Channelling Her Majesty for Radio 4

There was Michael Winner in heaven. A dog was going to comment on cosmetic enhancement and Crufts. There could be a Transfer Day story, with a desperate English manager and a moody French footballer.  Or maybe something about a knackered old DJ trying to remember whether he did anything of interest to Operation Yewtree 50 years ago.

It was Monday afternoon, Broadcasting House, a meeting to decide the topic of this week’s 15 minute reality-based story From Fact to Fiction.  The ideas were being shot down like clay pigeons on Marksman Day at the range.

Not that I was complaining. Like most writers, I tend to do most of my brainstorming  with myself. A real meeting  -   executives, notes, someone checking the news websites for breaking stories  – felt serious, grown-up.

It is a brave idea,  From Fact to Fiction. An item from the week’s news is taken as the starting point for a story in monologue or dramatic form. Over recent weeks, topics have included Savile, the weather, the triple-dip recession. AL Kennedy bravely tackled events at the Sandy Hook Primary School.

It is also, like all the best ideas,  fraught with danger. A story can slip from the news. What seemed amusing can, a couple of days later, have become more serious. There are legal factors, not to mention matters of taste. Then there is the speed of it all: commissioned on Monday, it is to be written, cast and recorded by Friday for broadcast on Saturday night.

Personally, I love the immediacy and edge this brings to the process. I write both fiction and opinion columns for newspapers; this form, perhaps uniquely,  brings together elements of both disciplines.

Monday’s meeting went on for longer than expected. For varying reasons, Michael Winner, the dog, the football manager and the DJ failed to find favour. The news websites seemed unusually quiet. Then, as a certain edginess descended on our little group, the news broke that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was to abdicate. We decided that the reaction of a certain eminent royal personage might be interesting.

Most of my week has been spent, with the producer Duncan Minshull, in the imaginary presence of Her Majesty. She will played tonight – with appropriate dignity and serenity  – by Sara Kestelman.

Thank you, thank you, Queen Beatrix.

‘One Needs Me-Time’ is on BBC Radio 4 at 7pm on 2nd February