Only positive narratives please?

It’s not the main focus of Henry McDonald’s Observer interview with the playwright Gary Mitchell, whose family have been intimidated out of their homes, as noted here, by what are described in the article as ‘rogue [Loyalist] paramilitaries’, that’s more his puzzlement at the lack of outrage at his family’s plight. But two pieces of information stand out, firstly, while Channel4 have commissioned two screenplays, he relates why BBC NI won’t be receiving anything soon, BBC Northern Ireland told me I wouldn’t be working with them any more unless I wrote about the peace process and it would have to be positive. So I told them, “No, you won’t be working with me.” How could I write a positive drama about the peace process when terrorists are blowing up my car?The second point is the evident crassness of the NIO, and Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, who invited the Mitchell family to Hillsborough Castle just before Christmas –

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, offered Mitchell and his family some comfort just before Christmas – an invite to a drinks reception at Hillsborough Castle. But the playwright says that the invite spectacularly backfired.

‘When we arrived at Hillsborough there were senior loyalist paramilitary figures drinking and eating in the same room. It was insensitive of the Northern Ireland Office to invite a family who were victims of loyalist intimidation to a function where loyalist leaders were in attendance.’

The Northern Ireland Office stressed there was never any intention of putting the Mitchells into a difficult situation.

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  • TAFKABO

    I read the article this morning and it was the part about the BBC not accepting work unless it has a specific bias that stood out the most.
    I would strongly urge Gary to consider a case against the BBC for discrimination on the grounds of political views.

    I’m looking forward to his work appearing on Channel Four.

  • The more I hear about Gary Mitchell the more I want to see his work. As for his treatment by Hain. I am outraged but I should not be supprised. What a total ****er!

    “The Northern Ireland Office stressed there was never any intention of putting the Mitchells into a difficult situation.”…………………
    …………..but we are such a bunch of brain dead inadequates who don’t really give enough of a damn to have any intention reagarding this family except to tick a box to show that we’ve done something and where no matter what we do there are no consequences for us, that such things are inevitable

  • I remember being told arround the lead up to the Belfast Agreement that BBC staff were told that they should consider their reporting in terms of the “Peace Process” and be careful not to present anything that would be unhelpful. This kinda fits in.

  • Kim Philby

    TAFKABO

    I read the article this morning and it was the part about the BBC not accepting work unless it has a specific bias that stood out the most.

    100% agreed. This outrage deserves futher investigation. Is all BBC drama subject to political corectness or is it just work about the north. And if that’s happening in the drama department we can only imagine what the marching orders are for the political reporters.

  • wild turkey

    TAFKABO

    also agree 100%. A discrimination case against the BBC could push the envelope on Fair Employment and Treatment (1998) Act.

    If such a case was initiated I wonder how(a) the BBC would report it, any bets on whether any of flagships would run with it? and (b) the Equality Commission’s response to a request for legal assistance. would this case constitute ‘strategic litigation’? all that said, based on experience i would urge Mitchell to think hard before going down the litigation road as it can be one of lifes most corrosive experiences.

    ‘The Northern Ireland Office stressed there was never any intention of putting the Mitchells into a difficult situation.’

    bullshit, its the impact on Mitchell and family that matter. Just when you think the crassness of these ****ers no longer has the capacity to astound… KAPOW!

    Bertie

    Whaddy think the chances are of getting the guest list and reception cost under a Freedom of Information request? surely its in the public interest as its doubtful if Hain stood the drinks out his own pocket.

  • gypsynolan

    I’m not sure if the book is still in print; but, if it is, I would urge anybody interested in the political undercurrents that have been at work in the BBC, in the past, to read Hollingsworth and Norton-Taylor’s “Blacklist – The Inside Story of Political Vetting;” spec the chapter entitled; “MI5 and the BBC: Stamping the Christmas Tree’ Files.” ….

  • If he had a website would it be called PRforPlaywrights.com ?

  • June 76

    Given the oft demonstrated but as yet unexplained relationship that exists between the British government and Loyalist paramilitaries (UDA – a legal organisation for the first 21 years and 350 murders of its existence, etc), Gary might want to reflect on whether his invitation to Hillsborough on this particular occasion wasn’t entirely a blunder. I rather suspect that NIO officials are not quite the bunch of brain dead inadequates that Bertie would like to believe.

  • June 76

    You could be right but I still insist that they don’t give a flying **** for the welfare of Gary Mitchell.

  • Mickhall

    I hope Gary is able to strike back with his pen. As to the BBC and Mr Hain etc, as someone has already posted their behavior is par for the course.

  • blog monitor

    Any type of censorship or attempted manipulation of the media is insulting to the viewers or readers ,right Mick .Slugger has posted that piece on the Celtic players now for a few days chanting IRA even though he was informed it was a hoax and reported as so by the Scottish papers over a week ago. The players allegedly involved vigorously denied that the incident had happened at all.Knowing that one must question the Slug`s motivation in trying to tarnish the reputations of the Club and the players .As someone who knows one of the players involved personally I am sure you could be hearing from his solicitor very soon as this would seem to me to be an attempt to defame his character .Do the right thing and take it down .

  • The more I hear about Gary Mitchell the more I want to see his work.

    When I got interested five years ago I found that many of his works were in print. I got them on Amazon.co.uk.

  • Cheers!

    I can vote with my feet (or mastercard) 😉

  • A Pat Jennings Fan

    “As someone who knows one of the players involved personally I am sure you could be hearing from his solicitor very soon as this would seem to me to be an attempt to defame his character .”

    For your information Blogmonitor, Celtic issued a statement over 10 ten days ago stating that the video with the IRA chants at the supporters’ function WAS genuine, but denying that their players were involved in joining in with these chants.

    However, despite the fact that the allegations against one particular player( possibly the one you know “personally”?) remain up on a number of sites in Scotland, that player, to my knowledge has not began legal action against any of them.

    Which is why I find YOUR comment threatening legal action against Slugger rather strange.

    Mick’s only crime in this case is being about two weeks behind the news!

  • Pete Baker

    Hmmm.. Could those wishing to discuss other posts add their comments on the relevant threads?

    Thank you.

  • beeber

    BBC NI drama has to be on message regardless of the realities. Its utterly boring and useless drama dept does nothing creative or new and spends its days pathetically filtering out anything that doesn’t match what the gaffers in London want. They are particularly troubled by pitches from established writers because the ideas are occasionally relevant and challenging. This is troublesome because drama have to keep saying with a straight face that strong ideas are wrong ideas.

    I have worked at BBC NI on and off for some years (never in any kind of commissioning or writing role) and its drama people, ideas and policy are entirely mediocre, timid and yet its dull minions are thorougly convinced they are somehow doing the world a great service. I could not even begin to explain how bad it has become. A recent dig from a senior person I shall not name was that the current calibre of BBCNI drama staff, management included, ‘is pedestrian without the walking.’

    At least you know where you are with UTV because it doesn’t really make any drama at all, for God’s sake. We are all very badly served by the UTV and particularly the Beeb. In terms of the BBC, we all know that anyway, not least a great many of us on the inside. Mitchell was absolutely right to have done what he did and I will not be alone in contacting him to say so.

    I am sorry that I am unable to identify myself, but it would cause no end of hassle. Speaking up is thoroughly discouraged these days and I have a wife to feed.

  • Henry94

    Hmmm.. Could those wishing to discuss other posts add their comments on the relevant threads?

    The thread in question is closed for comments. It’s a disgrace and it should be removed

  • Pete Baker

    Ah.. sorry Henry I missed that.. but email Mick with any concerns about that particular post.

  • P Ring

    Beeber has a good point to make. TV (drama or otherwise)is a highly competitive field. BBC NI Drama department, pedestrian or otherwise have to commission on the grounds that when they spend money on a production it has to be something people in the whole network region want to see. Gary Mitchell, although a talented writer has always written within a very tight remit:the UDA, grassroots Loyalism etc. I have seen a number of his plays (maybe 5 or 6) and they have been strong but as time progressed my own feeling was ‘enough already’. I particularly felt this about his last play at the Royal Court in London which was about the female UDA (Loyal Women). I found it overwhelmingly bleak, kinda irrelevant and overwrought. I was pleased to see in a press interview that he was working to broaden his appeal. By that I presumed he was going to come up with something that wasn’t about the UDA in family life, UDA feuds, UDA at work, UDA at leisure, Women in the UDA, UDA and punk rock, UDA and the Orange Order etc ad nauseum. The work of his which I have seen which were less obviously about grassroots Loyalism were by far his weakest work)*.
    (*’An Officer From France’ was about Wolfe Tone and was dull and awful. ‘Tearing the Loom’ was about agrarian sectarian conflict in late 18th century Armagh was cobblers.)

    Could it be that Gary is finding it more than difficult to switch tack?

  • Mickhall

    Well that explained why his car was burnt out, his writing is crap.

    I get what your say P Ring, Ken Loach is crap because he keeps making plays/movies about working class people achieving small victories against all the odds. Mike Leigh is a non starter because he has fallen into the bad habit of writing about working and middle class family conflict. Shakespeare is out because he keeps scribbling plays with a historical bent inhabited by kings, tyrants and teenage lovers.

    What should the BBC be commissioning, Footballers wives perhaps, mmmm, rich people, corrupt businessmen, tart’s, the underclass, breast implants, private medicine, I bet Gary has his pen to hand already, I’m told he was seen at the Linfield vs Cliftonville game. There’s life in the old dog yet. your right, we have had far to much of reality TV.

    😉

  • Belfast Gonzo

    For the record, the Northern Ireland Film Commission also refuses to fund anything that has ‘sectarianism’ as a theme. I don’t think Mitchel would have a legal case either, since its a ‘theme’ that’s being discriminated against, not the person or their beliefs – presumably, dubblejoint haven’t been getting many commissions either, as that would create a Disturbance in the Force, or sthg.

    So it ain’t just the Beeb.

    No peace process critics need apply. Thank God for Slugger, eh?

  • Pete Baker

    Gonzo

    Not that I think the legal suggestion has any merit whatsoever.. but refusing to “fund anything that has ‘sectarianism’ as a theme” isn’t addressing the point.. it’s the apparent attempt to commission only positive [undefined] narratives from licence-payer’s money that’s the issue.

  • we have had far to much of reality TV.

    Reality TV producers are mainlining Prozac because of a severe shortage of real people.

  • Alan

    I got a knock back from the Beeb Drama NI about two years ago for a radio play. Now you can always moan about the merits of any piece of work, but the reason that I was given was that the piece was too political. It was about hypothetical OTR legislation and links with a spyring within the IRA.

    The Beeb suggest that different slots are aimed at different audiences, so that one was aimed at the Friday evening slot, which is supposed to be more contentious. I don’t know that many people listen to that Friday slot, but it provides much more depth and challenge than the mid afternoon play.

  • Crataegus

    The BBC has constantly been politically anodyne. It has constantly failed to produce cutting edge journalistic standards, never promoted real debate, aired different approaches or perspectives. It has steadfastly supported the status quo and in my opinion added to the problems here by failing to produce critical critiques. Its policy on political coverage is meant to be fair but simple reinforces what is there and stifles anything outside the main game. Let’s face it Hearts and Minds is hardly rocket science, about as controversial as Yorkshire pudding.

  • darth rumsfeld

    all this BBC bashing almost makes you think it wasn’t a coincidence that the Beeb’s Steven Grimason was given the only advanced copy of the GFA on 10-04-98

  • P Ring

    ‘Well that explained why his car was burnt out, his writing is crap.’

    Mickhall: Read my entry carefully. I pointed out that Mitchell’s best and strongest work used the backdrop of paramilitarism – specifically the UDA. And plays like ‘Little World of Our Own’,
    ‘Trust’, ‘As the Beast Sleeps’ were charged and magnificent in many ways. He is a very good writer.

    Ken Loach does have recurring themes in his work as does Shakespeare and any good writer you care to mention. What keeps them interesting and diverse are the variety of settings, the use of different vantage points etc. From what I have seen of his work and I have seen a lot, Mitchell has yet to achieve this diversity. It is apparent, if one is familiar with his work, that he seems to have exhausted the milieu where he has been most comfortable.

    Am I the only one on this thread to have a thorough knowledge of this writer’s work?

    I have no idea why his car was burnt out but I would be enormously surprised if it was perpetrated by a literary/drama critic. More likely his prominence made him a more ‘valid’ target in these idiots’ eyes.

  • Mickhall

    P Ring

    I was trying to be lighthearted, hence my 😉 sorry if I offended you as this was not my intention.

    Best regards.

  • jazzone

    ‘I remember being told arround the lead up to the Belfast Agreement that BBC staff were told that they should consider their reporting in terms of the “Peace Process” and be careful not to present anything that would be unhelpful. This kinda fits in.’

    Hmmm who told you this? Because it sounds like a load of a old toot to me.