Tuesday, 18 May 2021

The Writers' Guild... and the BBC...

I have distribute this note, below, to the BBC History group...

Wed 12/05/2021 


I have, at last, got hold of and I have read...

Yapp, Nick. 2009. The Write Stuff: A History of the Writers' Guild of Great

Britain 1959-2009. [London]: The Writers' Guild of Great Britain.

 

I have the pdf in front of me now.  Nick Yapp's history was published by the

Writers' Guild in 2009.  In a pattern that is familiar to us from our other

lives, when small organisations publish a book, in 2009 the book rapidly

disappeared from sight, and has not had the attention, and the use, it

deserves.  You will see variant bibliographic entries for the book - I have

followed what the text says.  I think that I give the correct bibliographic

information.


The book is of special interest to the historians of the BBC - the book has

199 references to the BBC in its 239 pages.  From its origins in the 1950s,

as the British Screen and Television Writers' Association (BSTWA), the

Writers' Guild has constantly been in negotiation with the BBC, sometimes

friendly negotiation.  The BBC was initially a monopoly supplier of radio

and television, and is always a major employer of writers and publisher of

their works.  There was also, and is still - as my readers here will be

aware - a constant churn of well-known names, from management within the BBC

and round the culture industries.  This needs constant name-checking by the

author, Nick Yapp - he is very good on this, very dogged.

 

Yapp follows the parts major characters played in various Writers' Guild

encounters with the BBC.  Like, the case of Frisby v BBC, 1967 - about the

censorship of one line in a tv play, p 40 onwards, and the Court's

interpretation of the writers contracts, negotiated by BSTWA and the Guild,

with the BBC.  Or, Chapter 18, on censorship, p 172 onwards.  Then, page 42

onwards, the tendency of BBC commissioners to commission themselves to write

scripts - amongst the significant contributions to the long debate was a

1969 article by Allan Prior (Z Cars, Softy, Softly) called Writers Who Sell

Their Scripts to Themselves, p 44.  Or p147, the time that BBC Radio Drama

decided that it was not subject to copyright laws.  Ceaseless vigilance,

indeed.


Note too that the BBC is a major publisher of books, and often displays a

tendency to forget the original writer of a project when a book appears with

a celebrity name on the title page - witness, p 69, the 1975 book based on

the tv series, The Explorers.  A recurring problem - again of interest to

historians of the BBC - is the way that the names of writers tend to left

off the documents that will become historians' sources.  Note, p 83, p141,

p147, the disappearance of writers' credits from the pages of the Radio

Times - the Radio Times that has become the source document for the BBC

database, which we all use...

https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/

 

For a working writer the most extraordinary saga is on page 190, when in

2001, the BBC and the trade body of writers' agents came to a secret

agreement to bypass the Guild - a saga that is notably for the way in which

the Guild's representative, Bernie Corbett, held his nerve.  


Working writers, like me, also remember the weirdness of the BBC 'virtual internal

market', 1992 onwards, p 148, when it was cheaper for my colleagues within

the BBC to phone me with a query, rather than ask the BBC Library.  Paddy,

How long did the Thirty Years War last?

 

From the history, it seems to me, two things give the Writers' Guild clout -

the involvement of the screenwriters, and the fact that it is a trade union

associated with the TUC.  (Though that association was tested by the

Industrial Relations Bill 1970).  Nick Yapp pauses, a number of times, to

meditate on the Guild's relationship with the BBC - see 46 '...as the BBC

itself has come under pressure from unfriendly governments and aggressive

media rivals, the Guild has constantly worked to maintain good relations with 

Auntie, and to be sympathetic to her problems.  At the same time, however, the

Guild has always fought tooth and nail to protect the interests of writers.'

 

I am an active member of the Writers' Guild, and serve on the Books

Committee of the Guild - where one of our tasks is to bring Nick Yapp's

History up to date.  We, in the Guild, and the other creative industries

trade unions, are the experts on the 'gig economy'.  As Nick Yapp says, p

190, on new media... 'The new millennium was no place for the unprotected...

...The work of writers could now be exploited in more ways than ever before.

The attempt was made, time and again, to argue that old rules and old

contracts and old rights could not apply to new marketing fields or new

media...' 

 

Patrick O'Sullivan

May 2021

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University

Patrick O'Sullivan's Whole Life Blog http://www.fiddlersdog.com/

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Saturday, 27 February 2021

O'Sullivan, The Irish Famine, 1845 to 1852: source, silence, historiography

 

Patrick O’Sullivan

The Irish Famine, 1845 to 1852:  source, silence, historiography

February 2021

 

I was asked, and I said Yes.

There is a strange silver lining to the virus crisis...  So much stuff, meetings and presentations, has had to move to the online systems.  I have been able to take part in many 'events' that I would otherwise just have noted and regretted - and, many years later, chased up the paperwork.  Now, I sit in and take notes.

My trade union, the Writers' Guild, has created some great online, writerly meetings - mostly, when writers come together, they come together to whine.  But these meetings have been very craft-oriented and positive.  Other organisations I am part of, or am connected to, have created excellent online events - I have played autoharps in San Francisco, and I have sung ballads in Glasgow.

In my academic life I have 'attended' events organised - for example - by the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective (about the Irish in Leadville, Colorado), and by the Irish Embassy, Washington, USA (about C19th black abolitionists in Ireland), and quite a number of work meetings.  And I am part of an online group exploring the discourse of 'decolonization'. 

I have been on 3 different platforms, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard and Zoom.  Of those 3, Zoom seems to work best.

I first connected with the meetings of the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective - despite the extreme time difference - because I was so interested in the work of James Walsh, and his very human and very scholarly response to the unmarked graves of Leadville...

A web search will find links - but see

https://coloradomartinis.com/2020/12/05/leadville-colorado-forgotten-irish/

Irish Diaspora Studies always has a special interest in unmarked graves...

So, when the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective asked me to give a presentation, about Irish Famine historiography, I said Yes.

I have put on my Dropbox the illustrative material that I will make available to the group this evening...

Patrick O’Sullivan

The Irish Famine, 1845 to 1852:  source, silence, historiography

Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective

February 2021

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/oxhu0k4nvnaxc6s/AAA9tBt5ONGT1sj3sybDNhsda?dl=0

My starting point is fairly simple:  in order to understand Irish Famine historiography you need to have read four books, two book published in the mid nineteenth century and two books published in the mid twentieth century.

Will I put forward the strong version of this argument, that in order to understand Irish Famine historiography you need to have read ONLY four books?  Well, Irish Famine historiography has certainly organised itself around those four books, and we do need to understand how and why.

So, today, February 27 2021, in the middle of my Yorkshire night, which is the Colorado day time, I will make my presentation to the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective.  I wonder how I will get on.

Patrick O'Sullivan

February 2021

 

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Potatoes 2021 - Heritage Research

 

We now have a patch of garden, which we are rescuing from oblivion.

Usually we buy our seed potatoes from a gathering of the West Yorkshire Organic Gardening Association (WYOGA) - there will be no gathering this year.  So, looking further afield...

In 2020 our potato harvest was not good - a very wet growing season, and it looks like there were soil problems in the bit of garden assigned to potatoes...

Thinking about a seed potato that can tolerate wet conditions and poor soil...  

Potatoes 2021 has become Heritage Research..

I bought lumpers...

https://potatohouse.co.uk/product/lumpers/

The lumper is a heritage variety, famous, or infamous, for its part in the Irish Famine, 1845-1852.

There has been a lot of discussion of the resurrected lumper...  This is Cormac Ó Gráda, The Lumper Potato and the Famine, on History Ireland...

https://www.historyireland.com/18th-19th-century-history/the-lumper-potato-and-the-famine-11/

See also...

https://laidbackgardener.blog/tag/irish-lumper-potato/

'...The ‘Lumper’ was pretty much forgotten about until Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes in Northern Ireland found it among other varieties of heritage potatoes in 2009. He grew the plant, produced more and now sells the spuds as a St. Patrick’s Day novelty at Marks and Spencer stores throughout Ireland. It’s also being grown in Canada at the University of Guelph’s Elora Research Station in Ontario, Canada and at Canadian Potato Genetic Resources in Fredericton, New Brunswick...'

http://www.thedailyspud.com/2013/03/11/lumper-potatoes/

'...the Lumpers I sampled had a decent flavour and a texture that tended towards the waxy end of the scale, while the mere fact of their availability is a story that has piqued people’s curiosity no end. With coverage including a front page article in the Irish Times last week, as well as a piece on RTE’s Six One news, this, undoubtedly, is the best press the Lumper has ever had...'

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/schools-invited-to-commemorate-famine-by-planting-lumper-potatoes-1.3832992

'...Schools across Ireland are being encouraged to sow Lumper potatoes this spring as a way of commemorating those who died during the Famine of the 1840s...'

I did not only buy lumpers, of course... 

I also bought a number of Sarpo varieties...  

Blight resistant.

http://sarpo.co.uk/

We are waiting for the seed potatoes to arrive.  And then we wait for warmer weather.

Patrick O'Sullivan

January 2021