As big name writers descend on Harrogate this weekend as part of the town’s history festival, we look at six of the best authors from Leeds, many of whom have changed the world.
KAY MELLOR OBE - THE SYNDICATE
The story goes that Kay Mellor was at home with her slippers on when Hollywood director Steven Spielberg happened to call her up to make her an offer she couldn’t refuse. He was enamoured with her tale of mixed fortunes of a series of lottery winners, The Syndicate.
She began working for Granada TV in the 1980s, writing for Coronation Street. In 1995, she received acclaim for Band of Gold, Playing The Field (1998) and Fat Friends (2000). In 1999 she wrote and directed the feature film Fanny and Elvis, starring Ray Winstone. Her latest work is In The Club.
HELEN FIELDING - BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
It’s possibly one of the best known comedy films (and books) of all time, but perhaps less well known is that its author, Helen Fielding, was born right here in Leeds - in Morley, if we’re splitting hairs. She went to Wakefield Girls High School and published her first novel, Cause Celeb, in 1994.
From 1990-1999 she worked as a journalist and columnist for various titles, including The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Telegraph. Bridget Jones’s Diary began as an anonymous column in The Independent in 1995. It led to film adaptations, the latest of which, Bridget Jones’s Baby, is in cinemas now.
TONY HARRISON - ‘V.’
Poet and playwright, born in 1937, who attended Leeds Grammar School and the University of Leeds. His most famous work, ‘v.’, first published in 1985, is set in Holbeck Cemetery and is controversial because of its use of profanity. Channel 4 broadcast a film based around the poem in 1987, a move which attracted much media attention. It even led to an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons centred around obscenity in television but was ultimately defeated, those bringing it criticised as not having understood the import of the poem.
KEITH WATERHOUSE CBE - BILLY LIAR
Possibly one of the city’s most famous sons and a former journalist on the Yorkshire Evening Post. Born in 1929 in Hunslet, he died in 2009. He is perhaps best known for Billy Liar. Prior to working for this newspaper, he held a job as a cobbler’s assistant. Two years after snagging a job as a rookie reporter, he managed to get a job in the features department on the Daily Mirror.
He was prolific and campaigned on the correct use of the apostrophe. He also wrote That Was the Week That Was (1962) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).
BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD OBE
One of the most widely published authors of all time, having sold something upwards of 30m books, she is nothing if not prolific, having produced 29 novels to date.
Born in April, 1954, her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, was published in 1979. She was a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post, working alongside Keith Waterhouse, moving to London aged 20 to work on Women’s Own magazine. She now lives in New York. Ten of her books have been produced as TV films or drama series starring actors including Liam Neeson, Anthony Hopkins and Elizabeth Hurley.
ALAN BENNETT - THE HISTORY BOYS
Playwright, screenwriter, author, actor, graduate of Oxford University, creator of some of the most memorable characters in the modern day literary canon.
His first stage play was Forty Years On (1969). In 2004, he wrote The History Boys, which was made into a film in 2006. His 1991 play The Madness of King George III was made into a film in 1994. The most recent film adapted from his work is Lady In The Van (2015), which he wrote for radio in 1990. He has written nearly 50 TV plays, more than 20 stage plays and 13 films, and has published more than 30 books.