Following swiftly in the footsteps of the first short story festival in Bristol, UK, ShortStoryVille, which was hugely successful - comes the distressing news that BBC Radio 4, which until recently broadcast a short story in the Afternoon Reading programme 5 days a week, which was then reduced to 3 days a week - and now will be only once a week. This is the BBC - who only a few years ago was proud to announce the BBC National Short Story Award, and on their website say:
The BBC National Short Story Award, managed in partnership with Booktrust, continues to serve as a reminder of the power of the short story and to celebrate a literary form that is proving ever more versatile in the twenty first century, enjoyed not just on the page, on air and increasingly on every sort of screen, but also in flash fiction events, short story festivals and slams. The short story has moved beyond the revival of recent years and is now experiencing a golden age.
BBC Radio 4 is the world's leading broadcaster of short stories and a staunch and long-time supporter of the form. Short stories are broadcast every week, attracting over a million listeners.
BBC- you are a "staunch and long-time supporter", don't let us down now!
The Afternoon Reading has for many many years been a showcase not just for well-known writers but for new voices - on a personal note, it was my first "big break", the first time I felt I was taken seriously as a writer, coupled with the joy of hearing my story, The White Road, (later the title story of my first book) brought so wonderfully to life. Not only that, the payment the writer receives is no paltry sum and has formed a significant part of my writerly earnings in the years since.
There are many, many writers, listeners and readers who are very concerned about this development. Writer Susie McGuire and Ian, organiser of the UK's National Short Story Week, have formulated the following:
The new Controller of Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams, will be a guest on FEEDBACK on BBC Radio 4 next week. How very timely.
Would you add your name to a letter/question to ask her?
Would you pass on this email to other writers who care about the health of the short story…?
The more of us, & the better known the writers who sign it, the more likely it is to have some effect.
If so, please find below a short, polite question, proposed by Ian of http://www.nationalshortstoryweek.org.uk
Reminder: info on her decision to cut the short story’s presence on Radio 4 outlined here http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2011/07_july/10/radio4.shtml
If you’d like to add your signature, please email YES to
ian AT shortstoryweek DOT org DOT uk
& cc to me: info AT susiemaguire DOT co DOT uk
NB – It would be really helpful if you could reply within 24 hours so that the question can be lodged as soon as possible. This is by no means the *only* action interested parties can take, but it’s a start, and I hope you might add your weight to it with this (and further suggestions are welcomed)
We were surprised and disappointed to learn of the decision to reduce the short story output on Radio 4 to once a week from next spring. Radio 4 has been a great champion of the short story for many years. It is one of very few places in the UK where both new and established writers can have their short stories broadcast to a large audience, and where radio listeners can enjoy readings of the short story form. This move comes at a time when interest in the short story is growing, but paid opportunities for short story writers are still scarce. Could Gwyneth Williams please explain:
1) what has led her to make this decision?
2) whether the short stories on Radio 4 extra will be new commissions or repeats of existing recordings?
3) how this decision fits with the BBC’s sponsorship of the National Short Story Award (and indeed if this will continue?)If you are moved to do so, please take action, following the instructions outlined above. Signatories so far include:
Clare WigfallSara MaitlandPhilip PullmanNicholas RoyleVivian FrenchJames RobertsonMichael HolroydJane RusbridgeDr Charles SmithSarah HallSarah HilaryVanessa GebbieJill DawsonLucinda ByattMaggie GeeSarah Sheridan (Soc of A, Scotland)Tania Hershman (Ed, The Short Review)Helena Nelson (publisher, Happenstance)Morag JossLola PerrinJules HorneSuzanne BellengerRichard Beard (Nat Academy of Writing)Ali BaconNicky Parker, (Publisher, Amnesty)Dan Powell Ian CundellKathleen LangleyJohn Courtney-GrimwoodWendy Ann GreenhalghAlison WellsJames WallK E BergdollLinda CracknellJonathan Pinnock (also see his FB links)Sarah SalwayAlison MacLeodLouis WintersEmily DubberlyKaren WhitesonGriff GriffithsSara SchofieldIan MacphersonStella Burchill(and counting...)Please join us!
ADDENDUM: There is now an online petition here - please sign!