Ken Armstrong -
writer and script reader extraordinaire
We first met Ken as a
writer through the London Radio
Playwrights' Festival. He submitted two short plays as part of the
Festival's workshop process, which were so good, they were both chosen for
production and broadcast on LBC. He later submitted a full-length play, To
Sleep, which was one of the five winners of the Festival in 1994. When we
asked him for biographical details for publicity purposes, we noticed that he
had won some award for writing theatre reviews, and we asked him if he'd be
interested in doing some script reading for our competitions and festivals. To
our delight, he said yes.
IRDP is very fortunate
in having Ken Armstrong as one of its trustworthy band of script readers. But
he's not just any old script reader. There are several things which set Ken
apart from all the others - he writes the best (and the longest) critiques in
the world, he's always friendly (even if he's having a bad hair day) and he has
this great Sligo accent. We've always been impressed by the constructive,
helpful nature of Ken's reports, and many writers have phoned or written to
tell us how much they appreciate the time and trouble he takes to write reviews
which always maintain an even balance of criticism, praise and constructive
guidance. His critiques are a tribute to his own considerable knowledge and
expertise in the field of writing.
The black and white
photo on the right shows Ken with his son, John.
The colour picture below
shows Ken in the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden, when he came to receive his
award in the London Radio Playwrights' Festival in 1994. Also in the
picture is the distinguished playwright,
who has held master classes for writers and is a judge in the script
competition. Her support for the Festival and her commitment to helping new
writers is very much appreciated.
Ken Armstrong lives with
Patricia, his super-model wife, and John his only begotten son, in
a disused whaling station on the extreme west coast of Ireland. (Only some of
this is true!) He is Thirty-Six but often lies that he is Forty because he
pronounces it better.
He occupies himself by
writing, working for architects and throwing sticks at passing
He has three IRDP plays
to his credit: two short radio plays and To Sleep, all
produced by the inestimable Tim Crook. To Sleep was a winner in the
London Radio Playwrights' competition in Nineteen something-or-other and was
subsequently selected by the Radio Authority as the independent entrant for the
EBU play selection committee in Geneva. He has also won the Dickens
Museum Short Story Competition and was a finalist in the North West
Radio Short Story Competition.
His play The J Seat
was produced and broadcast by RTE in Ireland. This play
emerged from a five page scene which was discussed in an IRDP workshop by the
wonderful Olwen Wymark and the author gladly acknowledges that the one hour
result would never have been developed without the help and encouragement gained
from this scheme.
Ken has completed two
theatre plays, one of which, Paul's Talent, gained an honourable
mention in the 1997 Society of Irish Playwrights O.Z. Whitehead Competition.
The other play - a full length adaptation of the IRDP produced radio play To
Sleep - is even better, at least he thinks so.
1997 provided his first
opportunity to speak aloud on radio with a contribution to RTE's Sunday
Miscellany programme called Digging a Hole for Myself. This was
followed by a second Miscellany piece in July 1998, this one called Bad with
Names. Next came An Elite among Altar Boys at Easter this year. Two
more Miscellanys are on the way.
In 1998, St.
Patrick's Drama Group in Westport (that's in Ireland) asked Ken
to write a 40 minute radio play for them and the result, Grainne's Cut,
was broadcast last March on the NWR/MWR network in Ireland. At a
subsequent awards bash, the two leading actors - one male, one female ('actress'
is out, you know) both won nominations for their acting performances, the
overall production was nominated for best play and Ken won the best playwright
The most recent writing
endeavours have centred on The Movies with two and a half
screenplays completed to date for Claddagh Films. At the moment
An Autumn Affair looks most likely to make the grade but the adaptation
of the IRDP-produced Channel 31 has been well-received too.
Ken relishes the
opportunities he gets to read entrants for the IRDP competitions and
prides himself on the excellent writers he claims that he was the first to
spot. These include William George Q, Elizabeth Berry, Martin McDonagh and Jane
Duncan (all right... not the first to spot her but he did think she was great
without knowing who she was, so there!).
Having lived in London
for 14 years, Ken has now returned to his native shore but keeps in touch with
real-life via the Internet and his great pal Marja who he has only met once (the
'fat, red-eye photo' on the left taken by Marja proves it!) but who he has now
spoken to one zillion and fifty - hang on - one zillion and fifty-one times
and, know what, he can't wait 'til the next time!
Ken is basically a mad
bastard. His favourite movies include Days of Heaven and The
Vanishing, Body Heat and Blade Runner (Deckard is a
replicant). Musically he admires Tom Waits and is currently on a serious Burt
Bacharach kick which has cost him all his friends. His playwright heroes are
David Mamet, Peter Shaffer and Neil Simon and his favourite book remains Watership
Down but he hasn't read it since he was 14 and is now afraid to, in case it
is actually rubbish. He also respects Fyodor Dostoyevsky but has never read any
of his work.