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New Writers Nights: How to make a happening happen

Dan McGarry, second from right, was part of the team behind 60 Miles by Road or Rail

A study commissioned by an online casino in March last year revealed the top 10 topics for conversations in pubs, writes Dan McGarry.

For those of you that remember the iconic scene in Trainspotting;
“Whet are yous talken aboot?”
“Fetball – and ye?”
“Shopping”

You might be surprised to note that Football only scraped in at number 10 and Shopping was nowhere to be seen. TV was at 3, Something Completely Random (that’s actually what it says – how random is that?) at 2, and Old Memories topped the charts.

I don’t go in for the Old Memories too much, perhaps as a result of spending too much time in pubs, rendering my memories sometimes a little hard to access. However, I have been guilty of the Something Completely Random, ranging from: ‘What would have happened if Jack Daniels’ mother had called him Paul?’, through ‘If I had a time machine who would I go back and kill?’ (current tie between Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s dad) and even being asked to appear in an adult movie.

It also revealed that the best time for these conversations was just before 8pm, the ideal number of participants was 4 and the optimum consumption was 3.3 pints. Well in January last year I was with 3 friends after slightly more than 3.3 pints and closer to kicking out time at the County, when I declared that I would change the world – or at least the opportunities for writers in Northampton.

When it comes to writing plays and films, it can be a lonely business. You put your heart and soul into a project for months or years and then something might happen . . . or it might not. Your send your scripts off to theatre companies, producers, funding bodies and competitions and then wait . . . and wait . . . for something to happen. Or worse than that, you tell people your idea and never write it down.

What we needed was deadlines. What we needed was actors. What we needed was an audience.

My call to arms went something like this (you’ll forgive me if it’s not verbatim, see above regarding memories and drinking);

“What we need is a monthly thing. Like a meeting. You know, for writers. We need to get together and share our work. Forget about these people who never get back to us. It’s their loss . . . hang on let me check my email . . . it might be that . . . bloody Groupon. Hang on. Right, what was I saying? We need a forum for us writers to share our work. A monthly happening, where we get together, get some actors to read our stuff, get people along, directors, producers but also just people – people who like new writing and want to be a part of something at the start.

It all has to be NEW, that way, we have to write something NEW every month, we’ll call it . . . The NEW WRITERS NIGHT, we’ll think or a better title, but that’s not important. We set our own deadlines, we make our own work, we make things happen! Who’s with me! . . . What do you mean you’d kill the guy who invented Velcro?”

Often these conversations remain in the pub and are trotted out every 6 months. But I’d just spent a year working, reworking and procrastinating on a play that I wasn’t sure was going to get picked up and needed to try something different. I’d also started to meet lots of other like-minded people in Northampton so was sure there were participants and an audience for this so I made a call to the Dapper Sandwich and asked if they would be happy to host this thing . . . whatever it was.

Twelve months later, on February 21st they will be hosting our 10th event. I have met some amazing writers, have heard so many great plays, films, radio plays, poetry, comedy and spoken word from some fantastic actors that come along and make this event exactly what it needs to be. When you write a script, it’s not meant to sit in a drawer, it isn’t meant to be read silently, it needs to be performed and that’s what we do.

We have people come from all over Northants, plus from Birmingham, Coventry and Nottingham to hear their work performed. We encourage networking and feedback and so many collaborations and professional relationships have been forged because of it. I am incredibly proud that my Something Completely Random has become Something Incredibly Important to me and many others. So I will keep going to pubs, I will keep having these conversations and I will keep writing – I have to, I have a deadline!

If you would like to share your work or get involved with the New Writing Night please email Dan on danwmcgarry@gmail.com, tweet him on @papamcgarry or join the Facebook group; NEW Monthly Writing Nights at Dapper Sandwich.
The next event will be February 21st starting at 7:30pm.

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