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Jonathan Meth Interview

Posted on 11 March 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Jonathan Meth, director of Writernet, the support network for playwrights

Tell us all about Writernet- how and why it started

Writernet started life as the New Playwrights Trust, which was founded by Susan Croft back in 1985 out of the recognition that there was no consistent support network for new playwrights. The trust ran a newsletter, script reading service and conducted research into issues that affected new writers, as well as hosting seminars, workshops and conferences. The Trust ran projects to identify gaps in provision, such as mentoring schemes for women writers and disabled writers, and published guides and other texts, detailing and exploring the industry. You can find these on the website (many of which you can download for free). In 1999 we evolved into writernet. Whilst keeping many of the old services, including the script reading service and the bulletin, writernet moved more and more into using the internet as the means to get information, advice and guidance to writers. Through a number of projects, including the ArtsConnect project funded by the New Opportunities Fund, and Creative Renewal, writernet has been able to fully develop this online provision. Although we use it as the prime way to get the information out there, we’re not just a website. The ‘net’ in writernet doesn’t just refer to the internet, but to networks and a safety net as writers need a range of support mechanisms at different points in their careers. Many of our projects are offline, focusing on the professional development of playwrights, creating opportunities for career development, filling gaps in provision and establishing networks. We don’t do script development any more though, like many other writers organizations, unless it's in the context of a specific project (like disPlay4, for example, our attachment programme for disabled writers) or in terms of our script reading service.

What are Writernet’s aims?

Writernet’s mission is to give writers the tools they need to build better careers, and to redefine the culture in which they work. We seek to provide advice, guidance and information to writers through all performance media at any stage in their career. We also work as an advocacy organization, and create partnerships and networks, which we can then use to strengthen the position of performance writers in the sector. Our aim is to empower writers to make better decisions about their careers, point them towards opportunities to develop their skills or craft or for employment, and to make the marketplace a better place for them to work in.

Can writers at all stages of their careers get involved with Writernet- or just professionals?

Writernet exists to support writers at any stage in their career. You can contact us, at the office: info@writernet.org.uk or 020 7609 7474 or go to the site: http://www.writernet.org.uk

You’ve got an impressive list of partnership organizations- tell us a bit about them and how it works

The nature of these partnerships vary. Working in partnership with another organization enables us to access resources, knowledge or skills into the organization that we wouldn’t have alone, which in turn enables us to do work we wouldn’t be able to do in the same way.

Forming partnerships is also a way of sharing our own practice and knowledge with other organizations, so through our partnerships we are able to strengthen the position of playwrights in different sectors and network on their behalf.

In the past our partners have included London Bubble, National Theatre, Black Theatre Co-op, Soho Theatre, New Writing North and Pursued by a Bear.

If you take a look at our website, you’ll see that we have a number of different partnerships (I won’t go into too much detail because that’s on the site). Some of these are quite obvious: our partnership with the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain for example, it makes sense that we work closely with them on behalf of writers; and our partnership with the other members of the Literature Training Group (a group of eight organisations all committed to the training and development of writers), means that we can share development practice, and bid for projects around writer development as part of a bigger team.

Our partnership with Graeae Theatre Company has enabled us to fill the gaps in provision for disabled playwrights, but also to bring that practice to other organizations (like Soho Theatre and Ty Newydd). The partnership with the British Council has enabled us to initiate The Fence project which will create a network of playwrights and people who work with them across Europe (and in so doing, routes for playwrights to work or sell their work abroad).

We’re also members of much bigger partnerships – consortia -, like Creative Renewal, Creative People and Arts Connect. These projects involve many different organizations across the country, and are not writing specific. Being involved in these allows us to put the needs of writers into wider contexts, and find routes for their employment across the traditional sectors, as well as allowing us to access pots of money not otherwise available to us. Creative Renewal involves over 40 different partners, all working on projects to break down barriers to inclusion in the arts.

Whilst each partner is working separately on their projects (for us, for example, Lemonia was part of our Creative Renewal work), we also work together to share our practice and develop new ways of working, which are not artform specific, as a group.

CreativePeople is a national network of organizations across the country and across artforms which provide information, advice and guidance on professional development, which was initiated by the Arts Council. Creative People is developing ways to support the career development of artists. There are many organizations involved, many of who are in smaller consortiums working together. Literaturetraining came out of this project.

Finally, Arts Connect, is another cross artform project (you’ll see the icon on our site). We are partnered with organizations involved in literature, community music, dance and visual arts. As part of this project we were given money to put learning and archive materials up on to the website (you’ll see this is our knowledge base). The Arts Connect search engine that we’ve developed as part of this, now lets you search for information not only on our site, but on all our partners sites too. That’s a fantastic resource for playwrights because it gives you information on a particular area not just from a playwriting perspective, but maybe from a different art form. We are now involving more partners in this too so the search will widen!

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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