One of the North-West’s favourite writers made a welcome Manchester Litfest appearance, when Paul Abbott was the guest of the BBC Writers’ Room at the Cornerhouse on Tuesday. He was introduced to huge applause by a montage of TV clips, ranging from Coronation Street and Children’sWard in the Eighties, through Cracker and Clocking Off, to State of Play and Shameless.
Interviewed by Kate Rowland, Abbott spoke of his initial motivation for writing: “as the second youngest child in a large family, a subordinate family member, it gave me the opportunity to express myself without being contradicted.” He then discussed his development as a scriptwriter, the opportunities that had come his way and the choices, good and bad, that he had made. Answering broader questions about his writing philosophy, he offered advice that many of his audience may well have read in books or heard in lectures on writing craft: write, and then write ten times more; only by writing will you write better; sleep on it; a good story is not enough, you have to make it uniquely yours; create a community people will pine for; take the audience somewhere they didn’t even know they wanted to go.
What made the session special – and believe me, it was – was his approach. Abbott is firmly grounded, despite his well-documented and traumatic early years. “My family were more impressed that I’d been on Parky than by my writing credits”, he joked during the open question and answer session. He is not one of those ‘literary circuit’ writers, who having achieved success offers nothing more to their audience than their own celebrity.
Despite his disenchantment with current TV drama, in particular that top names from the Eighties still dominate today, he remains positive. He is passionate about bringing on new voices and new writing talent. His advice was constructive and encouraging. “Write something you’re proud of,” he concluded.
His sound bites suggest he could have written for the Just Do It advertising industry. It’s just as well for fans of TV drama that he chose to turn his creative talents towards the small screen.
- Angi Holden