Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bringing a Little Sunshine on to the Tyne

by Rosemary Johnson

Do you remember the Lindisfarne song The Fog on the Tyne?  It's quite rude.

I couldn’t decide whether to go to the ACW Writers’ Day in Newcastle last Saturday… or not.  Newcastle is a long way away from my home and I was teaching until three pm the day before.  However, when I looked at Trainline, I discovered, to my astonishment, that I would be able to take a train from Colchester mid-afternoon which would arrive in Newcastle that evening.  Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  I decided I would, because we were launching our newest competition, for comedy writing. 

Immediately I booked my ticket, all manner of problems reared their ugly heads.  You might say it was the devil getting in the way.  How would I get from my college to Colchester North Station?  How should I park my car?  How much would parking cost?  Would I find a space?...  No, I would walk to Colchester Town Station, about a mile from my college – and, when I looked at my ticket, I discovered it was for all Colchester stations.  What should I do with my heavy work bag, full of confidential folders - college reception agreed to look after it for me.  See God at work here?  

So, last Saturday, there I was, at the Writers’ Day, at Brunswick Methodist Church, Newcastle, and there was no fog on the Tyne at all.  In fact, it was pleasantly cool, after blazing hot East Anglia.  Our speaker at the Writers' Day was David Robinson, of Searchlight Theatre Company, and he talking to us about performance writing for stage, film, television and radio.  David was good.  David was very good.  I was so glad I'd made the effort.
  • We learned how to depict character when all that is available to you, the playwright, is dialogue.   Later, we walked on and off a stage, in character, without speaking. 
  • We appreciated that a script, unlike a novel, has input from: the playwright; the director, the actors and, ultimately, the audience.  A good playwright envisages directors’ and actors’ reactions, stage directions and beats.
  • We took on board the fact that a play, which may last two to two and a half hours, has to include all the character detail and development that is contained in a novel which may be read over many days.
In the afternoon, our task was to create a radio play based on the story of the Raising of Lazarus.  I was dreading this bit, as I’m unused to writing scripts, but we composed our play in groups, and, as we were talking it through, we gained some unusual and interesting insights into this story.  Each group took a character from the story (ours was Martha) and the idea was that we should put them all together at the end.  David said he was prepared for it not to work.  How many people say that?  How few mean it?

We bless those who attended.  We would have blessed more.  What I’m asking, genuinely, and politely, is why many ACW members were not with us.  Was it because Newcastle was not convenient for you?  Did the topic not appeal to you?  Do you not fancy attending writing days at all?  Please let us know by commenting on this post. 

Now, about that comedy writing competition.  Btw, David Robinson will be our judge, so your job is to make him laugh.  You need to write either a script (maximum a thousand words) or a comic poem (maximum twenty-four lines) on the theme Bringing a Little Sunshine.  The comp is free to ACW members and non-members pay only £3 for first entry and £2 for their second entry.  The deadline is Monday, 11 September 2017.  More information on

Rosemary Johnson has had many short stories published, in print and online, amongst other places, in Alfie Dog Fiction, The Copperfield Review, Circa and Every Day Fiction.  In real life, she is a part-time IT tutor, living in Suffolk with her husband and cat.  She blogs at  Write On.  Her cat supports her writing by sitting on her keyboard and deleting large portions of text.


  1. I wanted to come to this as he sounded like such a good speaker, but, for me, the distance and cost of travel from Leamington meant no. It would have necessitated an overnight stay. I will definitely enter the competition, though!

  2. I'm glad your travel worked out, Rosemary. North-south travel is much easier than East-west. I'd have had to stay overnight and hubby found an alternative attraction for the weekend. (Scargill)


  3. I thoroughly enjoyed last Saturday’s Newcastyle ACW Writers’ day. David Robinson’s sessions on writing drama for theatre, radio etc. were very good and entertaining as well, but I agree it was sad there were not more people there. So many writers’ days are held down south that we may have got into thinking that they are not for us up here. Having moved some years ago from Hertfordshire to Edinburgh I really notice the difference and it was great to be able to go to one at last, Tony.