Monday, 4 November 2019

Writing: The Next Generation - Ciaran Murtagh

This month I was lucky enough to head up to Manchester with my family to watch an episode of Crackerjack being filmed. I've written quite a few sketches for this show and it was a real thrill to see them performed in front of a studio audience. One of the sketches featured past presenters - Stu Francis, Don MacLean, Bernie Clifton, Basil Brush and Jan Hunt. The idea of the sketch was for them to pass the baton onto new presenters Sam and Mark and it was quite moving watching these performers I had grown up with paying it forward in that way.

Stu Francis was the Crackerjack presenter I grew up with. He's partly responsible for me doing the job I do now. I never thought I'd ever end up writing for him, but this remarkable career sometimes throws up those moments. I was writing silly jokes for the man who made me appreciate the value of silly jokes in the first place.

Writers are often connected to generations past and present in a very tangible way. We spend time in schools learning from the writers of the future and we spend time with books learning from the writers of the past. There is a continuum to our craft and to our work that transcends the time and place in which it was written.

Sitting in the Crackerjack studio, 30 years later than perhaps would have been ideal for my 8 year old self, it struck me how much I had been inspired by it as a child.

It's not just the show itself though, the people making it have also paid it forward. The first bit of TV I ever wrote featured Sam and Mark, they now present the show. The first bit of TV I ever wrote was commissioned on spec by Steve Ryde, he's now executive producer of Crackerjack. He took a risk on me, gave me some of his time and expertise, and now I have a career in a business I knew nothing about a decade ago.

This week I got nominated for a writing Bafta. If Steve Ryde hadn't taken that chance, if Crackerjack hadn't made me appreciate the value of a pun, I might never have been in this position. I don't forget that, which is why it's important when someone reaches out for advice or mentorship I do my best to help. Most of our careers are a hotch potch of lucky breaks, hard work and the occasional helping hand.  It's our duty to find the time to pay it forward whenever we can.


Hilary Hawkes said...

"Most of our careers are a hotch potch of lucky breaks, hard work and the occasional helping hand" - so true and all needed along with someone to spot and encourage that initial potential. Congratulations on the BAFTA.

Pippa Goodhart said...


Oh, that brings back, 'It's Friday, and it's five to five, and it's CRACKERKJACK!' Do they still give pencils as prizes?!

Sue Purkiss said...

Congratulations on the nomination!

Lynne Benton said...

Congratulations, Ciaran!

Ciaran Murtagh said...

Thanks for your congrats guys - and yes they still give out pencils as prizes, just massive ones.

Cabbages all round too!