Canal play contest aims to make the inspiration flow

The Oxford Times: Authors Mark Haddon and Katie Baxendale pictured on the Oxford Canal towpath. Picture: OX64944 Jon Lewis Buy this photo Authors Mark Haddon and Katie Baxendale pictured on the Oxford Canal towpath. Picture: OX64944 Jon Lewis

SOME of the country’s best known writers are preparing to help local writers produce radio plays.

Mark Haddon, author of bestselling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, will be one of three authors from the city who will offer help to fledgling playwrights to create plays about the Oxford Canal.

Mr Haddon, along with Golden Globe-nominated scriptwriter Paul Rutman and Katie Baxendale, writer of teen sensation Sugar Rush, all live near the canal – and they will offer help to the writers of the best four scripts in a competition.

They will be broadcast online and an overall winner will be chosen by His Dark Materials author Phillip Pullman.

Mr Haddon, who lives in Jericho, said he was looking forward to the mentoring sessions: “I love teaching writing. I’ve had some of my best ideas during writing classes.

“I always learn something when I teach, because when you explain it to other people you’re forced to explain it to yourself.”

And he said he loved living along the canal. “I live just a street away from the canal – I run up it every day,” he said.

“Radio plays are a great place to take a risk and be more experimental than in other outlets.”

Ms Baxendale said: “We’re looking for the best new writing in Oxfordshire, and there are some amazing up and coming directors who want to be involved. It’s a great opportunity for everyone.

“I love the canal. I live backing onto it and I use it every day.

“There are a lot of amazing stories throughout history with this canal, and now we can see new stories and perspectives on it.”

The Oxford Canal Heritage Project – which is trying to attract more tourists to the canal – is hosting the radio play competition.

Organisers are looking for short radio play scripts that are about or inspired by the Oxford Canal.

The finalists will get to see their plays professionally recorded and broadcast.

Project manager Maria Parsons said: “The canal provides tremendous potential for radio, with all of those natural sounds – boats, ducks, cyclists, the water, and so on.

“We want people to get down there and think about how to write about it and remind people that there is a canal.”

There will be four winning plays, each just 10 minutes long, which will then be recorded with local actors at the Tom, Dick & Debbie production company in Marston Street.

HOW TO ENTER.

THE competition, to be judged by Phillip Pullman, right, is open to all Oxfordshire residents aged 15 and over. Plays should be no more than 10 pages long (one page of radio script translates to about 90 seconds of air-time). The plays must be about or inspired by the Oxford Canal.
 

Entries in first draft form must be emailed to oxfordcanalplays@gmail.com by Monday, February 24.
 

THE AUTHORS:
Mark Haddon – Studied English at Merton College, Oxford, now lives in Jericho with his wife and two sons.
Best known for his first adult novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, published in 2003 to instant success.
Won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

 

Katie Baxendale – Sister of actress and Friends star Helen Baxendale.
Writes predominantly for TV, including BBC comedy Playing the Field and ITV drama Fat Friends. Best known for Channel Four 2005 teenage phenomenon Sugar Rush, which was nominated for a Bafta.

Paul Rutman – Writer, and TV producer, work includes Lark Rise to Candleford, Lewis, Vera and Marple.

Nominated for a Golden Globe for Five Days, a 2007 BBC production made in association with HBO.

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