Kathleen Baker aka John Overton – a prolific BBC radio playwright lost to history

Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook published by Routledge 31st March 2023

Book Description

Writing Audio Drama offers a comprehensive and intelligent guide to writing sound drama for broadcasting and online. This book uses original research on the history of writing radio plays in the UK and USA to explore how this has informed and developed the art form for more than 100 years.

Audio drama in the context of podcasting is now experiencing a global and exponential expansion. Through analysis of examples of past and present writing, the author explains how to create drama which can explore deeply psychological and intimate themes and achieve emotional, truthful, entertaining and thought-provoking impact. Practical analysis of the key factors required to write successful audio drama is covered in chapters focusing on audio play beginnings and openings, sound story dialogue, sustaining the sound story, plotting for sound drama, and the best ways of ending audio plays. Chapters are supported by online resources which expand visually on subjects discussed and point to exemplar sound dramas referenced in the chapters.

This textbook will be an important resource for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses such as Podcasting, Radio, Audio Drama, Scriptwriting, and Media Writing.

Kathleen Baker aka John Overton – one of the brilliant and prolific original women playwrights for BBC radio lost to history

All of Kathleen Baker’s writing credits for the BBC and in publishing were under her pen-name ‘John Overton.’

She was one of the BBC’s most prolific early original radio playwrights, but not one of her original scripts have survived.

Between 1925 and 1933 she had well over 40 credits for original plays broadcast by BBC Radio; mainly by the BBC’s Birmingham station.

Her romantic novels were published by Methuen and Werner Laurie. Yet up until now no serious research has been done into her achievements and contribution to the art-form of writing sound plays.

She specialised in writing stories for children.

In the 1930s, after a pause in her writing caused by illness, it seems the BBC went cold.

Surviving documents in the BBC’s Written Archives indicate her writing was being frequently dismissed and rejected.

Eventually her contribution to writing had virtually disappeared from cultural memory.

One of her most successful novels, My Lady April was made into the film A Gipsy Cavalier in 1922, directed by J. Stuart Blackton and starring Georges Carpentier, Flora le Breton and Rex McDougall.

This was one of three films made in Britain during the early 1920s by the British-born American founder of Vitagraph Studios.

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