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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Defining moments: Arnold Wesker
A BBC series is asking some of the world's most influential people about the defining moments in their life.

Arnold Wesker
Wesker is one of Britain's foremost playwrights

Arnold Wesker has been referred to as "the unique outsider in the British Theatre." He is the author of 42 plays, among them Roots, Chicken Soup With Barley and his most recent, Longitude.

It's always difficult to know the most defining moment in one's life, but I think this must be it for me.

In my youth I wanted to be a film director. I wanted to be an actor as well, but that wasn't to be.

I managed to save up enough money to study for six months at the London School of Film Technique, which was the only film school in the country at the time.

And there I met a young film and stage director called Lindsay Anderson, and he came to lecture.

And one day I was standing outside the National Film Theatre and I saw him and I walked up to him and said: "Would you please read a story that I have written that I'd like to make into a film and perhaps you could put it forward for getting financial assistance from the National Film Finance Corporation," or whatever it was called in those days.

And he said yes - very generously. "Yes, and have you written anything else?" and I told him about a play I had written called "The Kitchen" which I had entered for The Observer play competition.

The National Film Theatre
Wesker's defining moment took place outside the National Film Theatre
He said: "Let me read that too."

Anyway, he read the story but was unable to help me raise money, and he asked, "What about The Kitchen?"

And I said: "Well it didn't win any prizes so I didn't think it was worth sending to you. But I have written another play called Chicken Soup with Barley. Would you read that?"

And again, with great generosity of spirit, he said yes.

He read it and very quickly wrote a letter which I keep to this day, in which he said: "Dear Arnold, You really are a playwright, aren't you? Can I have your permission to show this to the people at the Royal Court?"

And that was the beginning.

Defining Moments will run until 23 July on BBC World Service's World Today programme. You can also read people's recollections on BBC News Online.

Arnold Wesker
"He very quickly wrote a letter which I keep to this day"

Defining the moment
09 Jul 03  |  In Depth

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