Happy Valley writer takes centre stage

Sally Wainwright

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 14:04:00 BST

Sally Wainwright received an Honorary Doctorate of the University for services to television drama and the TV industry in Yorkshire

Sally Wainwright SCREENWRITER and TV director Sally Wainwright has tugged the emotions of millions of viewers with dramas such as Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley.  But when she received a special award from the University of Huddersfield, she was the one who found the ceremony an emotional experience.

This was because she was being conferred an Honorary Doctorate by the self-same institution at which her late father had been a lecturer.  “I am absolutely overwhelmed,” she told the audience, adding that the connection between the University of Huddersfield and her father made the event “particularly poignant”.  Harry Wainwright was a Senior Lecturer in Education during the 1970s-80s.  He died in 2001.

Sally Wainwright – who is currently directing a drama she has scripted about the Brontё Sisters – received her award from the University of Huddersfield’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan.  It was bestowed during a graduation ceremony for students of the University’s School of Music, Humanities and Media.  A total of 31 ceremonies have been taking place over ten days, held at the University’s St Paul’s Hall.

An oration was given by Senior Lecturer Dr Sarah Falcus, who stated that Sally Wainwright “has been responsible for work that has helped to shape a wave of definitely British and, very often, resolutely Northern drama”.

Dr Falcus commented that, “strong female stories and central female characters – of all ages - have been important in much of Sally’s work, often played by notable British actors such as Suranne Jones, Anne Reid and, perhaps most prominently and recently, Sarah Lancashire”.

‌Born in Huddersfield and brought up in Sowerby Bridge, Sally Wainwright began her professional writing career in her early 20s, giving up a job driving buses in London to write a trial script of The Archers.

‌“She credits work on series such as this, and particularly the 57 episodes of Coronation Street she wrote, with helping her to develop her skills and confidence in scriptwriting,” said Dr Falcus.

Sally Wainwright In 2000, Sally Wainwright wrote her first original series, At Home with the Braithwaites, which was hugely popular.  This was followed by Unforgiven, Sparkhouse and Scott & Bailey.

But for many viewers, Sally Wainwright’s name is most associated with her two recent BAFTA Award-winning dramas, continued Dr Falcus.

Last Tango in Halifax fictionalised the late-life romance and marriage of Sally’s own mother, setting this story of ageing lovers amidst the sort of family chaos that engendered both poignancy and deeply comic farce.

Happy Valley, where Sally made her directorial debut in 2014, returned to the Calderdale setting of Last Tango in Halifax, but with a far grimmer and more violent drama.”

The second series of Happy Valley – located in Halifax and the Calder Valley – drew more than seven million viewers in the UK alone.  Sally Wainwright has confirmed that there will be a third series in due course.  She is currently scripting the fourth series of Last Tango in Halifax.  The new drama about the Brontё sisters and their brother Branwell has been made for the BBC.  It is titled To Walk Invisible and filming took place near Haworth at Penistone Hill, where a recreation of the Brontё parsonage was created.  The series is due to be screened at Christmas.

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