The Love You Lost: the First BBC Audio Drama Awards

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If you think that love isn’t found on the radio,
Well, tune right in: you may find the love you lost…

The anecdote goes like this: Steven Spielberg calls Tom Stoppard to ask him to work on a movie. Stoppard says no. He is busy writing something for the BBC. Spielberg asks Stoppard if he really intends to turn down a major film to do a piece of TV. “No, not television,” replies Stoppard. “Radio.”

Radio drama. Say this to an American and one is bound to conjure up images of old serials. The Shadow. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. X Minus One. Gunsmoke. Most obvious in the vulgar phrase “Old Time Radio,” American radio drama is a tool for national nostalgia. “Oh, this takes me back,” blah blah blah. Prairie Home Companion relies, in fact, upon just this nostalgia for its success. While Seattle itself still has a very strong presence through Jim French’s Imagination Theater, Sandbox Radio Theater Live and Feliks Banel’s various efforts, for the most part American radio drama resides in archives, gathering dust, waiting for someone in need of a nostalgia soma coma to brush it off, fall into a swoon, then politely replace it in the vault.

By contrast, other nations remain dead serious about their radio. Germany, Japan, most African nations, Ireland and, of course, the United Kingdom. British radio drama has always been strong and even in the economic down times, British universities still consider radio drama essential for any emerging dramatic writer. British and Irish playwrights consider it crucial to their oeuvre. Caryl Churchill, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Martin McDonagh—all got their start in radio. Samuel Beckett’s love for radio was so strong that he included in his will the proviso that his radio plays were never to be adapted for any other medium, stage, film or otherwise.

On January 10th, the shortlist for the first ever BBC Audio Drama Awards was announced. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on Sunday 29 January 2012 in the Radio Theatre at BBC Broadcasting House in central London and presented by actor David Tennant. In conjunction with the Society of Authors and The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the Imison and Tinniswood Awards will also be announced and presented by playwright and Guild President, David Edgar.

The awards, according to BBC, “aim to celebrate and recognise the cultural importance of audio drama, on air and online, and to give recognition to the actors, writers, producers, sound designers, and others who work in the genre.” Lest you think this is only an attempt for the BBC to pat themselves on the back, the awards are open to any online program as long as it be in English and available in the UK—even Sandbox Radio Theater would be eligible, via its podcast. In fact there is a whole category for Internet-only productions.

To celebrate and recognize the cultural importance of audio drama is certainly a noble goal. But why begin an awards ceremony now when the BBC itself, the largest producer of radio drama in the world, has recently axed its World Service radio productions and dropped a very heavy blade on Radio 4 as well?

Perhaps precisely because of those actions: it is an attempt to preserve radio drama against any further such barbarities. Also, it serves the purpose of all awards ceremonies, which is evangelism. Awards cermonies proselytize for the medium of their origin. While writers like David Edgar rightly point out that the current shortlist for the awards hints at the deeper problem of increased homogeneity in programming, I can easily note that at least the UK have enough programming to worry about such things, while here in the States we should be so lucky. A perceptive reader will note the total absence of anything on the shortlist from outside of the UK, certainly anything from the US. In America, radio drama is most certainly the love we’ve lost but at least we can tune right in on the radio and see how the rest of the world keeps it alive.

The BBC Audio Drama Awards shortlist for each category is:

Best Audio Drama
(Judges: Lord Hall, Razia Iqbal, Sarah Sands)

  • A Shoebox Of Snow by Julie Mayhew
    Producer: Justine Potter, Red Production Company for Radio 4
  • Lost Property – The Year My Mother Went Missing by Katie Hims
    Producer: Jessica Dromgoole, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4
  • The First Domino by Jonathan Cash
    Producer: Frank Stirling, Unique Broadcasting Company for Radio 3

Best Actor in an Audio Drama:
(Judges: Ian Brown, Lisa Campbell, Dame Harriet Walter CBE)

  • Damian Lewis, Giovanni’s Room dramatised by Neil Bartlett
    Producer: Turan Ali, Bona Broadcasting for Radio 3
  • David Tennant, Kafka: The Musical by Murray Gold
    Producer: Jeremy Mortimer, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 3
  • Rory Kinnear, Flare Path by Terence Rattigan
    Producer: Jeremy Herrin, Catherine Bailey Productions Ltd for Radio 3
  • *Special Commendation* Tom Riley, Henry’s Demons by Patrick and Henry Cockburn
    Producer: Karen Rose, Sweet Talk Productions for Radio 4

Best Actress in an Audio Drama:
(Judges: Michael Billington, Kate Harwood, Robin Lustig)

  • Candis Nergaard, Atching Tan by Dan Allum
    Producer: Charlotte Riches, BBC Audio Drama North for Radio 4
  • June Whitfield, A Montrous Vitality by Andy Merriman
    Producer: David Hunter, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4
  • Rosie Cavaliero, Lost Property: A Telegram From The Queen by Katie Hims
    Producer: Jessica Dromgoole, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Best Supporting Actor/Actress in an Audio Drama:
(Judges: Daniel Evans, Gillian Reynolds, Imogen Stubbs)

  • Andrew Scott, Referee by Nick Perry
    Producer: Sasha Yevtushenko, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4
  • Carl Prekopp, The History of Titus Groan dramatised by Brian Sibley
    Producers: David Hunter, Gemma Jenkins and Jeremy Mortimer, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4
  • Rupert Penry-Jones, Flare Path by Terence Rattigan
    Producer: Jeremy Herrin, Catherine Bailey Productions Ltd for Radio 3

Best Scripted Comedy Drama:c (Judges: Andrew Davies, Christopher William Hill, Miranda Sawyer)

  • Cabin Pressure by John Finnemore
    Producer: David Tyler, Pozzitive for Radio 4
  • Ed Reardon’s Week by Christopher Douglas and Andrew Nickolds
    Producer: Dawn Ellis, BBC Radio Comedy for Radio 4
  • Floating by Hugh Hughes
    Producer: James Robinson, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Best Online Only Audio Drama:
(Judges: Nicolas Kent, Julie Myerson, Jane Thynne)

  • Rock by Tim Fountain
    Producer: Iain Mackness, Made in Manchester for The Independent Online
  • Wild Hackney
    Producer: Francesca Panetta and Russell Finch for Hackney Podcast

Best Adaptation:
(Judges: Viv Gardner, Maxine Peak, Fiammetta Rocco)

  • Alone In Berlin dramatised by Shelagh Stephenson
    Producer: Eoin O’Callaghan, BBC Northern Ireland for Radio 4
  • Five Days In May by Matthew Solon
    Producer: John Dryden, Goldhawk Productions for Radio 4
  • The History of Titus Groan dramatised by Brian Sibley
    Producers: David Hunter, Gemma Jenkins and Jeremy Mortimer, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Best Use of Sound in an Audio Drama:
(Judges: Kevin Brew, John Hardy, Elisabeth Mahoney)

  • Bad Memories by Julian Simpson
    Producer: Karen Rose, Sweet Talk Productions for Radio 4
  • Can You Hear Me? by Margaret Wilkinson
    Producer: Nadia Molinari, BBC Audio Drama North for Radio 4
  • The History of Titus Groan dramatised by Brian Sibley
    Producers: David Hunter, Gemma Jenkins and Jeremy Mortimer, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Innovation Award:
(Judges: Susannah Clapp, Rupert Goold, Stephen Wright)

  • Blue Eyed Boy by Helen Cross
    Producer: Mary Ward-Lowery, BBC Bristol for Radio 4
  • The Unfortunates adapted by Graham White
    Producer: Mary Peate, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 3
  • Wild Hackney
    Producer: Francesca Panetta for Hackney Podcast

The shortlist for the Imison Award for Best Radio Drama Script broadcast in 2010 by a new writer is:

  • Atching Tan by Dan Allum
  • The Pursuit by Matt Hartley
  • The Barber and the Ark by Marcia Layne
  • Amazing Grace by Michelle Lipton

(Society of Author’s Broadcasting Committee: Alison Joseph, Mike Bartlett, Lucy Caldwell, Nazrin Choudhury, Christopher William Hill, Karen Liebreich, Sue Limb, Karl Sabbagh, Colin Teevan and John Taylor)

The Tinniswood Award shortlist for Best Radio Drama Script broadcast in 2010 is:

  • The Climb by Andrea Earl
  • Sarah and Ken by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
  • Setting a Glass by Nick Warburton
  • Gerontius by Stephen Wyatt

(Judges: Robert Bathurst, Paul Donovan, Nell Leyshon)

Filed under Radio

Omar Willey was born at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Seattle and grew up near Lucky Market on Beacon Avenue. He believes Seattle is the greatest city on Earth and came to this conclusion by travelling much of the Earth. He is a junior member of Lesser Seattle and, as an oboist, does not blow his own trumpet. Contact him at omar [at] seattlestar [dot] net