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Actors lend their voices to short story campaign

Archived news: 1 November 2011

Stars Bill Nighy (Harry Potter), Brenda Blethyn (Atonement) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) lend their voices to the Society's tweetathon campaign in protest against the BBC Radio 4 short story cuts.

Click here to listen to the SoA tales

Over the last month tweeters have collaborated with top authors to write one short story a week via Twitter. Simon Brett (The Feathering Mysteries), Neil Gaiman (American Gods), Joanne Harris (Chocolat), Ian Rankin (the Rebus novels) and Sarah Waters (The Night Watch) have each contributed opening lines to the SoA tales (#soatales).

Every #WriterWednesday at 11am the Society has been tweeting the first line of a Twitter tale and then invited followers to write the next 4 tweets in the tale. Every hour the best lines were selected by guest curators and the resulting short stories are published on this website. Curators of the tweets have included Simon Brett, Alison Joseph, Susie Maguire, Colin Teevan, Jane Thynne and Ian Skillicorn, Director of National Short Story Week.

The tweetathon has been a tremendous success with the petition against BBC Radio 4 short story cuts now containing over 7,000 signatures. During the campaign the #soatale hashtag has trended on Twitter, attracting a large number of followers and generating thousands of tweets from participants all over the world. Last Wednesday saw the tweetathon grand finale with not one but two opening lines from Neil Gaiman in a daytime and an evening SoA tale.

Throughout the campaign the Society has received tweets and messages from followers about how they have used the tweetathon for themselves. From using the SoA tales as part of English lessons in school, to killing time in theatre intervals, and even playing storyboard games with their children by rearranging the sentences into new stories at home.

Podcasts of all the stories will be available on this website from 19 October - 13 November 2011 to help celebrate National Short Story Week (7 – 13 November). And as an additional pre-Halloween treat readers can also download the classic horror story, The Monkey’s Paw, by W. W. Jacobs.

About the campaign

This campaign was created by the Society in response to BBC R4’s short story cuts happening despite a renaissance of interest in the genre. Since 2009, and since the recent announcement that BBC R4’s World at One will be extended, short story slots on BBC radio have declined from 6 weekly broadcasts to 2 per week, with midweek slots being reduced from 3 to 1 on Friday afternoons.

Bill Nighy said: 'The idea that we need more news on Radio 4 is bewildering... I can’t move for news. What I don’t see all around me is the opportunity to listen to new writing, or indeed old writing, in short story form. I love to be told stories. The world loves to be told stories. Radio 4 is a time-honoured outlet for such stories. It’s a famous part of our nation’s tradition. It’s an opportunity for writers to express themselves in a very important form on a regular basis and it reaches a comparatively large audience. I personally treasure that and I can get my news from just about anywhere.'

Brenda Blethyn said: 'There should be more not less!'

Nicola Solomon, General Secretary of the Society said: 'The tweetathon is a contemporary celebration of the continuing power and appeal of the short story.'

Joanne Harris said: 'So many people rely on R4 to provide the cultural focus that so many other stations have wholly abandoned. Please don't let them down now. Keep the short stories coming!'

Sarah Waters said: 'Radio 4 has a wonderful tradition of championing the short story, entertaining and informing its audience with new and classic writing, nurturing our vital powers of imagination, creativity and empathy. It's a huge shame that the BBC's own imagination seems to be failing it now. I really hope that it will reconsider this barmy proposition.'

Ian Rankin said: 'I got my real start with short stories on R4; I would hate for future generations of writers not to have the same chance.'

About the authors

Simon Brett is the author of the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter and Fethering series of crime novels, as well as radio and television series such as No Commitments and After Henry. See: www.simonbrett.com Photo: Christian Doyle.

Neil Gaiman is an author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. Gaiman's writing has won numerous awards, including Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker, as well as the 2009 Newbery Medal and 2010 Carnegie Medal for Literature. See: www.neilgaiman.co.uk Photo: Kimberly Butler.

Joanne Harris is the author of The Evil Seed, Sleep, Pale Sister and Chocolat, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Since then, she has written eight more novels: Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Gentlemen and Players, The Lollipop Shoes and Runemarks. More recently, blueeyedboy, Jigs & Reels, a collection of short stories and, with cookery writer Fran Warde, two cookbooks: The French Kitchen and The French Market. See: www.joanne-harris.co.uk Photo: Takazumi.

Ian Rankin is author of the Rebus novels. He has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Rankin won America's celebrated Edgar Award for Resurrection Men. He has been shortlisted for Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark's Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. Rankin is the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh.

A contributor to BBC2's Newsnight Review, he also presented his own TV series, Ian Rankin's Evil Thoughts.  See: www.ianrankin.net

Sarah Waters has written five novels: Tipping the Velvet, which won the Betty Trask Award; Affinity, which won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; Fingersmith, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize, and won the South Bank Show Award for Literature and the CWA Historical Dagger; The Night Watch was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize; and The Little Stranger, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the South Bank Show Literature Award.

See: www.sarahwaters.com



As well as the cultural and creative impact of the cuts, the SoA is concerned that the new scheduling will restrict linked themes and creative programming, and that the BBC's proposed time slots will limit the audience. Over 7,000 listeners have signed the online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/noshortstorycuts/ which it is hoped will reverse the decision to reduce the short story output on Radio 4. BBC Director General Mark Thompson and Chair of the BBC Trust Lord Patten are reviewing the decision to make cuts to short story programmes and it would help if more signatories made their objections known.



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