23 aprile 2011

The show must go off: addio BBC World Service Drama

Una petizione online e l'immancabile pagina su Facebook non sono bastati a salvare la produzione radiodrammaturgica promossa da oltre 75 anni dal World Service della BBC. La multimilionaria ondata di tagli che ha falcidiato le risorse del servizio radiofonico per l'estero più famoso del mondo ha chiuso i rubinetti sul contratto che il World Service aveva stipulato con la sezione Audio&Music della BBC per la produzione di 14 radiodrammi all'anno trasmessi nell'ambito del World Service Drama La sezione è stata chiusa il 31 marzo 2011, dopo 79 anni di attività. Da 22 anni veniva bandito, in collaborazione con il British Council, il concorso biennale International Radio Playwriting Competition, un premio per gli scrittori di madrelingua inglese e uno per coloro che scrivono in inglese come lingua acquisita (anche lui ha una pagina Facebook. L'edizione del 2011 si è già conclusa e i radiodrammi premiati dovrebbero essere trasmessi in autunno. Per fortuna sembra che almeno questa competizone non verrà dismessa e continuerà a stimolare la creatività di nuovi talenti internazionali.
Nella sua lunga carriera di "impresario" virtuale il World Service Drama ha ospitato le migliori penne e le migliori voci della drammaturgia inglese ed è riuscito a essere molto popolare tra gli ascoltatori di tutto il mondo producendo persino una soap radiofonica ambientata in una casa di cura londinese, Westway, dal 1997 al 2005. Quello che segue è un ricordo dell'ultima executive producer del programma, Marion Nancarrow. Come abbiamo ormai compreso definitivamente e con buona pace del principio evangelico sulla insufficienza del solo pane, con la cultura non si mangia. Immagino che nella visione di chi elegge chi ci governa il futuro sarà popolato da una nuova tipologia umana l'homo insipiens capace solo di lavorare (precarariamente), consumare e mangiare Sarà un dramma mondiale. Ma vero.

From midnight last night, after 79 years of broadcasting on the network, World Service's regular drama slot came to an end and the team was disbanded.
In its heydey, Drama transmitted 2.5 hours a week. Voices heard across those years included Donald Wolfit, John Gielgud, Rex Harrison, Peggy Ashcroft, Paul Scofield, Trevor Howard, Ian Holm, Judi Dench, Tom Conti, Penelope Wilton, John Kani, Winston Ntshona, Archie Panjabi, Juliet Stevenson, Keeley Hawes, Toby Stephens, Sophie Okonedo, David Suchet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bill Nighy, Meera Syal, Ed Asner and Calista Flockhart. Kenneth Branagh, Daniel Day Lewis and Ewan McGregor did their first radio for the World Service! Plays by Stoppard, Soyinka, Tremain, Beckett, Bennett, Rushdie, Naipaul, Atta Aidoo, Dove, Oda, Agboluaje, Baldwin and Shakespeare have been heard, winning countless Sonys. The hugely popular - and only global - soap, Westway, attracted a diversity of writing and acting talent and won the CRE Award for Best Soap in 2000 (beating Coronation Street!). The entire 7 years of broadcast was repeated on Radio 7.
Recent judges for the international playwriting competition, now in its 22nd year, included Doris Lessing, Lennie James and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Recent collaborations have been with Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Court, King’s College, The Slade School of Fine Art and, of course, the British Council.
Directors Gordon House and David Hitchinson became household names and the department has always shared its expertise with new writers, directors and actors. Westway became a training ground for writers and producers moving on to Eastenders, Casualty and beyond and the department gave advice, support and training for drama projects set up by the WS Trust, including Rruga Me Pisha in Albania, Story Story in Nigeria and Thabyegone Ywa in Burma, as well as to the Asian network soap, Silver Street. We ran writing and acting workshops in Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, across South Africa, Malawi and the Middle East. We co-founded "Worldplay", an annual season of international collaborations with English-speaking Radio Drama Producers across the world. With the British Council and African Productions, the first ever 2nd language radio writing residency was set up in London. Writers who attended went on to win the Caine Prize, to be shortlisted for the Asian Booker and to have plays premiered off Broadway and at the Royal Court.
And World Drama became the place for new voices – from the Sony Gold winner Michael Philip Edwards’ one man show Runt, about being Jamaican in America, to plays by 10 year olds from Ghana, Kosovo, Singapore and Bangladesh in Generation Next; from 12 Royal Court Young Writers in 12 countries writing online about water in We Are Water, to young people living with disabilities in Uganda in Beautiful Only at Night. Our last 2 regular broadcasts were a play inspired by the work of a theatre company in Malawi who use drama to change attitudes to HIV/AIDS and a Russian playwright's first commission about climate change, written in the Artic! In this way, the network gave a platform and an opportunity to celebrate the diversity, imagination and universality of every country of which its audience was comprised.
Of course, we continue to run the BBC/British Council International Playwriting Competition and that is a wonderful and genuine way to continue to bring new voices to the network. And some ad hoc drama will hopefully continue.
I'm incredibly proud of what we've been able to achieve - and lament what our audience and the upcoming generation of talent will lose - but I'm also acutely aware that none of this would have happened without you - our fantastic contributors and supporters, who gave so much to ensure that only the best work was heard on air. And that really is the point of this long message: I can't thank you enough. I hope we will find other ways to bring those stories to the world.

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