I’ve written more than a hundred hours of drama for BBC Radio 4 some of which you can occasionally catch as repeats on Radio 4 Extra even though I never write for radio these days.
I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop, but the commissions simply stopped coming, which is as good a lesson as any for aspiring writers: don’t put all your eggs in one precarious basket. Fortunately, I had plenty of other options.
My past radio work includes many original plays & series as well as features and dramatisations of classics such as Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Ben Hur and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Treasure Island is still available as a CD. In 1980, my radio play O Flower of Scotland won an award for Best Original Radio Play of that year and in 1982, Bonnie Blue Hen won a Scottish Radio Industries Club Award.
During the 1970s, I wrote three short plays for Scottish Television. These were followed by a 6 Part serial for the same company: a Young Adult serial before YA was even a thing. It was called Shadow of the Stone, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-uJPD_hBrI) a spooky tale of witchcraft and possession on the West Coast of Scotland. It starred a very young Alan Cumming and an even younger Shirley Henderson, both at the start of what would be glitteringly successful careers and it was produced by the late and much missed Leonard White. Later, again working with Leonard, I contributed two episodes to BBC TV’s Strathblair but after that, I realised that my future lay more with radio and theatre than television.
After a spell in community theatre, my first full length stage play, Heroes and Others, was produced at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre by the Scottish Theatre Company in 1980.
Another full length play, Wormwood, about the Chernobyl disaster, had a well reviewed run at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, in May 1997. It was published in an anthology called Scotland Plays by Nick Hern Books, and was a set text on the Scottish Higher Drama syllabus. It is also available in as an individual eBook.
A third full length stage play, titled Quartz, on themes of magic and religion, was produced at the Traverse during 2000.
Burns on the Solway – about the last few weeks of the poet’s life – was staged at the Oran Mor to excellent reviews early in 2006 and was one of the inspirations behind my novel The Jewel.
A third play for Glasgow’s Oran Mor venue, The Secret Commonwealth, opened the spring lunchtime theatre season on 1st February 2010.
The Price of a Fish Supper was produced to critical acclaim at the Oran Mor, Glasgow, in spring 2005, with Gerda Stevenson directing and Paul Morrow as Rab. The play was later staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a radio version was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 during 2007 – my very last BBC radio production. The play has since been published in an anthology called Scottish Shorts, by Nick Hern Books and is also widely available as an individual eBook.
Later in 2017, Fish Supper had its first Ayrshire production at Ayr’s Gaiety Theatre, on 6th and 7th September, with the amazing Ken O’Hara as Rab and Isi Nimmo directing. You can watch the excellent trailer, here for a flavour of this production. It proved to be a sell-out and an extra performance had to be arranged to cope with demand. In 2018, more performances are planned as part of the Gaiety’s rural outreach programme, in Ayrshire and elsewhere in Scotland and maybe in England too. Watch this space for more details as soon as I have them!
I’d love to do more work for theatre (all enquiries welcome) but it’s an area where opportunities seem to be shrinking, which is a pity. When the collaboration involved in a production goes well, there’s no experience quite like it.