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BBC suspends Writers Academy for 2013

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A writing scheme that has been run by the BBC since 2005, with support from talent such as Tony Jordan and Barbara Machin, has been suspended by the Corporation.

The BBC said it had taken the decision to cancel this year’s Writers Academy – which was launched to give writers the skills to work across the Corporation’s long-running dramas – following the departure of its founder, John Yorke, last year.

In a message posted on the BBC Writersroom website, the Corporation said: “With John Yorke’s departure from the BBC, the drama Writers Academy won’t be running again in its current form. We are taking the time to reassess the best way for the academy to continue and so we won’t be running it in 2013.”

Since 2005, the scheme has offered up and coming writers the chance to gain the skills needed to pen television drama by attending masterclasses from the likes of Jordan, who created Hustle, and Machin, who penned Waking the Dead.

As part of the scheme, applicants also had placements working on productions such as EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City.

Graduates from the academy include Tom Bidwell, who is a writer on E4’s new comedy My Mad Fat Diary, and Matthew Barry, who is a regular writer on EastEnders and Holby City.

Kathleen McLynn, a development producer for BBC continuing drama series, explained that the Corporation was looking for someone to replace Yorke as head of the academy.

“We need to find someone to take his place. It was his course, his training, and he was very passionate about it. So we need to find someone who is going to instil that same passion in it,” she said.

She added that the scheme would return next year but not “necessarily in the same form”.

Responding to the news that the academy will not be running this year, Gail Renard, chair of the television committee at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, said “many wonderful writers” had come out of it.

She added: “Writers have to be persistent and never more than today. And that means experienced writers as well as new. Unfortunately there are too many barriers between writers and the people who actually produce shows today. Perhaps fewer barriers would produce even better creative results all around.”

This year the BBC is running a “shadow scheme”, to give writers the chance to gain experience of working for one of the Corporation’s long-running series.

McLynn said this scheme was separate from the academy and did not replace it.

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