Paul – in his own write

THE DIAGNOSIS of a disabling neurological condition could so easily have stopped Paul Powell s life in its tracks and left him a shell of his former self. But for the Shefford man, now aged 50, the discovery that he had multiple sclerosis began a whole ne

THE DIAGNOSIS of a disabling neurological condition could so easily have stopped Paul Powell's life in its tracks and left him a shell of his former self.

But for the Shefford man, now aged 50, the discovery that he had multiple sclerosis began a whole new chapter which has seen him write a BAFTA-nominated film and run courses to help nurture other talented writers.

Paul, who is married to trainee florist Zoe, 39, and has a son, George, 11, was working as a bar manager in his native Liverpool when he was diagnosed in 1988.

Left wheelchair-bound and looking for a way to occupy his time, he started keeping a diary.


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"People were reading it and telling me it was funny, and I started thinking writing was something I could do, so I started writing short stories," he said.

"Then I saw a course in my local newspaper called Writing for Film and TV.

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"One of the things they said on the course was 'write what you know' so I wrote about a young lad in the prime of his life who gets MS."

One of the guest speakers on this course was Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern.

"He said 'If anybody's got anything they want me to look at, hand it in'.

"I plunged in and gave him this script I was writing. He read it and liked it and said 'It's a great idea and it really works except there's lot of problems with it'.

"He suggested if we worked together on it we might be able to get the BBC interested. It took me about point three of a second to say yes."

Two years later, in 1995, Go Now was produced by BBC films. The cast included Trainspotting star Robert Carlyle, Cold Feet's James Nesbit, Juliet Aubrey, and Sophie Okonedo, who went on to star in Hotel Rwanda.

The film earned rave reviews, was nominated for a BAFTA and won the Royal Television Society best drama award.

Despite the film's success, Paul's career did not continue as it had started.

"I suppose after being at the top range I was dropped off from a great height," he said.

He then worked on police dramas but the energy required for working for TV was not compatible with Paul's illness.

"It felt like I wasn't writing creatively, I was writing a product. I just never had the energy to do that."

Paul decided to go back to writing what he knew and to try to sell some ideas he had.

The family had moved to Shefford in 1999 and to make ends meet, he started teaching creative writing evening classes at Samuel Whitbread Community College.

Although it helped pay the bills, Paul found that his new career as a teacher presented its own problems - he liked it too much.

"The problem with it is I enjoy it a lot and suddenly I found helping aspiring writers gave me just as much of a buzz as doing my own writing so the two of them were battling with each other," he said.

However, recently Paul has found time to work on his own writing again and is now developing a script for a thriller, about "old friendships and what they mean to people".

He also continues to teach and will be passing on the benefit of his experience to another group of writers at a course starting this September.

He believes that writing for TV is "a great opportunity to get your foot in the door".

"The opportunities are out there, there's so many more opportunities and it can be very lucrative if you can sell a script," he said.

Sadly, six years ago, Paul's MS got worse. When he was diagnosed, he had 'relapsing remitting' MS, which saw him have periods of bad attacks but also times when he was in 'remission'.

Now has 'secondary progressive' MS, a form of the disease which will get slowly worse.

But although he now has problems with his legs, hands and eye sight, as well as suffering dizzy spells, a new drug has improved his condition slightly.

And his passion - his writing - continues to drive him forward.

# Writing for Film and TV, a 10 week course, will start on Thursday, September 28 at 7.30pm at Samuel Whitbread Community College. The course costs £56, with concessions available at £42 and £10. For more information, ring the college on 01462 629906.

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