Friday, 24 March 2017


I don't often talk about my work-in-progress. That way, I can avoid failure and rejection as a topic of conversation.

But I'm going to 'fess up to having been given the cold shoulder by the BBC in their latest Writers Room drama script submission window.

Now, my script might not have been perfect. It might not even have been any good. But it was a cracking idea, combining the 90th anniversary of the inauguration of the Menin Gate, Ypres (in July this year) with a bit of BBC history - their first overseas (and only their second-ever) outside broadcast.

Yes, on Sunday 27th July 1927 the Beeb broadcast the ceremony on telephone lines all the way from Ypres. Ambitious, to say the least, seeing as their only previous outside broadcast was of the boat race.

I'd done plenty of research into the Menin Gate as part of the work on my book, The Glorious Dead. I was intrigued by the broadcast, looked into its history and managed to find all the details on the ceremony.

Next came the decision to create as main character the dying mayor of Ypres, Rene Colaert, a man who'd been there when the Germans arrived in 1914 (was taken hostage when they left), saw his town's destruction and then supervision its rebuilding. He was too ill to attend the ceremony so... he listened to the broadcast (in English) with the window of his bedroom (through which he could - just - see the Menin Gate itself) open.

Notwithstanding all I've said about my shortcomings as a dramatist (manifold) I still can’t quite believe the BBC have passed up such a good idea. Believe me, they (ideas you know are pretty special) don't come often. So when they do...

If they'd written to say 'your script is pants but we want to develop the idea' I'd have been happy. As it is, and as is the suspicious way of people who spend their days in their own heads, I'm now convinced some bugger’s going to nick it, so… here are the first few pages. And if anyone else wants to do it, get in touch.

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