Learning To Swim A Collaboration between Talawa Theatre Company and The BBC ‘Gridlocked’

Learning To Swim

This was my first piece for Radio. The opportunity was given to me by Talawa Theatre Company and the BBC. The piece was inspired by the word ‘Gridlock’ – which the writers, of which I was one, could interpret in any way they saw fit. The writers had a five minute span, and all the pieces were woven together to create the complete show.

The piece here is just one part of that show, which was available for podcast until recently.

Sally Avens directed the piece, I have to say she was an absolute joy to work with. I learned so much from her, and the actors Alison Pettitte and Tony Bell. You probably remember them from lots of different pieces you will have heard. They were part of the Radio Rep team. Outstanding actors of wonderful ability.

Working at Broadcasting House for the time I was allotted was brilliant, and I hope you one day get a chance to be there. The facilities are superb, and fiendishly clever. After my time working on Learning To Swim I was completely converted to the joy of Radio Drama.

With thanks to Talawa and The BBC.

The Desire To Write

Ever present, never wavering, and a great source of motivation. The desire to write never goes away. The vicissitudes of life are ameliorated, and the joys are heightened. When you live as a writer, all events, behavior, and circumstances are alive with possibility. You can record them, or you can comment on them, you have the right to use all things in the service of your story.

For me, writing comes first, before its uses. I write drama, and I can’t put the horse before the cart. I don’t sit down with a utilitarian idea in my head, I never think of the uses my work might have, before the fact.

Sometimes I have a picture, that has become attached to an experience. The picture is like a well, from which I can draw inspiration. I take Hemingway’s advice and always leave a little in the well, so it tops up in between writing. The picture can change, because its a memory, and like all memories it changes over time. Because it can change, I am alive to the ambiguity it offers, the different perspectives that are possible. I invite it to change, and I am open to the way it changes, and what that tells me.

Other times I am inspired to write by things I have heard. I often detach the things I have heard from their given circumstances, and try them out in imaginary circumstances. I take dialogue and experiment with it in different contexts. Because I write drama I can do this, that is what drama is. I don’t have to answer questions about fraudulent quotes from none existent benefit claimants on my flyers. But if I wanted to, as a writer of drama, I could do exactly that.

Then there is what I have seen, what has happened, what I have experienced either as a participant or a witness. I embrace my subjectivity, and I rely on it. It is all I have, and it is authentically mine. Experience teaches you vigilance, what you know is what you know. It is a precious filter through which the epistime of your time passes, and in a basic way helps you sort the gold from the shit.

These tactics of mine are part of my process, and I have developed them because I have a huge desire to write. Without that desire to write I would have no motivation to question. Most importantly it has freed me from the chains of thinking you have to write about the way things are. It’s much more interesting to write about the way you experience the world, and to admit, that is all you can honestly do. Then to kick on, with a feeling of liberation, that it is possible to write about the way things could be.