Coronation Street and Emmerdale welcome diversity in the writer's room with Original Voices scheme

The UK’s longest running soap opera is looking for new writers with a returning scheme to bring in people from diverse backgrounds.

Coronation Street is working with it’s Yorkshire neighbours, Emmerdale to break down barriers in the industry by welcoming people from underrepresented backgrounds.

The scheme titled Original Voices used to alternate between Coronation Street and Emmerdale but this year the selected candidates will be working across both - creating more opportunities for emerging writers to get their first television experience. 

Iain MacLeod, says: "If you've only got one type of person in a room trying to come up with story lines, they are at risk of coming up with only one type of story.

"We want to have a broad viewer base, we want to represent a broad range of experiences and Britain is a brilliantly diverse place with a range of different voices and perspectives.

"We need to make sure we are that both on and off screen and that originates with the writing."

Successful candidates will be at the centre of ITV Studios’ Continuing Drama production and get the chance to write a shadow script and given 12 months of mentoring once the scheme ends.

David Proud completed the scheme two years ago and has now written scripts that have been shown on Britain’s televisions. 

David Proud completed the scheme and is now a writer for the soap. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

He said: "I've always wanted to be a writer. I wrote school plays and had my friends perform them in assembly which didn't make me hugely popular because I was dragging all my friends in to perform plays about drugs and different issues."

"You leave the scheme witha. proper full credit you can then use to further your career, so opportunities like this are extremely rare," he continued.

"I think getting my first script commission and I sat at home and I typed 'interior rovers' and I kind of just took a moment and went that's my job's the best show in the world."

For those of on screen, having someone who shares similar experiences to them behind the camera helps their characters come to life.

The Bailey family. Credit: Coronation Street

Channique Sterling-Brown plays Dee Dee Bailey, a solicitor who is part of the well-known Bailey family.

"It's really brilliant to find voices for different characters, so for us being a Caribbean family, I love the moments I can identify having experiences with my actual Caribbean family," she said.

The scheme is one of many coming out of the ITV Academy with the intention of making television more diverse and representative.

Data from the Creative Diversity Network shows that off-screen diversity is as follows:

  • Over-50s and people who identify as disabled are still very under-representedin many off-screen roles, and progress is slow.

  • Females are making fewer contributions off-screen than they were four yearsago, driven by a reduction in the percentage of contributions made in a seniorrole.

  • Female representation is particularly low in the important roles of Writer (32.4%)and Director (25.3%).

  • Many craft roles remain highly gendered, with females heavily outnumberingmales in Hair and Make-Up and Costume and Wardrobe, while males remaindominant in Camera, Sound and Lighting.

  • With the exception of Commissioning Editor, those who identify as Black, Asianand Minority Ethnic are still under-represented in all senior roles. Among craftroles, representation by people who identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic isparticularly low in Lighting and Sound.

  • Representation by people who identify as South Asian not only remains very lowacross many roles, it is falling.

Sterling-Brown continued: "A scheme that is intentionally seeking to make room at the table is just the perfect way to find those voices that are in hard to reach places.

"There are all sorts of accessibility issues within the industry and so trying to dismantle that is the way forwards."

So, what are they looking for?

Producer, Iain MacLeod, says a sense of humour is key to writing for Coronation Street. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Mr MacLeod said: "A good sense of humour, I think uniquely among the continuing dramas Coronation Street is a really funny show, I think the sense of humour of it has been baked into it's DNA right from it's inception in 1960.

"You need to be funny, you need to be collaborative...what we're looking for is having a particular voice or a unique background or unique life experience you can bring to an already quite diverse writing team.

"You need to be able to work quickly, you need to not be too previous about what you've done because it's a big machine and there's lots of collaboration and interaction between editors and the writers. So you need to be a good team player.

"But overall, we just want somebody that's got something to say and that's sitting at home thinking my voice isn't on the television, but would fit right in on Coronation Street."

The scheme closes on 24 September.