BOOK Music & Lyrics

BOOK Music & Lyrics is a programme of on-going workshops for the creation, crafting and on-going development of musical theatre writing and related specialist skills, facilitated by David James.

The workshop has three objectives:

  • Develop and foster craft skills specific to musical theatre for emerging practitioners
  • Generate a broader, more involved collaborative community of and for those practitioners
  • Be led by a professional (rather than an academic) ethos

The individual workshops offer weekly forums for practitioners to use and expand their skills. They are not ‘how to’ sessions but rather laboratories where all participants can feel safe to test and re-test work. They currently run for 32 weeks per year, split between Spring and Autumn terms.

BOOK Music & Lyrics currently consists of five separate but inter-related workshops:


A workshop to develop and nurture craft in the writing of songs for musical theatre. Practitioners explore what individual songs must accomplish dramatically in the story-telling of the show, and the practical and technical needs of performers in doing this. The first year consists of assignments to write various types of theatre songs, all of which are presented in the workshop. Facilitators and the group members give and receive constructive feedback in the sessions to inform rewrites and further development. Practitioners work with different collaborators on each assignment. The year’s work culminates in the writing of 10-minute musicals in collaboration with members of the librettist workshop.  Practitioners complete the year with a broader set of techniques and skills with which to approach future projects. It is possible to apply as a composer or a lyricist or both.


Members of the former first year group, having paired themselves into teams (or working alone, at the discretion of the facilitators) return to spend the year working on a single project of their choice. The focus is on the challenges of building an entire score. Practitioners must balance the dramatic needs of the show whist shaping the score with different song types that meet the needs of different characters. They must develop a musical voice that is at once uniquely their own but also serves the individual project. Practitioners will have to identify specific problems as they arise and find creative answers for them. At the end of the year each team is expected to present a section of their piece in a showcase, arranged by the workshop. The focus is on skill development and creating a professionally useful folio of songs rather than the creation of entire produceable projects.


This workshop combines members who have participated in the first and second year workshops. The focus is on the members’ current projects and continued artistic development. Participation in the Advanced Workshop is by invitation only.


This workshop is made up of both new and more experienced members. New participants in their first term begin by focusing on the building blocks for strong story development and the dissection of ‘classic’ musical books, followed by assignments to practice basic tenets of craft. From there, members are encouraged to initiate and develop their own projects, always beginning with a one-page pitch. Is this a good, strong idea? Has an audience (no matter how small or big) been considered? Then, the project is developed through treatment, outline, and on to a full script. All participants also work during the course of the year on two projects with the first year composers and lyricists fostering interaction and collaboration between the groups.


Six chosen choreographers work with the students at The Musical Theatre Academy (The MTA), to develop their choreographic, dramatic story-telling skills and craft specifically for musical theatre in a safe environment of constructive feedback. For each five or six week module, participants meet weekly working in teams of two (each team working on the same material concurrently in separate studios). With the facilitator, participants show and discuss what they have done each week, to compare and contrast the developmental work including research, the story-telling, and the building of a complete dance sequence that integrates into the show as a whole.  The first two modules were sequences from Man of La Mancha and ‘Side by Side’ from Company. There are three or four modules per year. Moving forward, we aim to foster collaborative ties with the other workshops as well for new projects.


BOOK Music & Lyrics’ has a further workshop programme in the planning stages. With this addition BML’s long-term agenda will be complete.


Traditionally, directors are the lynchpins of musical collaborative teams; but they, too, need the opportunity to develop their specific craft skills. How are book scenes and musical scenes staged and integrated into a strong whole? How are directors to lead collaborative teams to a single dramatic vision effectively? This workshop is currently in the early planning stages.

Founded in 2010, in 2011 BOOK Music & Lyrics won a ‘New Writing Encouragement’ award from the theatre committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Further details of the BML programme can be found here: