joanna murray-smith: open letter to the abc
p>Dear Mark Scott,
I am writing on behalf of the board of PlayWriting Australia in response to your recent decision to cut the commissioning and programming of national radio drama.
Leaving aside the remarkable history of Australian radio drama, there seem to be manifold reasons why radio drama should be maintained as part of the dynamic present. As a training ground for young writers, Radio Drama has nurtured countless Australian writers who have gone on to forge acclaimed careers in writing for the stage. The accessibility of radio drama and the comparative economy of bringing a radio-play to fruition compared to staged drama has made it a brilliant platform on which our writers can test the waters of their own expression, theatricality and ability to engage audiences and from which young writers can glimpse a broader writing future.
At a time when most arts organisations are rightly recognising the need to reach audiences beyond our urban centres, radio is the most cost effective and brilliantly poised medium to explore and present the imaginative skills of our young playwrights and to capitalise on the accomplishments of our established dramatists.
The global reach of radio via the web overcomes the huge barriers to harnessing foreign interest in Australian work that foreign theatre companies cannot ever see its early and evolutionary stages. Radio carries across the planet, quite literally, the message that our practitioners are vital, provocative and connected to the wider world. For a comparatively small amount of money and with the ever increasing reach of the medium with digital platforms, radio drama creates a win-win situation for writers and audiences by promoting the beneficial role of the Australian imagination in
all kinds of communities across the country. These communities are often poorly served by the main-stages due to the financial difficulties of touring in such a geographically spread nation.
My own career as a playwright began when a perceptive and highly engaged radio professional, Rodney Wetherall, saw my first play at Melbourne University and invited me to write for the ABC. Many of my subsequent stage plays were adapted successfully for radio both on the ABC and BBC and as a result, reached a far broader audience. The confidence I gained from those early experiences furnished me with the will and the way to continue to make a life based on the imagination. I would never have written plays that made it to the Royal National Theatre in London, or to the West End or Broadway without ABC radio drama. I know this is true for other Australian playwrights who figure large on our stages.
In every great culture, playwrights are considered fundamental contributors to the cultural fabric of the nation. In the US and London, names such as Stoppard, Hare, Churchill, Kane, Pinter, Mamet, Miller, Simon, Sondheim (amongst many) are held up as iconic figures, whose artistry and creative authority establish them as essential – indeed magical – figures of their time and place. Australia has long neglected to treat its dramatists in a similar fashion and institutions such as the ABC have a responsibility to fix this for the benefit of future generations. A very easy way to help is to maintain, support, promote and most importantly take pride in ABC radio drama, which has been and could continue to be a place of ignition for Australia’s future writers.
Director, PlayWriting Australia
Show your support:
PlayWriting Australia is advocating for the continued support of Australian playwrights and drama in Radio National”s new Creative Audio programming, as a critical way to provide income and career pathways for local artists, invest in the nation”s cultural life and the widespread promotion and enjoyment of vibrant Australian stories.