Meet your new ALCS Board Chair, Tony Bradman

Earlier this month, children’s writer Tony Bradman was appointed Chair of the ALCS Board of Directors, and he will officially take the baton in November for a three-year term.

Members might notice that Tony is no stranger to ALCS. He served on the Board of Directors for six years – three of them as Vice-Chair – before stepping down in 2013.

Dubbed “the quintessential professional writer” by ALCS Board Member James McConnachie, the list of books Tony has published is as long as your arm (more than 200 titles), spans over 30 years, and includes staples read by children everywhere: Through my Window, Dilly the Dinosaur and The Frankenstein Teacher to name just a few. Tony is also chair of The Siobhan Dowd Trust, a charity that makes grants to projects which bring books to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“I want our members to know that we’re standing up for creativity and their rights.”

Tony describes his return to the ALCS Board as a homecoming. “I know ALCS well and I have enormous respect for the company. Not just because of the royalties I’ve had from ALCS over the years, though of course that’s been great! But also because ALCS is an extremely well-managed, efficient organisation that works hard for writers.

“I do think it will be enormously useful for ALCS to have someone like me in the Chair’s job. I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for nearly 30 years, so I understand what being a writer is all about – the pressures, the ups and downs, the challenges that writers face. There has never been a time when it’s been easy to be a writer, and I think it’s particularly hard at the moment.”

Where the role of ALCS Chair is concerned, Tony is certainly a safe pair of hands. “As a Chair I will be tough, certainly on the financial side. The company’s core business is collecting money that is owed to our members and making sure it’s delivered to them efficiently. As part of that, the company has to work to protect our rights, because it’s the rights which generate the income. The Chair’s primary job is to make sure that’s all working as it should. The company also has a responsibility to its staff at every level, so that forms part of the Chair’s job too.”

Tony’s previous time on the Board means he not only recognises the issues that authors face, but also the intricacies of the world of rights and copyright that ALCS inhabits. Now is no time for somebody to be learning on the job, he says. “ALCS needs someone to come in who is fully ready. Getting to grips with this industry for someone who doesn’t have any experience of it would be a very steep learning curve. It’s an incredibly complex business and a three-year term is not that long if you need six months to get up to speed.”

In addition to his ‘previous’ at ALCS, Tony also currently sits on the Public Lending Right (PLR) Advisory Committee, and has been working to support the extension of PLR to offsite ebook loans, a development which ALCS and the Society of Authors are also currently campaigning for.

“If you actually add it up, the creative industries generate colossal value, all thanks to copyright.”

“I want our members to know that we’re standing up for creativity and their rights. We should shout about that as often as possible. The music industry is currently reminding the Government how valuable it is, how many people it employs. We need to work with them as well as other creative groups across the board to strengthen our position.

“If you actually add it up, the creative industries generate colossal value, all thanks to copyright. Barbara Hayes [Deputy CEO of ALCS] will tell you that lobbying is not flashy. It’s about working hard behind the scenes, making sure we talk to the right people and put our case well – so we have to know what might be coming down the line towards us.

“For example, we need to be vigilant about the possibilities of copyright exceptions in education being forced on us if things go badly for the economy. So we have to make the Government aware of the damage copyright exceptions have done to writers’ incomes in Canada and might do in Australia. Barbara has been doing this kind of thing brilliantly and I want to build on her work.”

Tony also expresses concerns over the general perception of writers and their profession. His sentiments mirror the recent comment of Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, that content creation is not a hobby.

“One of the most important things I’d like to help alter is the general view of writing, this idea that somehow we’re amateurs who only do it for love and not for money. That’s not the case. Of course we love what we do, but we’re also professional people, providing professional services and producing material that generates enormous economic and moral value. Therefore we should get the return on it that we’re entitled to. We should be taken seriously.”

Tony praises the work of Adam Singer during his time as Chair, particularly his move to ‘house share’ with our partners the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and Publishers Licensing Society (PLS). “Adam has been the driving force in bringing the organisations together. The advantages of that go beyond cost saving: it’s about being able to talk to each other far more easily. To be in the same building gives us all a bigger feeling of common purpose, and that is a great thing.”

Tony is also passionate about his own area of writing, children’s books. He cites the strength of the children’s book market, which continues to expand year on year.

“One of the most important things I’d like to help alter is the general view of writing, this idea that somehow we’re amateurs …”

“People are often patronising about writing for children – but children’s books are among the most celebrated publications of all time. Just look at the mega-successes of recent years such as Harry Potter, Northern Lights, The Hunger Games. Then there are the classics – Narnia, Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter …  I could go on, but the truth is that in children’s books we punch above our weight, and our books generate a huge amount of interest. Publishers of children’s books are also very sharp and locked into the world of entertainment, franchises, publicity and social media: something all writers could learn from.”

As a children’s writer, Tony feels a great deal of affinity with TV writers. “Commissions for children’s writers are often very specific. We might be asked to write a 5,000-word story for children aged five to eight, or 10,000 words for nine to elevens, and deadlines are usually tight. I’ve often thought it’s got a lot in common with writing for a TV soap. It’s targeted, it’s got to be on time, like in the TV world.”

He also wants to make sure that TV writers are able to make the most of what he sees as the new opportunity of online programmes.

“There is more content now, there are more scripts being written for more outlets, which should be a good thing. But whether writers are being paid as well as they should be is another matter. So as we draw a large part of our income at ALCS from audio-visual (AV) works, it’s vital that we work with writers producing content in those areas, as well as their representatives like the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), to make sure that they’re getting the most out of these increased opportunities.”

“We really are living in a golden age of TV drama. The quality is extraordinary – and of course it all starts with the writers!”

That is Tony Bradman, the professional writer. And Tony Bradman the man? He says he’s a great consumer of culture, citing regular trips to the theatre, museums and art galleries and a serious reading habit of at least three or four books a week – favourites being fiction of all kinds, poetry, history and biographies, particularly those of writers. He’s also a big fan of TV drama such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, various Scandi-crime series and lots more. “We really are living in a golden age of TV drama. The quality is extraordinary – and of course it all starts with the writers!”

Tony’s next book for children will be published by Walker Books in March 2017. Magnus: Anglo-Saxon Boy, and is a historical novel set in 1066.

“I’ve got lots of ideas for other projects too, of course – that’s what being a freelance writer is all about. But the thing I’m really looking forward to is getting stuck into working for ALCS again. There’s a lot to be done, and it’s time we got on with it!”

Interview by Jade Zienkiewicz from the Communications team at ALCS