We caught up Welsh Female Writers Group (WFW Group) member Martha Reed to tell us more about the group and the benefits she has found from it as a writer…
Before I joined Chippy Lane Productions Welsh Female Writer’s Group, I would never have considered calling myself a playwright. I knew I wanted to write, but all I had was a ten-minute two-hander that I knew needed work, and little confidence in my ability to produce anything bigger. As a Welsh woman who loves theatre, I’d been following Chippy Lane Productions for a while, admiring their commitment to providing a platform for new writing by Welsh voices. When I heard they were running a group for Welsh female writers in London, I had to book a place – someone once told me to find my niche, and you couldn’t get much more niche than that!
I almost didn’t take my laptop, I was so determined not to read any of my writing aloud. But when I got there, I was greeted by the inimitable Rebecca Jade Hammond, Artistic Director of Chippy Lane Productions, and six other brilliant Welsh women. I got the warmest welcome and was almost immediately handed a piece of cake by the amazing Lissa Berry, who’d baked especially. Everyone was friendly, supportive and just, well, wonderfully Welsh. The very first thing Becca said was “Hello playwrights – because that’s what you are, playwrights.” And that was that. We read our work aloud, workshopped scenes, swapped reading recommendations and generally just had the best time.
Since the group started in 2018, over 70 women have attended at least one session. Some – like me – come to every session they can, finding value in frequent feedback and a deadline to finish that scene. Others come every now and then, when they need a bit of inspiration or have some new work to share. All of us have grown in confidence and skill. We’ve met new people, found new collaborators and – most importantly – got ourselves a safe space to share and grow.
Now, we’ve got members producing their own work, getting longlisted for huge competitions like Wales Writer in Residence, and being commissioned by renowned theatres like Cardiff’s The Other Room. Since joining the group, I’ve gone onto have my debut play Existential Fish and Dread programmed for a national tour after it placed in the top 14% of entries to the BBC Drama Room 2020, become Chippy Lane Productions Writing Apprentice to BAFTA-winning writer Alan Harris, and had my monologue produced and recorded as part of Chippy Lane’s Podcast Pictures/Lluniau projects. I honestly wouldn’t have done any of it without the support, guidance and constant encouragement of Chippy Lane.
This year has been a weird year for everyone, but Chippy Lane haven’t let it hold them back. We’ve been lucky enough to receive funding from the incredibly generous Carne Trust, which has led to some exciting developments. Our Welsh Female Writers Group is switching over to Zoom, meaning that it’s more accessible than ever – anyone who identifies as a Welsh woman is welcome to come along to the sessions completely for free, whether that’s to read work aloud or just listen and workshop other people’s extracts.
The Group will now be run by two new facilitators, Emily White and Ffion Jones. Emily White is a writer published by Faber and Faber, represented by Independent Talent and participant in the Channel 4 writersoom and Badwolf writersroom. Last year, she worked with Olivier-winning director Tamara Harvey on her play Pavilion. Ffion Jones is a writer/actor who creates her own work, and a participant of the Soho Writers Group and Bad Wolf / The Other Room Emerging Writers Programme. Her most recent play The Wrong Ffion Jones transferred from the Vaults Festival to Paines Plough ROUNDABOUT to the Edinburgh Fringe, to five-star reviews. Both of these amazing women have a lot of skills, knowledge and experience to share.
Alongside the Welsh Female Writers Group, the generous donation from the Carne Trust has also allowed Chippy Lane to put together a programme of free Q&As, open to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, experience or background. There’ll be a Q&A with BAFTA-winning writer Alan Harris; a session with Ffilm Cymru, where they’ll take us through the applications process for their many opportunities; and a talk all about dramaturgy led by writer Kelly Jones and director Chelsey Gillard, where they’ll explain what dramaturgy is and how it can benefit a creative team.
Chippy Lane Productions’ new programme of online workshops will start on 26th October, you can find out more about the dates and how to sign up here. Please don’t hesitate, even if you’ve never written before. That’s exactly what this programme is all about – building your confidence, developing your writing, and meeting a bunch of friendly and creative people. I couldn’t recommend it enough.