Ireland & the Overseas Enigma

Posted on November 20, 2009


Let me tell you a little bit about BBC Writersroom. BBC Writersroom offers a service to scriptwriters, whereby they can send in their work unsolicited (without the backing of an agent). The people in the Writersroom will then read the first ten pages and if they like it, read on; if not, they’ll send it back to you.


Now, should you be lucky enough to send something that they read in full, they will then either pass it to another reader or they will make comments to help you as a writer and send it back. It’s an excellent service, one that I have recently made use of for the first time. It puts our own public broadcaster to shame, the fact being the RTE won’t accept a cup of tea from a stranger, let alone a script. Anybody ever wonder why the BBC has such high quality drama? But anyway, that’s another blog.


What I want to draw attention to is a blog I read on the site this afternoon, , regarding unsolicited scripts and the fact that they won’t be accepted from overseas locations anymore. So naturally I thought, shit, I really should have used this more than I did. Like some of the other commentators on this blog, I started thinking about whose English address I could pilfer in order to continue making use of the service.


So I decided, rather than panic, I would look up the proper Terms and Conditions page, to get the full story. What I found was quite interesting: Scripts from overseas – we are looking for writers with whom the BBC can develop a strong working relationship and who have something to say that will appeal to British audiences. You may be a non-British-born writer, but you must be resident in the UK or Eire. The only exception to this is British-born writers who are resident temporarily overseas.” (Writers room Website).

Something looks a bit odd about that, doesn’t it? Not that I’m complaining, mind you, it does mean that my best avenue for advancing my writing hasn’t been cut off but it’s interesting how the good people at BBC have failed to look at an atlas and spot the gaping void between Ireland and England where the Irish Sea rolls around looking for things to erode.


As I’ve said, it’s wonderful news for people in Ireland who use the Writers Room to submit work but amidst my glowing relief, there is a nagging feeling that, “hang on, this kind of seems a little bit territorial and colonial, doesn’t it?” And I suppose one of the best ways of looking at it is through the fact that, yes we are a republic, fought for our freedom, etc, etc, etc. But we still rely on UK channels such as this for certain services and it’s because our own systems, the ones we fought for, have failed us.


Perhaps the BBC considers us honorary licence holders because for the past 40 years, our east coast has been close enough to pick up their stations and there was nothing they could do about it. But the blog seems to suggest that we are part of the British Isles. Or perhaps, it is because, throughout our pilfering of English TV, we also happened to contribute hugely to the UK TV Industry.


I’m not condoning the redrawing of lines, boundaries, and apparently sea-coasts, but in the interest of self preservation (and advancement) I suppose I’m adopting a “Nyih, whatever” kind of approach. After all, the English have done this before.


The most recent instance I remember was an article in a newspaper detailing the “UK’s Top Ten Wits”.  Oscar Wilde was number 1, Spike Milligan was also in the Top 3. Hmmm…weren’t they both Irish?  But whatever, these kind of instances really only annoy people who think that others are too ignorant to realise that Oscar Wilde is Irish, or that Ireland actually isn’t connected by land to England.


At the end of the day, it’s words on paper (either physical or electronic) and just because it’s printed, doesn’t make it true.


Addendum: Please BBC Writersroom, do not revoke Irish people’s right to send scripts to you. I may just have to go live in a box and become a real starving artist if you do.