Tuesday, October 31, 2006

From Fact to Fiction

My first radio drama was on air last Saturday. Not one of the Fever Tree dramas, but United! by Mark Lawson (Front Row, Newsnight Review etc). This is because it was part of the From Fact to Fiction series, dramas turned around in one week. The idea is that we respond to the week's big story, which involves a certain amount of guess work (ie sitting down on Monday and deciding what story will still have legs by the the following Saturday. Struan Rodger was the star, playing the Gaffer at a fictional Premiership team.

I have my reservations about the series: whether it really delivers quality drama to Radio 4 given the time restriction. However, that said, I'm quite happy with what we ended up with. An entertaining piece with a varied soundscape. Although we were in a studio in Bush House we used a location mic and used the toilets and corridors. I think this made a real difference to the sound (particularly the toilets). The recording was knocked off in 3 hours (for a 15 minute piece) but the recording took 4 and a half hours because there were a lot of hard cuts that needed careful timing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Notes from 1st production (12th - 14th Oct 2006)

I've just recovered from my first studio days: 3 back-to-back productions of dramas adapted from some Ruth Rendell short stories. It all went pretty well, considering it was my first time working with "proper" actors (as opposed to the unscripted stuff I did for Resonance FM). Apart from nearly falling asleep with fatigue on the 3rd day (Saturday) it was a lot of fun. Really strong casts on all 3 days, lovely people and a good atmosphere all round.

Of course, when you're knocking out 30 minutes of drama per day there's no time to experiment: as soon as one scene sounds good you crack straight on to the next one. I really wanted to make sure that these didn't sound like "traditional" radio drama, ie the sort of static, stagey stuff that people use as the reason they don't like listening to drama on Radio 4. And it's very difficult. I don't yet know if I succeeded, but the quality of the actors gives me a head start. Technically I tried out a few things in consultation with the studio manager beforehand. We gave Jenni (the spot person) an OB (outside broadcast) mic and asked her to follow the actors as they moved through the scene. This seemed to give a slightly different acoustic but I'll only really find out after the edit.

But hey, I'm just happy we finished on time and recorded all the scenes. Next time I'd still like to experiment a bit more, though. What I want to do is get hold of a couple of actor, give them clip mics, let them loose in a city centre location and improvise a couple of scenes with them. I reckon it will work and, if so, I want to offer Radio 4 (or 3) a full-length version for broadcast.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The BBC is probably unlike any other media organisation, and, at the risk of sounding like a company man, it is possible to do things that simply wouldn't be possible anywhere else.

Take Audio Drama, for example. Setting up an Audio Drama Website, where practitioners and enthusiasts can post their own material, with the chance to have it broadcast, and promoting professional content to a new audience. I can't imagine any other place where that could be done, but it's something I'm trying to get off the ground.

I'm hoping this blog will be a place for discussing people's ideas about the form, as a precursor to a community that can grow via this, yet to exist, site.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The future of audio drama...

Katya & Ros
Katya & Ros,
originally uploaded by Conor Lennon.

I've been brainwashing my daughter into loving audio drama by bringing here into the studio. I think she's about 6 months old in this photo, being taught the ropes by Ros Mason, who is now a fine student studying fine art.

Beyond Radio

Hi, my name's Conor Lennon and I'm currently working as a development producer in the Radio Drama department at the BBC. For those of you who don't know, the BBC has the biggest radio drama industry in the world, making many hundreds of hours a year (I should check how many. I'll get back to you).

I'm convinced, and have been for years, that radio, or, rather, audio drama (as it should now be known) is a massively under-rated form with a rich (yet currently poorly documented) medium.

What's more, it's a form that should (and I stress the should) be invigorated by Web 2.0 and given a new lease of life. I'm planning to put down my thoughts about the future of audio drama, current BBC offerings and anything else on the subject that comes to mind. I'm also hoping to find like-minded people. We'll see...