Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Oxford Brookes is going to take over the world ...

... Well you heard it here first, although the woman I was talking to fervently hoped it happened well after she'd stopped being the acting head of English. No doubt taking over the world is a very time consuming task.

There is a point to this rather odd opening. I have just arrived home from the launch of the Creative Writing MA at Brookes which is to be chaired by Philip Pullman. The course is to be taught by novelist James Hawes and poet Jane Yeh and will also involve a lot of other writers too. Here's what Brookes website says about it: '
Creative Writing Visiting Fellows will be contributing to the new and exciting postgraduate course with periodic guest lectures and readings. They include Pullman and authors Patience Agbabi, Kate Clanchy, Bernardine Evaristo, James Meek, Roma Tearne and Benjamin Zephaniah.'

It was exciting to be in a room where a new course was being born, and one that I'm particularly attached to, having spent a year at UEA doing a Life Writing MA alongside all those incredibly talented creative writers.

It was an interesting evening, combining readings from James Hawes and Jane Yeh with a discussion between Janet Beer (Brookes' Vice Chancellor) and Philip Pullman. Janet focused on the adaptations of Philip's works (which are numerous and involve more than just the His Dark Materials series.

That was though, inevitably, the main topic of conversation. The differences between stage and film adaptations were noted, Philip saying that the theatre was a better medium because performances could develop over a longer period of time, which couldn't happen in a film process.
The film was spoken about in quite some detail too. Philip had always wanted Nicole Kidman to play Mrs Coulter as he felt she was able to be both sexy and repellent at the same time. He wanted Laurence Olivier to play Lord Asriel, but was a little constricted on that choice for some reason.
The subject of sequels and the ending of the first film came up too. The ending was in the end restricted by what audiences would make of the film as a whole. The producers wanted an ending that would be a cliffhanger and a resolution at the same time, because they were unsure of the reception it would get in America. They were right to worry, as there was a religious boycott of the film in the states. (Incidentally, Pullman gave an impression of these religious boycotters, by doing a rather good American accent and declaiming 'You'll go to hell! You'll go to hell if you see this film!' to which Janet Beer replied 'Oh, Sarah Palin was there was she?' - which got the biggest laugh of the evening. I love it when things like that happen!)

Anyway, other topics were covered, like Philip's latest project which is the story for a comic in the DFC comic, produced by his publisher and also touched briefly on the subject of age banding, a topic that is obviously close to Philip's heart.

All in all, it was a highly interesting event, and I'm looking forward to seeing the progress of it, and whether it becomes part of the undergraduate course in due time. Apologies for not having any pictures to share, but I neglected to take my camera to work this morning. I shall steal some off the Brookes website when they appear!

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