Director of BBC Scotland praises leading screenwriting programme

22 March 2017

Director of BBC Scotland praises leading screenwriting programme

Principal Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, Mariana Belo, Kathleen Isaac, Director of BBC Scotland Donalda MacKinnon.

“I’ve always believed that television is about storytelling.” These are the words of the Director of BBC Scotland on the country’s leading television screenwriting programme.

Donalda MacKinnon praised Glasgow Caledonian University’s industry-renowned MA TV Fiction Writing programme at a special event celebrating its eighth anniversary.

She said: “Writing is very much the lifeblood of television and to encourage students to come to Glasgow and get involved with the course has been super. To see where some of these graduates have ended up – writing for River City, Holby City and many other dramas – is fantastic.

“Scotland is a country full of storytellers, it’s part of our heritage and our tradition, so it’s great that one of the first courses of its kind actually happened here in Glasgow in Scotland.”

The event, hosted at BBC Scotland, was attended by students, alumni and friends of the MA TV Fiction Writing programme. Mariana Belo was presented with the award for Best Student and Kathleen Isaac received Best Script, while MA TV Fiction Writing graduate Gemma Copping, now a story assistant on Holby City, shared her experiences of studying at GCU.

“Courses like this give you a realistic view of what the industry’s going to be like,” Gemma said. “They give you a good understanding of the kind of jobs that will be available to you. It gives you the key information you need for a good head start.”

Notable attendees of the event included the cast of Still Game, David Hayman, Juliet Cadzow and Gary Lewis, a GCU alumnus.

“It’s very interesting for me to meet the new generation of writers that study in a place where I once studied,” said Gary, star of Gangs of New York, Billy Elliot and Neds. “Nothing like this existed then, and talking to some of the students, it’s good to hear what they’ve done before, how they’re getting on in the course and what they hope to do.”

GCU’s MA TV Fiction Writing programme is the only dedicated full-time postgraduate course of its kind in the UK. Developed in association with Shed Media, it gives aspiring drama writers the skills to embark upon a successful career in television fiction writing. Graduates have worked for some of the country’s biggest shows including EastEnders, Casualty, Hollyoaks and Doctors.

The programme has also attracted scholarship funding of more than £600,000 from supporters including Warner Bros., BBC Scotland, Eileen Gallagher and Ann McManus, MG Alba and ScreenHI. It was awarded the Creative Skillset Tick in April 2013, demonstrating that the course prepares students for a career in the creative industry.

GCU Lecturer, novelist and playwright Dr Chris Dolan, who has written for High Road, Machair, River City and Taggart, discussed the success of the programme.

“The course has evolved over the last eight years,” he said. “Each year we’ve honed it and changed it and reacted to what’s happening in television. I think we’ve got to the point where we’re so attuned to what’s going on now that our students can move seamlessly from the masters into writing for TV.”

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