At school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was quite good at English, so I applied to study English at Cardiff. While there, I took some courses in Philosophy and found it the most inspiring subject I had ever come across. I switched to a joint honours course and spent all my spare time reading as much philosophy as I could, even going to lectures on modules I wasn’t studying because, the stuff was so mind blowing. Also in Uni, I took some courses in creative writing, which was the first time I’d ever written. My tutor encouraged me to keep writing after Uni, which I did. After graduating, I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, I applied to join MI5, applied to become a rock climbing instructor, TEFL teacher, anything – no-one wanted me. I didn’t get interviewed for anything for 6 months. So while I was on the dole, I wrote a short film, which won a competition. I also got a job on my local newspaper after 6 months of work experience. I became a journalist and studied for a post-graduate diploma whilst working on the local paper. It was terribly paid but I loved it. In the evenings and weekends I kept writing TV scripts and plays, and before long I had commissions for TV, and I had to go part-time as a journalist. I worked part-time as a journalist 2 days a week and wrote at home 3 days a week for 2 years. Before long I had too much TV writing work and had to quit journalism. It was a tough decision going full-time as I’m from the Valleys and my family were dead set against me leaving paid employment. They’d never met a freelancer before and they were frightened I would get into financial trouble. It was precarious and scary, but eventually I got to work on shows like Eastenders, Holby City, Casualty, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, The New Worst Witch. I also spent a lot of time pursuing playwriting, which compliments TV writing. I think theatre is the best way to start creative writing, and I encourage everyone to start there. You can’t make a living as a playwright, but it’s an excellent place to learn about dramatic writing. I’ve had plays on at the Hampstead Theatre, Trafalgar Studios, Traverse Theatre and National Theatre Wales. I’m currently under commission to the Royal National Theatre, National Theatre Wales and the Traverse Theatre.
I love my job but I very rarely meet someone with the same background as me. Theatre is full of privately-educated people. Oxford and Cambridge graduates have a stranglehold on the television industry. Theatre and TV needs people from all different backgrounds. There is a risk both art forms will cease to be relevant if it is only available to privileged people, who have got where they are because of their superior contacts through the old boys’ network.
I see Arts Emergency as fulfilling a vital role, for those of us not so fortunate to have been to a school with Oscar-winning alumni. I haven’t got an Oscar, but I do know how to write, and I know how to get ahead in my industry and I’d love to help someone who, otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance. Julian Fellowes went to speak at Bedales once, and Carey Mulligan was one of the pupils he spoke to. After the talk she went up to him and told him she wanted to be an actress. He got her a part in Pride and Prejudice, and now she’s in Hollywood and every single part of that story I hate.