The Argus: Brighton Festival ThumbArts cuts may be biting all over the country, as the Government tightens the purse strings to almost breaking point.

But controversial playwright and Guardian columnist Mark Ravenhill, who delivers the inaugural New Writing South Lecture tomorrow, doesn’t think it’s going to have a major effect on writers.

“You don’t need many resources to write,” he says.

“If you’re determined to write something all you need is some paper and a pen, or a laptop.

“It’s easier if you’ve got that money and time to come up with ideas, but writing is pretty resilient.”

Ravenhill speaks from personal experience. He wrote his 1996 debut full-length play, Shopping And ****ing while holding down three part-time jobs. It was staged at the Royal Court Upstairs by director Max Stafford-Clark, before embarking on an international tour.

“I got started pretty late in the day,” he says. “I’d thought about writing earlier, and had little goes, but it wasn’t really until I was 28 that I thought I wanted to see whether I could do it.

“I was writing on the kitchen table catching the odd hour when I could – the first hour after I’d woken up, and the last hour at night. It was very much between trying to pay the bills.”

Ravenhill was born and brought up in Hayward’s Heath, which provided his earliest encounters with art and performance – something which may play a part in his lecture which has a working title of Playing With Fire.

“I really want to talk about what was influential to me as a child and teenager in terms of theatre and music education in Sussex during the 1970s and 1980s,” he says.

“I want to think about whether it has got better or worse for a young person growing up today, going to an ordinary comprehensive school. Whether we have managed to make better and more accessible art over the past couple of decades, or whether we have taken a backwards step.”

Growing up in Mid-Sussex, Brighton held a certain amount of fascination for him as a teenager.

“Brighton was the exciting place for us,” he says. “We didn’t really go to London much. I have always associated Brighton with the most glamorous place in the world – it was New York, where the bright lights were.”

He does feel with the existence of groups like New Writing South – which he saw develop firsthand as one of its patrons – that writers are getting much more support when trying to get their first big break.

“Historically writers came from well-off backgrounds,” he says. “There is a danger that we will go back to that – writing plays, novels and poetry becomes a hobby for the rich, and we lose a lot of diversity.

“To teach yourself to write often takes between five and ten years unpaid work before you start earning. The little grants that can be put alongside a full-time wage can give somebody that bit of breathing space they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Initially Ravenhill was known as an enfant terrible of contemporary “in yer face” theatre, through his controversial debut and other similarly visceral works such as Handbag, Some Explicit Polaroids and Mother Clap’s Molly House.

In more recent years he has expanded his range to include works for schools, the pantomime Dick Whittington for the Barbican Theatre and the libretto to Monteverdi’s The Coronation Of Poppea at London’s Little Opera House.

“What really interests me is writing for live performance,” he says. “I think that leads to that kind of diversity. A lot of other writers might also write episodes of television shows such as Shameless or Holby City, or do film work.

“I haven’t done any film or television writing – any variation on performing work live is what interests me.

“In film and television there is a lot more money involved, so it is a lot slower, there are a lot more meetings and people controlling what you write. It’s a longer, slower, harder fight to get what you want.

“Normally a play is tied into a production, which becomes as much part of the process as the writing. When you’re writing a screenplay you’re never sure if it’s going to be made – I would find that very hard.”

His latest forays in live performance work have seen him work in the medium of song lyrics, writing for the Little Opera House and pop singer Marc Almond.

“It’s really about composing and expressing something in as few words as possible,” he says.

“Often the entire words for a song can be only 100 words. It’s less about trying to fill a page, more about putting some words down and cutting them.”

Working with former Soft Cell frontman Almond on the song cycle Ten Plagues, which is set to be premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, has been a rewarding experience.

“Marc doesn’t read music, and finds words a bit of a struggle because he’s dyslexic,” reveals Ravenhill. “But he’s the most hard-working person I have ever met. He works and works on everything.

“When he gets up to sing a song he will have spent hundreds of hours working on it.”

* Starts 2pm, tickets £8.50. Call 01273 709709.