Kate Rowland Radio Plays

Kate is a well-known drama producer who has also spent some time in BBC management, part of it as Head of Radio Drama, succeeding Caroline Raphael in 1997 and remaining in the role until 2001. She was involved until April 2015 with setting up and running the BBC Writer's Room, the entry point for new writers into BBC radio drama and through which new plays are commissioned. She has also been involved with initiatives for promoting Northern writers (e.g. "Northern Exposure", 2002), and with production and editing of The Friday Play and "The Wire" on Radio 3.

The drama she has produced covers a wide range. "The Pitmen Painters"and "Spoonface Steinberg" are well-known to radio drama enthusiasts and are radio classics. "Lost Empires" is very popular; J.B.Priestley's tale of the world of Variety, dramatised in three parts by Bert Coules, and Bert's most popular play after the 'Sherlock Holmes' episodes.

Many of Kate's other plays cover difficult and uncompromising material: reactions to a vile murder, teenage pregnancy, refugees in Africa, human cloning, a violent attack in a shopping centre, riots, a man with a grievance against society, abortion ...

Such plays are not an easy listen, and they get a mixed reception. They are realistic; sometimes disturbingly so. Barry Pike , who has a lifetime's experience of listening to stage and radio plays, wrote in 1997:

"There seems to me something pious and self-regarding, something programmed and preachy about such plays, as if their authors' main concern were to stir the conscience rather than to intrigue and amuse with a well-told story. I do not, of course, suggest that all plays should be devoid of tension and should dodge serious social and emotional issues (which would eliminate much of the best, from Shakespeare to David Hare); but there is a relentless grinding-in-the-face about so many of the plays in question, as if they seek deliberately to disturb, even to alienate, the listener who dares to be comfortable, despite the misery in the world. "


Drama on 3 - The Torchbearers....2012
Radio 3. 4 Nov 2012. By Simon Armitage. In the aftermath of the Olympic Games, The Torchbearers tells the stories of five people whose lies and obsessions come within touching distance of the eternal flame. Can an illness be cured? Can a death be undone? Can the past start haunting the present? As their loved ones struggle to cope with their lies, a blazing torch passes through their worlds and changes things forever. Strangers meet in unexpected places. Ray - Kevin Whately; Paula - Julie Hesmondhalgh; Colin - Mark Benton; Chloe - Phillippa Wilson; Spencer - Christopher Connell; producer - Kate Rowland.

Sun 6 Nov 2011: A Summer Night
By Jack Thorne. From the Free Thinking Festival 2011, live from the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The play is set during the recent riots and tells tells three separate personal stories from the night when the capital changed shape. The paths of three poeple collide: a policeman on duty, a carer trying to get to her patient and a teenager on a night out. Mark ..... Toby Jones, Ant ..... Daniel Kaluuya, Diane ..... Victoria Elliott, Composer/ Musician: Patrick Dineen, Producer: Kate Rowland.

(07-11-2010; 20:30) VULTURES
(Roy Williams). Radio 3. Play about an angry white working-class man with a grievance against society. Sean wants to prove that he is more than" just one of the Bishop's", that his anger has a point. That he does matter and that just this once he can make everyone, particularly Yvette, listen to him. Sean Bishop has something to say. Yvette - Nadine Marshall, Sean - Sean Gallagher, Brian - Bill Fellows, Helen - Victoria Elliot. Directed by Kate Rowland. Recorded in front of an audience at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. (105m)

(25-10-2009; 20:20) BEWARE THE KIDS
(Karen Laws & Fiona Evans) A fictional story, developed with a community group in Byker, Newcastle, takes a journey into the reality of neglect as one child's life spirals out of control. Recorded in front of an audience as part of the Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead, this hard-hitting play explores how a tragedy can unfold right before the eyes of a child's family and carers. Mark - Matthew McNulty, Jaden - Rosie Stancliffe, Audrey - Judi Earl, Yvonne - Jane Holman, Ben - Tony Neilson, Kyle - Max Watson. Directed by Kate Rowland. (60m)

24 WEEKS....2008
By Tony Marchant. R3, Sun 2 Nov 08. A play which tackles the issues surrounding abortion; in particular the 24-week debate, as a married couple face their feelings about Sarah's pregnancy. Producer: Kate Rowland. More about this on the 24-Weeks page.

By Mark Ravenhill. An attack in a shopping centre; no-one comes forward. R3, Drama on 3, Sun 20 Apr 08. Producer: Kate Rowland.

The Cool Bag Baby ....2008
By Katie Hims. R3, Drama on 3, 17 Feb 08. A cool bag has been left outside a London café. Inside the bag is a baby, meant to be found by the café owner and taken home to be loved and cherished. But, as the café stays closed when it should be open, the baby remains undiscovered. Producer: Kate Rowland.

The Pitmen Painters….2007
By Lee Hall. 23 Dec 07, inspired by the book by William Feaver. Seventy years ago, in an old army hut in Ashington, Northumberland, a group of miners met to talk about art. Most of them had started down the pit when they were 12; none of them had been inside an art gallery; they wanted their visiting university lecturer to explain the secret of a remote world. He did better than that: he got them painting and put that world into their hands. They painted ponies hauling coal, women pumping water for washday, men showing off whippets. 'We made our life into art,' one of them says. 'It don't get better than that.'" ……..Susannah Clapp, The Observer

"What struck me most about the Pitmen Painters was that despite being a group of very ordinary men whose personal histories had been harsh and brutal: surviving war, personal tragedy, and the scantest of educations, they wrote knowledgeably about Cezanne and Picasso, and were ardent devotees of Turner, Ruskin and Blake.

The idea that art is somehow a commodity, that culture is something one consumes rather than takes part in, is, of course, a very modern notion. Culture is something we share and we are all the poorer for excluding anyone from it." ……..Lee Hall, Aug2007

George Brown ...... Deka Walmsley
Oliver Kilbourn ...... Christopher Connel
Jimmy Floyd ...... David Whitaker
Young lad, Ben Nicholson ...... Brian Lonsdale
Harry Wilson ...... Michael Hodgson
Robert Lyon ...... Ian Kelly
Susan Parks ...... Lisa McGrillis
Helen Sutherland, Vera Brown ...... Phillippa Wilson

Producer: Kate Rowland.

Comment from ND:
Great writing and a superb production. Note that the play "Walpamur & Plywood", also about these painters, was broadcast in 1993 . Details can be found on Alex Ferguson's page.

R3: The Wire: Donna Love Bite ....2006
1 Jun 06; by Gill Adams. One night, three kids ride to Hull, Hell and back. Donna doesn't want to miss out on her first date with Stu and her one big chance to have some real fun, so decides she has no choice but to take her little sister Kylie with her. But driving around in a stolen car, drugs, drink and a nasty bit of happy slapping soon turns Donna's dream date into anything but fun.

Drama on 3:I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Shout....2006
By Laurence Allan. 12 Feb 06. The winner of Broken and Blue, Radio 3's music drama competition. Cornet player Buddy Bolden was one of the original greats of jazz, who died in an asylum in 1931 aged 55. This piay captures the spirit of Bolden through the eyes of Summertime Jones, an old-time jazz enthusiast on a quest from Tiger Bay, Cardiff, to New York and beyond. Summertime .......... Lennie James, Buzz .......... Joanna Griffiths, Cordelli .......... Kerry Shale, Brady .......... Colin Stinton, Lips Ram .......... John Holder, Freddie .......... Jim Findley, Elaine/Susan .......... Carolyn Pickles, Dermot/Willy .......... Patrick Brennan, Kid .......... Benjamin MacKenzie. Claude Deppa (cornet/trumpet/flugelhorn), Gareth Roberts (trombone), composer Rob Smith (saxophones/clarinet/ keyboards). Producer .......... Kate Rowland.

Sunday Feature: The Day Carlos Died....2004
22 Feb 04. Not a drama - this is a factual programme. On 16 July 2003 Paul Heritage 's life was changed when his lover Carlos Calchi, a Brazilian theatre director who wanted to change people's lives, was shot dead in a random act of slaughter by those he wanted to help. This montage is the result of Heritage and producer Kate Rowland 's search for an answer, combining elements of the murder investigation and interviews with artists, politicians and prisoners. Contributors: Paul Heritage, Carlos Calchi. Producer .......... Kate Rowland.

The Wire: Bone City....2004
By Tom Kelly. 5 Feb 04. There's nothing Jimmy Orange wouldn't do for his wife Mandy-Mu. But today's the tenth anniversary of their daughter's disappearance, and so begins his annual search for someone to blame. Jimmy Orange .......... Tom Mannion, Mandy-Mu .......... Tilly Vosburgh, Bobby T .......... Raymond Coutthard, Director .......... Toby Swift, Series Editor .......... Kate Rowland.

One of BBC 7's favourite dramatists is Bert Coules and, from his wide range of radio work, his personal favourite is his three-part dramatisation of J.B. Priestley's Lost Empires. Apart from Sherlock Holmes, Bert gets more enquiries about this dramatisation than any other. Lost Empires was broadcast from Jan 20-23, 04. The novel is set in the last years of pre-World War England and follows young Richard Herncastle as he embarks on a life of adventure, joining his uncle's illusionist act on the variety stage, and having his eyes opened to the world. The dramatisation has an excellent cast which includes Tom Baker and Brigit Forsyth. Director: Kate Rowland.

Drama on 3: The Don....2004
By Jeff Young. 5 Sep 04. Like Cervantes's Don Quixote, the Don is a gentle dreamer, battered by too many years spent in life's shadows. He staggers through the function suites, pubs and wedding dos of northern England, forever in pursuit of his imaginary lover Dulcie - his muse and ideal ' lady' - with his neighbour Sancho in tow. The Don .......... Bill Nighy, Sancho .......... Danny Webb, Priest .......... Sam Kelly, Receptionist .......... Rosie Cavaliero, Barber .......... Deka Walmsley, Steve .......... Declan Wilson, Landlady .......... Elizabeth Bell, Lad .......... Oliver Jackson, Dulcie .......... Clara Sanabras. Music composed and performed by Harvey Brough. Lyrics by Jeff Young. Guitarist: Mike Outram. Producer: Kate Rowland. ................ (very enjoyable play - ND)

The Wire: Nicotine Jean....2003
By Robert Delamere. 4 Sep 03. Paul McCulloch lives a life unseen by the outside world. Sustained by his fitful imagination, he cares for Jean, the love of his life. Soundscape by Alisdair McGregor and Aidan Love. Paul .......... Sean Harrison, Jean .......... Rachel Davies, Producer .......... Kate Rowland.

Drama on 3: Baby Bird ....2003
By Gill Adams. 6 Apr 03; 60m. Recorded on location around the streets of Hull, this is the story of 13-year-old Jenny Wren ,a constant truant from school with chronic behavioural problems, who has lost her Gran and whose Mum has given up believing in tomorrow. JennyWren .......... Hollle Wilson, Morris .......... Roland Gift, Sandy.......... Kaye Wragg, Mouse .......... David Tute, Headmaster/DI Peters .......... Nicholas Lane, Janet/Nurse/PC Smith .......... Stephanie Galbraith, Maria .......... Katie Wright, Julie .......... Lucy Beaumont, Bluey .......... Matthew Lambert. Producer: Kate Rowland.

HEART .... 2003
By Gill Adams. A vile murder has been committed.....a repressed young man is arrested on suspicion of murdering a young woman. His parents, an ordinary couple, suddenly find themselves in the middle of a nightmare. This part (the first half of the drama) is told from their point of view. With Brigit Forsyth and Paul Copley as the parents; also with Claude Close, Danny Burns, Sarah Parks. Directed by Kate Rowland. Friday play, 60m, 25 Apr 03. The second part of the murder inquiry, "ATTACK", also by Gill Adams, looked at the incident from the point of view of the female detective leading the investigation. It was broadcast the following week and was produced by Melanie Harris.

A NUMBER....2002
By Caryl Churchill. The play raises the issue of human cloning and its potential effect on human relationships. With Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig. Producer: Kate Rowland. 1 Nov 02. Friday play.

By Gill Adams. Play for R3 ‘The Wire’ series. Winner of Silver at the Sony Radio Award 2001. Produced and directed by Kate Rowland. A sensitive portrayal of teenage pregnancy, ably performed by Lucy Beaumont.

Child of the Suburbs....2000:
By Katie Hims. Milton and Sylvio's Story ....2000
19 Jun 00. 3rd in an Afternoon Play 5-play cycle called "Child Of Our Time". The story of identical twins growing up in Belford Roxo, one of Brazil's most dangerous suburbs. They belong to the Candomble religion, brought to Brazil by the slaves, and they find escape from the violence around them by flying their kites. With Ike Hamilton and Bradley Martin. Producer: Kate Rowland.

By Gill Adams. ‘Sia Mia’s story’,R4. The commission included research with refugees in Africa. Directed by Kate Rowland. Jun 2000.

    Comment by Dave Sexton in the "Sunday Telegraph" of 9 July, commenting on the drama series "Child Of Our Time" which ran from Jun-July 2000

    "This disastrous series finished on Monday with another piece by Lee ("Spoonface") Hall, directed by Kate Rowland, Head of Drama. It turned out to be a complete dud. In this dismal conclusion, "Children of the Rain", genuine British schoolchildren attempted to answer grotesquely loaded and politically pointed questions : "How much does a polio vaccination cost? How much does each nuclear warhead cost Britain each year? What sort of differences do you think there are between your life and the life of a child in Sierra Leone?" and so on. Whoever asked these questions originally had been edited out and replaced by winsomely lisping child actors for extra pathos. These cuties also intoned various alarming Guinness Book of Record-style statistics - "there are 4 guns for every child under 5 in Texas......1.2 billion people in the world live in poverty" over plangent music...... and that was it, for 45 minutes. The only consolation if this crass production was intended for the indoctrination of children into global guilt, it will fail, for they'll find it insupportable too".

By Pete Townshend. R3, Sunday Play 5 Dec 99. A man decides to leave his rural hideaway but is drawn back by the voice of a pirate DJ to the Lifehouse, back to the music that once gave his life meaning. Adapted for radio by Jeff Young. With David Threlfall [Ray], Phillip Dowling [Ray Boy], Geraldine James [Sally], Kelly Macdonald [Mary], Shaun Parkes [The Hacker], and Charles Dale [The Caretaker]. SM Steve Brooke. Music and Introduction by Pete Townshend. Producer: Kate Rowland. 115 min.

Intimations For Saxophone...1997
7 Sep 97. By Sophie Treadwell. With Fiona Shaw as Lily. A play judged as too radical for American audiences in the 1930s. Lily, a New York socialite, is driven to self-realisation and destruction by the vulgar, empty world surrounding her. With Tim McInnerny, Clive Russell, Matilda Ziegler, John Padden, Ellie Haddington, David Fleeshman and Kathryn Hunt. Producer Kate Rowland. (90m). R3.

*THE LAST BUS HOME....1996-97
By Gill Adams. 90-minute radio commission for BBC R4, broadcast July ’97. Six schoolchildren, angered by the murder of their friend Sally and the meagreness of her burial, decide to take action. Maria: Kelly Lawton, Pat: Louise Ross, with Stephanie Galbraith, Sarah Ozeke, Kerry Green, Natalie Harvey, Sarah Parks, Josh Richards, Maike Lynden, Terry Chapman and Darren Walton. Producer: Kate Rowland.

The Earthquake Girl....1997
By Katie Hims. 13 Mar 97; rpt. 10 Jul 98. Edie works in a library and is terrified of causing a world catastrophe. Her sister-in-law Lila thinks she should go out and find a man, but Edie would rather stay in and write a gothic romance. In fact, Edie would be a library if she could. With Saskia Reeves, Barbara Marten and Jean Alexander. Producer: Kate Rowland.

NO MAN....1996
by David Calcutt. Directed in Manchester by Kate Rowland. 17 Nov 96, 22:00-23:30, Radio 3, Drama Now. On the island kingdom of Ithaca lives the ageing Odysseus and his daughter Nausikaa. Afraid of no man, Odysseus is haunted by one vision - that of death itself. Believing himself to be invincible, he is only brought face to face with his final adversary through the skill and determination of a blind poet and a young scholar, 500 years on. Alun Armstrong as Odysseus, Lena Headey as Nausikaa, and a cast featuring Oscar James, Patrick Robinson, John Padden, Martin Reeve, Kathryn Hunt, Mary Cunningham and John Jardine. Music composed and performed by John Themis and Sugar Hajishacalli.
(.....thanks to Greg Linden of 'radiofans' for this information..... )

Mandy Precious: Patty & Chips with Scraps....1996
Alfred Bradley Award, 1996. director Kate Rowland. Rpt. 13 Nov 97. RT- Thirty Minute Theatre, 11pm. Lil is newly widowed. Having always been somebody's daughter or somebody's wife, she must now contemplate life alone with Albert's chip van. She befriends Mudassar, a young man who pushes her to emerge from the shadow of Albert, and together they take a cruise - a voyage of discovery. With Rita Tushingham and Ravin J Ganatra. Director Kate Rowland.

R3, Sunday Play, 5 Feb 95. By Sophie Treadwell. Machinal is a modern age tragedy of isolation turned to murder. The play, Sophie Treadwell said, is about a young woman, ready, eager for life and love, but deadened, squeezed, crushed by the machine-like quality of the life surrounding her. It is loosely based on the 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray. Treadwell uses the scenario to speculate about what might drive a seemingly harmless stenographer to commit murder. Produced by Kate Rowland.

Spoonface Steinberg....1994
A one-hour monologue about an autistic child facing cancer and death, produced by Kate Rowland. Written by Lee Hall. Alfred Bradley Award, 1994. Ken Cumberlidge: " ... a play so famous, it hardly needs any introduction. I heard its first broadcast by accident. I was cleaning the house at the time, with radio 4 on in the background. As I polished, this young girl's voice - and the terrible, fascinating tale it was telling - kept grabbing my attention. Before long, I was transfixed, duster in hand ... gobsmacked by the sheer brilliance of Lee Hall's writing and Becky Simpson's reading. "

By Frances McNeil. Producer Kate Rowland.
Note from Frances: On 3rd December, 1992 we were set to record in Manchester. Kate Rowland had her Country & Western music selections as background for this story of a family who run a bridal shop but whose lives are far from romantic. Something more dramatic was going on outside. Two bombs exploded in the centre of Manchester, injuring 65 people. Amazingly, the actors managed to make their way through the evacuated city centre - for a very late start. They were: Tracie Bennett, Eileen O’Brien, Ann Rye, Judy Brooke, and Mary Cunningham.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website, with thanks to NC for giving it a read-through.

Most of the above plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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