... about her interest in the social and political history of the early 1900s and the vibrant literary scene of Sheffield.
Roanne: Please tell us a bit about where you live ...
Alice: I am from Leicester, but I came to university in Sheffield and fell in love with it. I moved here about 30 years ago. I live in a flat close to the city centre. Sheffield is a terrific vibrant city - there's a lot going on creatively and politically - and the people are very friendly!
R: Do you have a "day job"?
A: Yes - I'm a mental health support worker in the voluntary sector.
R: How long have you been writing?
A: Writing has been my hobby for about 20 years. I've done some creative writing courses with The Arvon Foundation
and the Workers' Educational Association (WEA)
- a fabulous organization which started up the first evening classes for working people.
R: Do you only write plays - or do you explore other forms of writing?
A: Only plays!
R: Tell us about some of the other plays that you have written (or are planning to write) ...
A: I've written a few - including a radio play which was produced on the local radio in Sheffield. This was called "Fractured Lives" and was about servicemen who had been wounded in the First World War and how they made a living working in a factory set up by a Sheffield woman. At the moment I'm doing some research into Sheffield's Castle - which was demolished after the Civil War. I was thinking about a play around the lives of women from that period of history - perhaps a promenade piece. As well as my own work, I've also collaborated on plays within a community theatre group called Sheffield Popular Arts. This group is sadly not so active any more, but a lot of the work was based on local history research projects.
R: How did you hear about the Tower's New Writing competition?
A: I heard through a group I belong to called Script Yorkshire
. Because I am very interested in the First World War, I wanted to participate in the competition.
R: How did you feel about winning?
A: Gobsmacked! As I'd submitted the play sometime in advance of the deadline, I didn't hear anything for a while and assumed that nothing had come of it. So when I heard I'd been shortlisted, and then I won I was surprised and thrilled!
R: Are you excited to see your play in production - or worried that it won't come across how you imagined?
A: Very excited, and not all worried. I am happy to hand it over.
R: What are you most looking forward to?
A: My words being brought to life - made flesh - by the actors, director, lights and set. Having worked on theatre projects before, I know the craft and skill that's involved in bringing a piece of writing to the stage.
R: What are you most apprehensive about?
A: I am not apprehensive - but there is a scene close the end which I think of as the "meeting scene" and it's quite special to me. It's a challenging scene and I think it will require real vision from the directors and actors to make it work.
R: Are you coming to rehearsals to give any input?
A: No - I think writers shouldn't necessarily be involved in the production unless the director requires it. Writers wanting to control how their work is portrayed can be very disruptive to the creative process. Though I will work with Lily Ann on any tweaks to the script that will help her to make the play work, of course!
R: What did you find particularly inspiring in writing about World War One?
A: It's a fascinating period of history. So much social change took place in those first decades of the 1900s - class barriers beginning to break down, women's suffrage as well as the inevitable social change through the loss of so many young men. It's also when the Labour Party began to emerge as a political force. For someone interested in social and political history (as I am) it's a very rich and enthralling period. I'm a Quaker and I'm also very interested in the Conscientious Objectors of the War - conscience is one of the themes that I explore in the Sons of Paradise. I've continued to research into the Conscientious Objectors and have found some fascinating accounts on a website called The White Feather Diaries
R: Although your main character, Charles, is fictional are any other characters in the play based up on real people?
A: No - though I read a good many personal accounts of people's wartime experiences and have based some of the incidents in the play on true anecdotes. I really wanted to explore the ideas of courage and heroism through the characters - they represent ideas rather than real people.
R: Tell us more about what you wanted to say in the play?
A: I wanted to show how the initial enthusiasm and patriotism of the young men who joined up was so horribly juxtaposed with the reality of the appalling living conditions and terrible carnage of the War. I wanted the play to explain how this affected people differently and what "conscience" comes to mean to the different characters.
R: Do you think you succeeded in what you set out to do?
A: Yes - I did achieve what I set out to do, I think - in so far as a piece of writing is ever truly finished!