MA Creative Writing alumna selected for climate change radio drama commission

My first introduction into writing radio drama was in my second year of studying BA English and Creative Writing at BCU, when I chose to study the Radio Writing module taught by Helen Cross.

Holly Louise Psaliou

This module provided me with the groundwork on how to approach this form of writing, and gave me the confidence to apply for Fierce Green Production's audio drama opportunity – IGNITE Climate Shorts – focusing on the impact of climate change told by writers within the 16-25 age demographic. An opportunity that Helen herself alerted Creative Writing students to.

To enter, I had to submit a pitch outlining my proposed drama. To be selected in August 2020, especially during such a challenging year, felt like an added bonus when many sectors within the creative industries had to go on hiatus; including my own experience of the two short films I was meant to be a part of being postponed. I was one of only six writers selected for commission out of around two hundred applicants.

My radio play “The Germinates” depicts an illegal guerrilla gardening group working to combat the mayor’s gentrification of the Southside.

Alongside developing the pitch into a 10-minute radio play, Ignite Climate Shorts included a writer’s development programme where I was invited to speak, learn and discuss with a number of creatives, writers, researchers and scientists based in the UK, USA and France. The speakers were from a multitude of different disciplines and spoke about their specific work, including writing science poetry, writing science-based theatre, research on gentrification and guerrilla gardening, writing dramas for BBC Sounds/Radio 4, acting and activism, writing science-based radio and writing science-based novels. The workshops truly captured the spectrum of wider chemistry-inspired writing that is being produced.

The guidance and inspiration I received from Fierce Green Productions did not stop there. I was also paired with a writer from the industry to act as my dramaturg – Atiha Sen Gupta. Together we bounced around ideas, expanding on the pitch I had originally put forward. Atiha was a fantastic help – offering nurturing and supportive advice in how to flesh out my story and characters. I remember one very early meeting where I was struggling with my character Alex. In very early drafts, Alex only really came in during the final scene as a member of the public who had heard The Germinates’ speech via the radio phone-in and wanted to be a part of the group. It was Atiha who put forward having Alex as an “ex-friend” of the group, and from there, we were able to expand her character and introduce a more personal and deeper conflict with her being the Mayor’s daughter. Atiha and I had numerous virtual meetings where she would offer improvements and advise on the next draft. Once the script was at the final draft stage, it was sent to Lucy Evans (founder of Fierce Green Productions, producer, co-director) and Kate McAll (producer, co-director – founder of Rhiannon Media Productions) for any further and final edits before going into production.

All six radio dramas are supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry and performed by students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The audio dramas were released on Earth Day (22nd April 2021) and we peaked at #63 in fiction podcasts across the UK and #12 in all fiction podcasts in Ireland.

I was honoured to be a part of IGNITE. Everyone involved was incredibly supportive, influential and passionate. I hope to work with any member of the crew/cast in the future.

My advice to BCU students is to take every opportunity. Tutors within the English Department are excellent and often share opportunities with students within the university itself, or ones they have come across externally. IGNITE is the second successful opportunity shared with me by a member of staff – the first being a short story of mine that went on to be published in the Young Writers’ Anthology 2017.

Listen to ‘The Germinates’ (Also available to listen to on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and many more podcast platforms)

Read Holly’s writer biography

Read about the science behind Holly’s radio drama

Read and download the script

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