Hull Literature Festival 2001 8th - 18th November
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Pen to Page
'The Never Ending Story '
Writing for TV soaps
Hull Central Library
Saturday, 10 November

Unfortunately 'The Never Ending Story' had to do so on Saturday evening but not before the disappointingly small audience had enjoyed an excellent session on soap script-writing. Rupert Creed, representing the Writer's Guild, introduced the three writers: Ken Blakeson who worked on Corrie for many years, Gary Brown who works on Eastenders and Marvin currently working on the revamped Crossroads.

Difficult to summarise this event because of its many strands; the roles of storyliners and scriptwriters, changes in the genre ( particularly in the last five years because of the challenge from digital TV ), inside information on the workings of the industry, rates of pay, mad producers, Effects theories, the British versus American markets, melodrama as a stylistic influence - all of this was covered in a part - presentation, part- debate. Some topics, like main storylines, were kept to the fore while others bubbled away underneath, occasionally surfacing for attention. Indeed, arguably we had our own soap, complete with multiple narrative, there on the first floor of the Central Library. Our three main characters were clearly drawn and contrasted well with one another - Gary the comic and performer, from the same stable as Ben Elton and co., Ken the down to earth Yorkshireman passionate about the future of TV and sweet, beleaguered Marvin who not only had to struggle against people's preconceptions of Crossroads but also lives in Hornsea .

All three were mates and so there were plenty of 'in' references, laughter and interchange between them. But there was also conflict ( the essence of drama, after all ) and great efforts made to take account of us the audience. Rupert Creed made an extremely good chair, interposing himself at just the right moments, and Dianne DuBois offered an academic perspective ( for example, the soap as a female orgasm ) which sometimes baffled but at other times spurred on the discussion.

My only little niggle would be with audience members who ask questions prefaced by something like 'I've never watched Neighbours but´┐Ż' How strange to profess your ignorance - though whether this links in with the popular culture debate ( There were a lot of Archers devotees present who weren't embarrassed to admit it! ) or is just what questioners generally tend to do I don't know. Anyway, looking forward to the other two Pen to Page events.* I hope that audiences will be bigger then, even though that might mean less wine ( always a welcome touch ) for those present.

* Jimmy McGovern on Thursday at Hull Truck and David Nobbs on Friday at the Library.

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