Writing for Performance

This is a two year full-time, or four year part-time course leading to a Foundation Degree. It includes a Certificate of Higher Education as its first year. Applicants should apply for the Certificate of Higher Education course.

If you are a full-time student you will study two modules per term with ten hours per week of contact teaching, to include tutor supervision and support.

If you are a part-time student you will study one module per term. This module offers you five hours per week of contact teaching to include tutor supervision and support.

The course is validated by The Open University.

Writing for Performance at Ruskin College is an outstandingly creative and vocational course, linked to the real world of writing and the performance industries. It is the only writing programme in the UK which covers, comprehensively, every aspect of performance writing.

With small classes and a great deal of contact time compared with other courses at this level, students at Ruskin are exceptionally well supported.

Your creative output is our priority. You will write every day of your course, and everything you write will be read and discussed with your tutors.

Our course is unique in offering second-year students a range of professional industry placements – in theatre, film or radio, or in a range of community settings - that cater to virtually any writing for performance genre.

We invite professional actors to perform your play scripts, and through a collaboration with Oxford Brookes University you will have the chance to see your screenplays brought to life. Practitioners of the calibre of David Edgar, Nicolas Kent, Owen Sheers, Maxine Peake and Mark Haddon have all given talks to our students, and we also run a diverse series of professional play-readings in conjunction with the Oxford Playhouse.

This course will suit anyone with an aptitude for writing and a passion for theatre, film, TV and spoken word, and the in-depth teaching on structure, plotting, character creation, writing scenes and storytelling will be of great value to those planning to produce work in any genre.

Please come along to one of our Taster days. For a full list of dates, click here

In addition, you might like to attend one of our Ruskin Theatre Platforms at either Oxford Playhouse or Ruskin College from January to June 2016. For dates, go to our events section.

You are extremely welcome to come along to see the college or talk about the course with John Retallack, talk to him on 01865 759648.

View the programme specifications here

Ruskin Theatre Platforms

Staged readings of ten modern and classic plays 

Free Events but booking is essential.


Is your answer to any of the following questions a resounding yes then Writing for Performance is for YOU!

• Do you have an active interest in theatre, film, songwriting, comedy, or any form of the spoken word?
• Do you want to accelerate and improve your writing output under expert guidance?
• Are you passionate about writing but looking for a course based around practical and vocational work rather than literary theory?
• Do you have no formal educational qualifications but show exceptional flair in writing?
• Have you attended a part-time creative writing course and discovered a late-flowering talent?
• Are you already established in a career but wish to find ways to make writing pay?
• Are you a fledgling writer who wants experience in different sectors of the industry?
• Would you like to see your work filmed or performed?
• Are you looking for an alternative to conventional university courses?
• Are you a mature student who wishes to study with your peers?
• Are you a talented writer who will benefit from small class sizes and a great deal of individual attention and learning support?

This course starts in September.
Applications close 15th August.

The course will prepare you to work:

  • in theatres - writing and evaluating scripts; researching and developing resource packs for schools; devising and leading workshops; devising and carrying out publicity and promotional material for leaflets, programmes, brochures and websites
  • as a performance poet
  • as a writer in the community (e.g. facilitating writing for performance in community centres; libraries; nursing homes; day care centres; mental health settings; schools; asylum centres; hospitals and hospices; prisons; businesses and commercial organisations).
  • as a writer of film, TV, radio or business training scripts
  • as a festival organiser or assistant
  • as a promotional writer using podcasts, blogs, wikis and digital stories

Click on the tutor's title to read their profile

John Retallack

Course programme coordinator and Tutor

Helen Mosby

Tutor in Creative Writing and Critical Practice & Writing for Performance

Namita Chakrabarty

Tutor in Creative Writing and Critical Practice & Writing for Performance

You can apply for courses at Ruskin College online or you can download a pdf of our application form

You can request a hard copy of the application form to be sent to you by contacting Reception at Ruskin Hall on 01865 759600 or email enquiries@ruskin.ac.uk

You may also apply for this course online through UCAS. The UCAS course code is W810.

When filling in the application form please ensure that you complete the personal statement section in full and ensure that you include the contact details of two references. Incomplete applications will be returned.

Tuition fees

Subject to eligibility, most full and part time students will be eligible to apply for a Tuition Fee Loan from the Student Loans Company.

Maintenance (living costs)

Subject to eligibility, full time students may be eligible to apply for help with their maintenance with a Maintenance Grant/Loan. Part time students are not eligible for any financial help with maintenance.
Information on the Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Grant/Loan can be found here.

Level 4 (Certificate of Higher Education year)


Introduction to Writing for Performance

The main aim of this module is to engage you with the excitement and challenge of creative writing. We will explore genre, form and structure in fiction, drama, screenwriting and poetry and look at a range of textual sources. You will be encouraged to explore libraries and the internet for ideas and information and engage with different levels and types of culture, including visits to museums, art galleries and exhibitions, poetry readings and slams, music events and films. We will look at storytelling from various angles from fairytale, legend and the Norse sagas to current TV ‘soaps’. There will be continuing emphasis on editing and revision as a means of achieving a professional end result.


The Quest for Originality: Literary History and Theory for Performance Writers

This module provides the foundation for the critical analysis of writing and literature that is primarily for, or adapted for, performance and the spoken word. A key element will be the importance of adaptation and we will explore crossing boundaries and genres and the adaptation of texts between different forms (e.g. poem to performance; book to stage play; short story to film or radio). Although the course is focused on practical, work-based skills, this module is an opportunity for you to explore critical commentary and to become acquainted with types of theory that will add value and new dimensions to your studies and to your own writing.


Script and Screenwriting: Level 4

This module, which was originally developed for and validated by the British Film Council, will prepare you for Script and Screenwriting: Level 4. It will take your basic creative writing skills and show you how to prepare material for the moving image. It will look at notions of story, structure, theme, genre, characterisation, tone and technical formatting. It will also contain an element of critical theory, helping you assess your own work and that of others. It will point up equality and diversity issues throughout as suitable grounds for exploration and development.


Theatre in Practice: Level 4

This module provides the key writing skills required to research, develop and generate dramatic texts. Dialogue, structure, characterisation and stagecraft will all be covered. The module offers a rare opportunity for you to explore the ‘page to stage’ process as you will produce scenes, pieces of dialogue and sample scripts in the classroom and then test them on stage the following week. You will then have the opportunity to see what elements need to be revised and rewritten. You will also gain an understanding of the way writers work collaboratively with directors and how the staging of any drama has an impact on written text.


Verse Drama, Poetry and Lyrics for Performance

This specialist module has been created to take advantage of the number of work opportunities available to writers generating and performing text for events such as literary festivals; performance poetry events; cross-arts performance; writing lyrics for performance at festivals and gigs and on albums and tours. The understanding of performance is central to this module and the core learning strategy will be to experience the way literary forms change and develop through the process of preparing them for an audience. This module will link closely to elements of the ‘page to stage’ teaching on Theatre in Practice Levels 4 and 5 and there will be opportunities to develop songwriting, hip-hop and rap skills and to perform at poetry slams and gigs.


Facilitating Other People’s Creativity

This is a unique, specialist module designed to enable you to apply your skills to generate creativity in others, for example in community centres, libraries, nursing homes, day care centres, mental health settings, schools, asylum centres, hospitals and hospices, prisons, businesses and commercial organisations. The skills required include the ability to run residencies and workshops, the ability to understand the needs of different user groups and to plan and deliver programmes for them, the ability to work on a ‘one-to-one’, small or large group basis, the ability to devise and produce ideas and copy for publicity to generate interest in the course (e.g. websites, desk-to publishing, leaflets etc), the ability to work with the media to promote projects, and the ability to generate successful project outcomes such as public readings, exhibitions, staging a play or producing a video or film. To do this work successfully, you must learn to work with individuals and groups in a supportive and enabling way, and to mentor others. Teaching others requires self analysis of your own writing practice which inevitably develops and strengthens your own practice. You will learn how to find solutions, seek opportunities and open doors for yourself and others.


Level 5


Theatre in Practice

This module further develops the skills learned in Theatre in Practice: Level 4 through a combination of theoretical and practical studies. The course will focus especially on the innate artificiality of theatre and you will learn how to write for large or small scale productions and understand the processes by which performance is created, realised and managed including the processes of writing, rehearsal, editing, and improvisation. The fundamental text behind this work is Peter Brooks’s dictum “I can take any space and make it a stage.” This will be supplemented by creative exploration of the ideas of other major theorists of 20th century stage drama such as Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski and Bertolt Brecht. You will be encouraged to show awareness of equality and diversity issues.


Script and Screenwriting

This aim of this module is to help you develop your knowledge and skills from Script and Screenwriting in Level 4 to a level that enables you work professionally or to progress to the third year of a BA (Hons) degree elsewhere.  This will be achieved in a number of ways. You will develop a writerly practice in relation to your own work within a multidisciplinary approach so that you understand the different forms of scriptwriting and their applications within a ‘real world’ context, be it business, education, training, or the arts. You will gain an appreciation of the collaborative nature of scriptwriting and develop critical facilities to help evaluate your own and other people’s work. You will also be encouraged to explore equality and diversity issues.


Practice Learning Placement

This module is a 10 week placement in the creative and cultural sector which will enable you to critically reflect, develop and evaluate your practice through a period of supervised and assessed practice learning in the workplace. The content of the placement may differ from employer to employer but all assessments will test the same learning outcomes. The placement will enable you to:

  • Link your learning in College to professional practice
  • Consider the integration in practice of the values of the literary arts field
  • Make links between theory, practice and policy
  • Appreciate the professional, career-orientated context of the practice learning opportunity
  • Evaluate your own future professional practice development needs
  • Build networks and contacts for future career opportunities.

Placements may be with theatres (e.g. Pegasus Theatre, Oxford or the Oxford Playhouse), event and festival organisers (e.g. Apples and Snakes Performance Poetry, Truck Music Festival) or community providers (e.g. Writers in Prisons).

Our location in Oxford means that practical links can be forged with industry settings well in advance so that second year students are thoroughly prepared for their Placement Term. Ruskin has an extensive industry-wide network. We currently seek to place students in the following organizations:

• Old Fire Station, Oxford 
• Pegasus Theatre, Oxford 
• Oxford Playhouse 
• BBC Radio Oxford 
• Oxford Women’s Shelter 
• Spires Academy, Oxford 
• The Workers’ Academy, Finland 
• BBC Radio Drama, London 
• Bristol Old Vic 
• Unicorn Theatre, London 
• The Orange Tree Theatre, London 
• Company of Angels


Writing for a Living

This module contains the elements of professional practice that you will need in order to function successfully as a free-lance writer. It will teach you how to organise and manage a ‘portfolio career’ and develop the range of skills you will need to make a success of it. The course will cover the researching of opportunities; submitting proposals and how to present them; applying for funding; negotiating and fulfilling a commission; editing, revising and proofing work; applications and interviews (to include CVs and interview techniques); advertising, marketing and publicity – how to promote yourself and other people using promotional literature (e.g. copywriting for leaflets); press and PR work – how to deal with the media to get the best results.


Final Project

The Final Project is an opportunity for you to develop and finalise your self-reflective work journal. This will pull together the main threads from previous workbooks, critical reading from booklists and recommended websites, tutorial and class notes, reviews of plays, films, TV programmes and books and tutor/ peer assessment and feedback. The Final Project provides the bridge between study at Ruskin College and the next stage of life for you, which may be either finding employment or progressing to the third year of a BA course. To enhance your computing skills for the workplace, you will be taught the necessary IT skills needed to enable you to promote yourself and your work to prospective employers through websites, blogs, wikis, podcasts and digital stories.

You will learn through a mixture of: 

  • tutor-led day schools with embedded tutorial support
  • supervised research and self directed study
  • a practice learning work placement in a workplace
  • whole class teaching to engage with original material (books, plays, films, poetry, radio and TV programmes)
  • workshops and seminars
  • visiting lecturer talks and readings
  • round table discussions
  • tutor supervision and feedback
  • field visits (e.g. to museums, galleries, theatres, poetry readings and slams).

Assessment will be through a mixture of: 

  • assignments
  • presentations
  • class exercises
  • coursework
  • written scripts
  • podcasts, videos and blogs
  • a self-reflective journal