June’s member of the month is writer Kirstie Swain. Since joining IdeasTap, Kirstie has authored umpteen articles for IdeasMag, been a runner up in Editor’s Brief, created a play about the Arab Spring through Write to Shine and, as one of our new Creative Spacers, she’s now writing prime-time TV from our Bermondsey offices…
When I moved to London from Glasgow two years ago, I didn’t have any network down here whatsoever.
I had recently left my job as a corporate video producer and was trying to make a go of the freelance writing thing. I found IdeasTap on Google when I was looking for arts organisations to be part of – and for opportunities. When I started trying to be a proper writer, it was all about getting as much exposure, entering as many competitions and writing as much as I could.
Being a writer is something you have to work so hard at. I had written a lot of short stories in the past and it’s always been part of every job I’ve had. I did journalism and did an English degree and then when I got into corporate production I started writing scripts and loved it. I entered a few BBC competitions and my work was recognised, so I thought, “I can do this”.
When I first came to London, I worked as project manager on National Youth Theatre’s DigiS'warm, using my video knowledge from working up in Scotland. I was a runner up in an Editor’s Brief with a short story called Plenty in 2010 and wrote articles for IdeasMag. In 2011, I won Write to Shine, a brief with the National Youth Theatre and Shine Drama. We did workshops on theatre and TV, then we all wrote a play together in response to the Arab Spring called Our Days of Rage, which was performed at the Old Vic Tunnels last summer. That was brilliant. I also won a BBC Writersroom brief and attended a workshop with Development Producer Paul Ashton.
I’m currently in the first year of the BBC Writers Academy. It has completely changed my life. You do three months of lectures and then you have to write three episodes of Doctors. If that gets green-lit you get put on rotation on Holby City, Casualty and EastEnders. I did Holby first. Usually it’s the one people want to leave until last because it’s an hour long and quite a hard show to write because you don’t ever get to leave the hospital, but it was great fun and they’ve asked me back, so I must have done something right. I’m just finishing EastEnders off now.
Working on those shows is a really good way of learning your craft, but you’re writing characters that other people have come up with. That’s one of the hardest things – you want to put your own voice into it as a writer, but you also have to make it look like it’s part of the fabric of the show and that the characters aren’t acting out of character. In the future I’d love to come up with something like The Office, with a lot of pathos and humour. I’d like to write a well–respected cult comedy drama for women – a No Angels for the 2010s!
More member of the months
...Theatre maker Charlotte Josephine
...Photographer Mark Cocksedge
Don’t miss Kirstie’s episode of Holby City at 7.30pm on Tuesday 31 July, BBC1 and her episode of Eastenders at 7.30pm on BBC1 or 22:00pm on BBC3 on Tuesday 4 September.
Sign up to IdeasTap for advice, funding, opportunities and our weekly newsletter – with all the latest arts jobs.