Freelance Writer - Alan Howarth Writer

Freelance Writer

Freelance Writing Sample

Tom Bright loves what he does and, I hope, his enthusiasm for pantomime and live performance shines through.

Meeting interesting people, talking about interesting topics, writing it up and then getting money too.

Freelance writing, it’s a great life.

I can do this for you – call me – let’s start the conversation!

Piece for Sunday Times Magazine – Day in the Life – Tom Bright

The fantastic thing about my life is every day is different. This morning I was up at 6am changing Tom junior’s nappy, a 12-week-old baby isn’t all joy. Normally it’s nearer 7am and our daughter Samantha who gets the day started. Breakfast is coffee and croissants then I’m off to the office. I’ve tried a home office but I never get any work done. First deadline is my radio show, that takes a couple of hours, then I carry on with a pantomime or whatever new idea is on the go at the time. Writing’s a 24 hour a day job, I take a laptop to the theatre and work between shows.

Samantha our 3-year-old is really good with Tom junior. She plays in the garden but every few minutes she runs in, kisses him, then runs out again. She goes to nursery three days a week and a dance class; I caught her today all on her own doing her points. Diane, my wife, is a singer, I tell everyone she’s 29, so they know a woman my age hasn’t just given birth. We try to share everything. I look after the kids, as much as I can, that was our agreement before we had Tom. Diane says I’m brilliant, but I could do more, and when I’m writing to deadlines, especially the pantomimes, she lets me off even more of my duties.

I’ve been in show business 38 years. My dad used to take me to see bands in the 50’s; you could take kids in those days. When I was 9 he gave me a guitar and a few lessons. A friend and I put an act together and his mother arranged our first gig at Wythenshawe Labour Club. It was great, everyone was cheering, we were only 13 years old. We became the Mustangs with 2 other friends and got some big gigs, we even supported the Beatles at the Oasis, Manchester. Then I joined a friend who’d lost half of his double act, it wasn’t as exciting but he was booked solid for months, the money was good, and life went on from there. I’ve still got that first guitar and often wonder where I’d be if my dad hadn’t bought it.

As a kid I always saw the pantomime at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. I thought: “Fancy making a living like that, it looks fantastic fun.” And it is, it’s all fun, you go to work and enjoy yourself.

Samantha loves seeing me on stage too. Last year I did a farting routine, I pretend its creaking floorboards but it’s the other ugly sister in the bathroom. Kids love the idea of farting, Sam told her teacher: ‘Daddy pumps on the stage for a living and then he falls off.’ Cos I did this other bit where I fell into the orchestra pit.

Nowadays lots of kids don’t seem to know how to enjoy themselves. I noticed a change a few years ago, the recession kept people in and they forgot how to clap – how to laugh out loud. Children seeing a live show don’t know how to react, they’re unsure of themselves, won’t let themselves go. But it’s a change in all our lives, families don’t switch off the TV. They don’t talk or eat or just be together. Kids come in from school, do their home work, play Nintendo, eat in front of the TV, then go to bed, that’s their life, they don’t communicate. We’re often just as bad, the TV always on, but talk is very important and we do make time for that.

My family have made me see enjoying life, and work, is more important than money. I look forward to panto season, it’s an 8 week ‘holiday’. I could earn more doing other things than panto, but I love it.

I love writing pantos too, though it can get stressful, because I can’t start until they’re cast, usually in June, by then I’m in summer season at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach. I’ve written three this year, Aladdin for Blackpool, Jack and the Beanstalk for Bath and Cinderella for Rhyl. I stick to tradition; there are parts fairies always say, I leave those in, then I write for individuals. Aladdin’s star, Wayne Sleep, plays Slave to the Ring, usually a small part, it needed building up and he wants to dance. Jack and the Beanstalk, has Paul Bradley, Nigel from Eastenders, he needs some jokes about video rental. I’m an ugly sister at Rhyl and I want some great lines too.

I’m trying to change Pantomime. Not the tradition, that’s far too important, ‘He’s behind you, Oh no he isn’t, Oh yes he is’ will never end, everyone, especially the adults, love that. In the pantos I’ve done before all the children were laughing but I never heard any adults laugh. It’s a shame, I thought, they’re enjoying it because their kids are but they should enjoy the show too.

Now I write to suit adults and children leaving the laughs to the words, actions and characters. Of course technical improvements help, it doesn’t have to be so visual. When I started we stood on stage shouting and people would shout from the back: ‘We can’t hear a bloody word you’re saying’, now everyone’s miked-up. And lighting FX nowadays are unbelievable.

I write my pantomimes like a play, and when I’m directing I want the discipline of a play, too. Shouting out to the audience and doing adlibs throws the production to the audience, but actors working together on stage draw the audience in, they’re more involved and it’s much more exciting. Some directors just let you do what you do, they may say walk here or stand there, that’s only directing movement. I get very involved, directing people, building characters and developing the story. I’ve been around a long time always trying to learn and as the director I’m watching for changes and improvements throughout the run. Serious actors often say what a load of utter junk, it’s only a pantomime. That’s a mistake, pantomime is the first taste of live theatre for most people.

You could say I’m lucky, I’ve always been working – earning money, a bad thing in some ways, earning a regular living, you tend to stick with it and in the long term that can damage your career. I’ve never really wanted stardom, just a well paid steady job, but I have missed opportunities. The BBC offered me a game show, I thought it was awful and turned it down – it’s been running over seven years. A stupid mistake? I worked with Russ Abbot for several years, everyone said I was crazy to quit, with another TV series and a Palladium run lined up, but I was bored. I needed a change.

I enjoy working hard, it’s what makes you ‘lucky’ in this business. Writing and directing are the things I want to do now, so I work hard at them. I’d rather be pushing myself doing something different than taking it easy doing something I’ve done before. I get bored doing the same thing. Doing pantomime stops me being bored. Writing stops me being bored. I’m developing other ideas too – a new kids TV programme, a t.v sit-com and a book.

I still enjoy my radio show. I got a Sony award, a radio Oscar, a few years back. In London at the Grosvenor, Michael Aspel – the full thing, I heard ‘the winner is Tom Bright’. I didn’t even know what it was; I’d only been in radio 2 minutes. Hard work making me lucky again. BBC agents offering me this and that. I turned them down, I’m happy doing what I’m doing.

Evenings are unscheduled, Diane or I could be working, though we always make time to talk over the day before we go to sleep. While I’m at Rhyl I get home every 2 or 3 days, and of course for Christmas day with the family. I could have written Diane into Cinderella, we can work together, we’ve done it before. But working two shows a day isn’t fair on the children. If I get to bed before midnight it’s an early night, but whatever the time I can’t go to sleep without one last look at the children. I idolise them.