Writing for BBC Radio 4: Afternoon Drama
Photo Credit: Maria Spadafora
Kamal Kaan is a writer and performer. He read Architecture at Cambridge University and awarded a scholarship to undertake an MA in TV Fiction Writing at Glasgow Caledonian University. His work for theatre has won Gold and Silver at World Stage Design in 2013 and 2017. He is an Associate Artist with Freedom Studios and currently developing work with The Bush Theatre and The West Yorkshire Playhouse and part of Writersroom Drama Room 2017.
It’s that thing of ‘what you seek is seeking you’. I’m glad the writing found me; I’d always scribbled stuff, but never imagined being a writer for radio drama. My first introduction to writing for radio was through winning The Verb New Voices 3 for an 8-minute commission on The Verb on BBC Radio 3. A competition curated by New Writing North/ The Arts Council/ BBC Radio/ Writing Squad and The Arvon Foundation. The piece was produced by Charlotte Riches – and that was the birth of a beautiful working relationship. We’d connected over our mutual love for afternoon tea – amongst other things. After that, I went on to write a 1x 30 episode for The Headline Ballad series on Radio 4 last year. However, writing an Afternoon Drama was my first (slightly daunting) 45 min slot. Charlotte invited me to pitch some ideas and together we came up with (drum roll)…Breaking Up With Bradford. We pitched that to the commissioner and then…
Hooray! It had got commissioned! Now the adventure began. I had about 9 months to write the script – which sounds like a long time, but I find that the creative process is less about just simply writing, but allowing the time for ideas to evolve and ferment organically. I happily spent hours listening to lots of radio drama and reading things completely unrelated to help nourish the brain and soul. So when it came to actually writing, I was armed with a rich palette of colours to paint with. Next step –start painting: beat sheet followed by a detailed scene by scene. My background in Architecture has imbued the importance of structure; working out the mechanics before building the bricks of dialogue. I then had just over 4 weeks to do 5 drafts of the script. I worked with both Charlotte and Caitlin Crawford on notes. It felt like an effortless process because they were very much attuned with my idea and they made it a highly enjoyable experience – we kept saying, we’re having way too much fun as it doesn’t feel like work!
The next exciting episode was casting the actors. I was given the opportunity to be part of the casting process and selecting the musical soundtrack for the piece. This gave it a real sense of authorship, (I even managed to write myself in as a character for a cheeky little scene). Charlotte then had the great idea of recording on location as the city itself played an integral role in the story. Having grown up and currently living in Bradford, it was nice to pay homage to such a historical city. As the piece was recorded on location, it felt like screen-writing; working out a spatial continuity of geographies from scene to scene. Whilst simultaneously playing with the juxtaposition of fictional characters within non-fictional locations. Recording on location came with the challenge of contending with the great British weather (and me being the optimist wrote a pivotal scene where the characters are outside in the glorious sun with the sunlight hitting against the famous sandstone buildings), of course that never happened on the day, despite recording in June, it was grey and blustery! Luckily, I was on hand to make amendments to the script.
Reflection of Process
The project has been a real labour of love motivated by my own experiences of Bradford. As a writer, I’m inspired by writing fresh representations of minorities to re-author lazy stereotypes and create multi-layered perspectives. My radio play is a total mash up of genres: drama with comedy framed by poetry. I like that. It’s a reflection of the multifaceted strands that make me. My writing strives to hold up a mirror to reflect how a single experience can diffract over a wide spectrum of society to remind us that we are all of the same difference, in a world of increasing division, stories can help us seek the change we want to see.
Breaking Up with Bradford will broadcast on 17 August 2017 at 14:15 on BBC Radio 4. It will then be available on BBC-iplayer until 17 September 2017.