what we now call the development culture. A culture that marked a shift away from theatres simply receiving unsolicited scripts in brown envelopes or submissions from agents to a more pro-active way of working with writers, where we were given encouragement, support and opportunities, sometimes before we’d even written a play.

Backed by the Arts Council and the new National Lottery, companies like Soho took a broader view of working with writers, offering the workshop programme that I joined; seed commissions, attachments, and in my case, a 10-minute play competition where Be My Baby began.

Could I have written that play without it? Probably.
Would I have written that play without it? Probably not.

In some ways, I developed myself: finding my voice from the scribbled rejections and the pub theatre shows and simply by writing with no sense of an outcome.

But there’s no doubt my career was kick-started by the development culture. And of course, it wasn’t just mine. Over the last 15 years, in London and across the country, development schemes have set out to involve and integrate a broader range of writers in theatre – and to get more new plays onto main stages.

And it’s worked. In the late-80s, new plays made up 7% of the national repertoire. Twenty years on, it was 42%. So there’s no doubt that new writing is one of the great success stories of British theatre.

However, it’s also been said the development culture brought greater intervention and interference in the simple process of writing a play. That ideas were examined too early. That directors had too great an ownership of those ideas. That second and subsequent productions, on which writers once built their careers, fell out of favour because of the quest for the new, new, new. That writers now have to pitch their ideas and write treatments like film and TV. And all this means some writers feel disempowered under-valued and even disrespected by the process.

This debate lies at the heart of the best practice guidelines the Writers Guild has just published with The Antelopes, in consultation with theatres. Entitled The Working Playwright it consists of two booklets. Agreements and Contracts gives a plain English breakdown of TMA, TNC and ITC agreements we’re commissioned under. Engaging with Theatres  covers the many schemes to develop writers outside those agreements. Attachments, scratch nights, seed commissions, portmanteau plays, working in schools and many more.

The recommendations within are based on a shared belief, born of experience, that there’s no dramaturgical Holy Grail or ‘one size fits all’ approach to developing plays and playwrights. That development works best  for theatres and writers, when playwrights are not simply seeded, cultivated and harvested. Yes, we need sunlight and water but great writing grows in its own unique way and the very best of us are wild-flowers.

We also know, in 2012, the current economic climate is fundamentally changing those conditions for growth. Writers here in London may not realise one of Britain’s best writer development agencies, Theatre Writing Partnership in the East Midlands, launched ten years ago is no more.

TWP was held up by the Arts Council as a model of good practice for new writing.  Last year, it was deemed unworthy of funding.  In July of this year, it closed.  North West Playwrights in Manchester has gone the same way.  Add to that the closure of Script in the West Midlands, and nine counties across Britain (which, let’s face it, is most of Britain) are now without any specialist support for new writing outside of theatres, who are facing brutal cuts of their own. That’s a deadly strike at the nation’s development culture and something London, which has such remarkable new writing theatres ignores at its peril.

You see, theatre’s a unique art form, not least because, in theory, it doesn’t need new work to continue. Dead playwrights can do the job just as well as live ones - and they’re cheaper.

But of course, we know, it does need new work. It’s the life-blood of theatre; and culture itself.  You may think that’s stating the obvious – but - we’re having to argue for libraries now and for arts to remain taught in schools.

And make no mistake, the industry’s fighting. Those here tonight – and so many more - know the value of you and your work. So I hope the question is not ‘Will the gates remain open’? But how?

That’s a question for playwrights, as well. We’ll need to become more proactive. More resourceful. Create opportunities of our own. Develop ourselves. Find our own funding. Find our own voice. Make ourselves heard. Sounds familiar …

Sometimes, when I’m sat at my shiny iMac, I hear the tap-tap of a typewriter and an echo from the past … “This play will be done on the fringe and disappear without trace.”

Whoever wrote that on the back of my script was wrong, of course. It didn’t even get to the fringe.  But I did, in the end. And a little bit further. Yes, it was tough.  It is tough. It’s about to get tougher. But that struggle made me a writer.  And a writer I’ll stay.

Fin Kennedy's introduction to the panel

I was asked to chair this panel after writing an article for Exeunt magazine entitled The Start Of Something Else? It was a response to an earlier piece by the literary manager of West Yorkshire Playhouse, Alex Chisholm, entitled The End Of New Writing? (There's a question mark on the end of both those titles, which is important.) In Alex’s piece, she questioned whether ‘New Writing’, like the Well-Made Play before it, had become an ideal to which playwrights were supposed to aspire.

In my piece, I put forward three theories.

The first was that New Writing as a term has, at times, become confused with, and overshadowed by, its loudmouthed younger brother In-Yer-Face Theatre.

The second was that the widely acknowledged crucible of new writing, the Royal Court Theatre under Stephen Daldry from 1992-98, was in fact far less literary-based than we have come to think. A little known page on the Court’s website lists companies and practitioners as diverse as DV8, People Show, Candoco Dance, Neil Bartlett and Anna Deveare Smith as sharing equal billing with the new writers during that time. There is also anecdotal evidence that Daldry ran a management policy that allowed all artists working in the building to read scripts and attend programming meetings.

And finally, I suggested that the new writing development culture, comprising all the shorts nights, attachment schemes, dramaturgical meetings and writing workshops with which many in this room will be so familiar – is in fact a direct consequence of ten years of half decent arts funding under New Labour. There are now more playwrights who have undergone some kind of professional training or development than could ever hope to be produced.

This state of affairs results in pressure on theatres to make hard choices about which of the many play proposals available to them end up on their stages. It has also, arguably, left us with a set of in-built aesthetic assumptions about what a new play is, or ought to be, and a dramaturgical language in which to discuss that.

But there is also a further pressure on theatres, which is perhaps more relevant to tonight's discussion, and that is: to in some way engage with all the writers they won't necessarily produce - using their public subsidy to encourage the craft of playwriting in general. The irony of course, is that the majority of playwrights in whom these skills are nurtured, will never have a chance to put them into practice – at least, probably not with the theatre which developed them. And this is to ignore entirely the many thousands of unsolicited play submissions theatres receive simply due to the extraordinary success of new writing in recent years, and the hunger to be part of it which that has instilled in large swathes of the population.

From the outside, it’s sometimes hard not to see the complex web of processes which stand between writers and that elusive main stage production, as being there to keep writers at bay, rather than facilitate their journey towards it.

Which brings us to this issue of ‘gatekeepers’.

Wikipedia (that font of all truth) describes a gatekeeper as follows:

A gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something, for example via a city gate. In the late 20th century the term came into metaphorical use, referring to individuals who decide whether a given message will be distributed by a mass medium.

This last line seems particularly apt in our context: the mass medium (if you can call it that) being a theatrical production.

The promotional copy for tonight’s event contextualises this further:

Most unsolicited plays sent to new writing theatres arrive at the Literary Department – and the first hurdle is the theatre’s script readers.

There has been debate recently, not least among the Antelopes playwrights’ group, about the credentials of script readers. They are usually young and poorly paid (I have been one myself, and I was and it was). Yet they are also the first and often only point of contact an aspiring playwright has with a professional theatre. But they are only the first hurdle for the unsolicited play.

If the play is seen to have promise, it will then go to a senior reader, then to a literary associate, then the literary manager, possibly to an associate director and finally, if you get very lucky indeed, to the artistic director him or herself – who usually at that point will say No.

There is a legitimate debate to be had about this process, about who holds each of these positions, and the theatre’s sourcing of those individuals and investment in their skills. I know that I’m not alone in having been let down by this system in the past. My second play How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found was rejected by every theatre in London before winning a big award, and is now produced around the world. 

But the flip side of this is that theatres are utterly overwhelmed with plays and playwrights. We are beating down their doors. We have been for years. Every Shopping and Fucking or Jerusalem or Three Kingdoms spawns another tidal wave of submissions – most of them awful, awful plays – and I say that as a former script reader and great lover of the craft. How can theatres possibly sort the wheat from the chaff? Is there even enough wheat in there to make it worth their while? The Bush Theatre recently said that less than 0.1% of unsolicited plays it gets sent get produced, and has dramatically changed its submissions policy as a result. And besides, is it really the theatres’ role to nurture hope in all those mediocre drama graduates and retirees? Doesn’t this detract from their main business of producing great plays?

One other route of course, is to get an agent. It’s true that scripts sent to theatres under agency covers do jump the unsolicited queue – they have already been through some sort of quality filter after all. But isn’t this just substituting one gatekeeper for another? Who are agents and what are their credentials, work pressures and training?

There is one further way of course – to produce the play yourself. But this comes with its own set of hurdles, mostly financial. Those without private means, or with work patterns which preclude taking much time off, or who aren’t versed in the dark arts of fundraising, are at an obvious disadvantage.

But let’s try and be balanced here. What right do we as writers have to get resentful when that gate doesn’t open, or doesn’t open as often as we’d like? No-one owes us a living. And every other job has some sort of selection procedure, and assessment process. Why should playwriting be any different? My experience with How To Disappear, as distressing as it was at the time, at least showed that the good work will get through in the end. Don’t we just have to write better plays, hang in there, and get a grip? There is another name by which Gatekeepers are sometimes known, and it comes from the world of mythology and story structure: the Threshold Guardian. In The Writer's Journey by Hollywood structure guru Chris Vogler, the Threshold Guardian tests whether the hero or heroine really is ready to move onto the next phase. They are a necessary part of the hero's journey towards self-knowledge.

One final thought before we throw this open to our illustrious panel. Is the term ‘Gatekeeper’ even useful? At least one literary manager I know hates the term, and its connotations of ‘Them and Us’. She argues instead that the literary manager is in fact the writer’s best friend: raising money for them, nurturing their talents, managing their relationships with others in the theatre, advocating their plays, championing their visions and pushing for them to be produced - 'holding the gate open' as she put it to me (though note that there is still a gate.)

Here to debate this with me tonight, we have a fine selection of those very people. I’d like to introduce:

Graeme Thompson: Literary Coordinator, Theatre503
Graeme manages the unsolicited script and first time writer programmes at theatre503. He is Artistic Associate at The Jack Studio Theatre and has previously worked as a dramaturg for The West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Nadia Latif: Freelance Theatre Director
Nadia trained as a director at RADA under William Gaskill. She has worked with a diverse range of writers including Rex Obano, Abi Morgan, Ella Hickson and more. She has worked for the Bush, Royal Court, Tricycle and Almeida and she was also Associate Director of Theatre503 from 2009 to 2011. Her show But I Cd Only Whisper has just closed at the Arcola.

Will Mortimer
Will is Literary Manager at Hampstead Theatre. Prior to working at Hampstead he was Senior Reader at Theatre 503 and Writers' Centre Assistant at Soho Theatre. He began his career as a director working exclusively with new writing. In his current role he has responsibility, alongside the Artistic Director and Executive Producer, for commissioning and programming the two spaces at Hampstead Theatre.

Chris Campbell
Chris was Deputy Literary Manager of the National Theatre for six years and is currently Literary Manager of the Royal Court. He originally trained as an actor, and has worked with household-name directors from Howard Davies to Richard Eyre. He also works as a translator of plays from Europe.

Karis Halsall
Karis is literary assistant at the Bush Theatre, managing the day to day running of the Literary department and Bushgreen, the theatre’s online submissions system. She is also a playwright herself and has worked with Hampstead Theatre, The Old Red Lion, Theatre 503, Nabokov, Hightide and others.

Sarah Dickenson of Soho Theatre was originally on the bill but unfortunately can’t be with us tonight.

Please join me in welcoming them all.

So, the first question I would like to ask each of you is: Are you a Gatekeeper, and if so, is that A Bad Thing?