“It’s strange I’ve ended up living here,” reflects Bede Blake. He points across the esplanade to the Blake’s beach hut on Ventnor seafront where two gulls are sunning themselves in the early April rays.
“My mother was English. She came to Ventnor on holiday in her early twenties and would have walked along this seafront. Later she went to Australia where she met my father. Our family surname is Blake and my parent’s combined initials are the same as the initials written on the Blake’s beach hut … just over there.”
Despite this coincidental connection to the Ventnor Blakes, Bede’s family are in no other way related. He was born and grew up in Sydney and later, when Bede was a teen, his family moved to Tasmania. He tells me, “My father was an artist. He was a painter, created sculptures and was also a photographer and musician. He tended to float from one thing to the next. One minute he was painting and the next minute he was in a jazz band. Our house was always filled with paintings and half-finished projects.”
With his early years immersed in such free flowing creativity, it is hardly surprising that Bede’s life would take on a similar hue. A lover of film, his childhood dream was to one day produce films based on his own scripts. “I used to think that’s what I’ll do when I grow up. In the meantime I began working in a graphic design company. I mastered the design software quickly, which naturally led on to a career in this field. I guess I kind of rejected my father’s free-form attitude. A career in graphic design had firmer boundaries, so I began to produce commercial art for advertising and business.”
Aged 24 Bede left Australia and headed off to Europe. “My twenties were all about travel. It was a great time, but eventually I ran out of money. I remember being in Prague. I didn’t have enough cash to get home, but I did have enough to get to London. My idea was to go there and get some freelance graphic design work.”
Arriving in London Bede stayed with friends. He used his last £60.00 to buy a mobile phone so that any potential clients could contact him. Almost immediately freelance work began to pour in and it was at the first company he worked for that Bede met Sarah, an island girl who would eventually become his partner.
Throughout his career in graphic design Bede continued to dream of writing and producing. His big break came quite unexpectedly. He tells me, “I was watching the TV one night and caught the credits of some BBC3 programme. It was talking about some X Factor type show, but for writers. It was called The Last Laugh. The idea was that six well known sitcom writers would write two acts of a show and then authors were invited to finish off and write the final act.”
Knowing how notoriously slow and difficult comedy is to break into, Bede entered the competition. Several months later he received a call from the production team to announce that his script been shortlisted from 4,816 entries. It was now down to the professional writers to choose their favourite ending. To Bede’s delight, his script was chosen, completing The Last Quango in Harris – a tale of dissolute civil servants in the Western Isles. The script was co-written by Marks and Gran who created and wrote Birds Of A Feather.
Since then Bede has developed material for both film and television as well as contributing to shows such as My Family BBC1. The first series of his TV sitcom “Shelfstackers” was screened on BBC Switch in autumn 2010 and the pilot episode of his comedy “Officially Special” has now been given the green light by Sky.
My final question to Bede is what sort of advise he would give a would-be scriptwriter. He replies, “Find your own way. This is a game of endurance and stamina. Just make sure that you want it enough and refuse to accept failure and never take the rejection personally. At the end of the day this is about the last man standing. That is the person who will make a career out of their passion.”