So there I was, in my late-ish 30s, with a more than decent theatre and radio career already stacked up, but I’m busting to get onto the tellybox, which is something that has so far eluded me despite one or two scripts and series ideas languishing in development hell. It occurs to me that, as a resident of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy suburb of Greater Manchester, I live but a fair trade veggie-burger’s throw from legendary animation studios, Cosgrove Hall.
(Residents of C-c-H will get the veggie burger gag. The rest of you, as you were)
So I say to my (extremely well known) agent at the time: ‘Why don’t we send something to the makers of Duckula and Dangermouse what with them being right on my wholemeal doorstep. My (extremely well known) agent scoffs dismissively. ‘What’s the point of that? You don’t know anything about ‘animation’.’ She intones the word ‘animation’ as if the mere utterance of it will induce oral sepsis.
Undaunted, and not quite engaging with the idea that perhaps I should expect a little more in the way of encouragement from my agent, I pop round to Cosgroves with a radio script I have recently had produced on Radio 4. It’s a children’s fantasy adventure about a genie in a tin can, and it occurs to me that radio, along with animation, shares the same potential for an unlimited expression of the writer’s imagation.
I had no idea what I was doing, really. I just stuck it in an envelope and asked the guy on reception to pass it to someone who might read it.
A week later the phone rings and it’s Jackie Cockle, the future doyenne of Bob The Builder. Bless her cockle-socks, she says that, even though she knows it was written for radio, Third Class Genie is the best spec animation script she’s read in some months, if not years, and will I pop in for a chat.
One lovely chat and six weeks later, I get another phone call, this time from Mark Hall, asking if I’ll come in to talk about the possibility of scripting an adaptation of Soul Music by Terry Pratchett. I speak to my (very well known) agent, who is oddly cagey. I can’t understand why she isn’t more pleased for me. After all, I have desisted from saying: ‘I told you so’.
Mark warns me that I will be pitching in competition with another writer… who I discover, sitting in the foyer of Cosgrove Hall, under the watchful eye of Duckula himself, is, you guessed it, another client of the very same agent.
Anyway, I won’t say who it was…. Just that I got the Soul Music gig…. And he went on to be fabulously successful elsewhere. So that’s either painful irony, or a win-win depending on how you look at it.
Oh yes, and I did get myself a new agent.
So thanks Jackie Cockle, that set me off nicely…
TV Credits include:
Soul Music – seven part animated adaptation of one of Terry Pratchett’s most loved Discworld novels – Cosgrove Hall/Channel 4.
Episodes of The Ward & Children’s Ward over three series earning me a Bafta nomination for Best Children’s Drama (along with the director of that episode Justin Chadwick – wonder what happened to him…)
Two stints on daily soap Emmerdale for itv 1997-2000 and 2010-11
Big Meg Little Meg (co-written with Peter Kerry) – Children’s itv
Around The World In Eighty Days – animated TV special for Siriol Productions/French/Canadian TV
Thirty-six episodes of medical drama Holby City (BBC) – 2000 onwards. You can check out my last ever outings on the show, a sort of double bill entitled ‘Bell Jar‘ and ‘Kintsugi‘, the latter being nominated for a Writers Guild of GB TV award in 2022.
Numerous episodes of sister programme Casualty (BBC) 2007-2010
Pieces of a Silver Lining (co-written with the late Al Hunter Ashton) – Afternoon Play for BBC1 – produced by Will Trotter & Ben Bickerton.
The Bill (Police Procedural), EastEnders (BBC TV soap) – occasional episodes.
Missing – Police drama about a missing persons unit starring Pauline Quirke – BBC1/Leopard Productions.
And years of my life spent in development hell on innumerable projects…
Indeed just before Coronavirus hit, I was in the encouraging early stages of developing my radio series First World Problems for TV with BBC Studios under the stewardship of producer, Richard Stokes. But there is a glimmer at the end of that particular tunnel so watch this space….
Meanwhile, following the untimely demise of BBC’s Holby City, I decided to treat this sad event as an opportunity. I’d been sitting on my unwritten novel for fifteen years, and as the late, great Peter Cook used to say: ‘Tell me about the novel you’re not writing…’, but now there is no longer an excuse. I’ve spent the last year hard at it, with a plan to finish in March 2023 after which date I hope to be bothering your screens again very soon.