Kay Mellor: The Leeds lass who never forgot her roots
The British entertainment establishment has queued up to pay tribute to Kay Mellor since her death was announced. But she will be especially mourned in Yorkshire, a place she spent most of her life championing, and from which she took and gave inspiration in equal measure.
Kay Mellor was, to coin a phrase, a “proud Yorkshire lass”.
The scriptwriter was never shy about her roots, and would often talk about how local characters she met had influenced her.
Born in Leeds, she set much of her work, including Fat Friends, The Syndicate and Girlfriends, in the city, and chose nearby Bradford as the location for Band of Gold.
“When I watch my work on television or in the theatre, I can see how Leeds has influenced me, the Leeds vernacular is all over my work,” she once said.
Soon after her death at age 71 was announced, West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin – herself a former actress – described Mellor as “the voice of the North,” who “put working class characters at the centre of her brilliant compassionate, moving and funny stories”.
City council leader James Lewis said she was “a Leeds woman through-and-through”, who “broke new ground in bringing imaginative and heart-warming portrayals of life in Yorkshire and the north of England to homes across the country and beyond.”
Speaking to BBC Leeds in 2018, Mellor described her passion for the straight-talking Leeds spirit.
“The people of Leeds say it how it is. If they like something, they’ll tell you. If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you. I think people of Leeds and Yorkshire generally, are very warm-hearted and considerate.”
She added: “I am incredibly proud of this city, I’ve been here, I was born here, I am still here. I don’t know what my work would be like, it wouldn’t be Leeds.
“That’s what I love about Leeds people, and that’s what’s in my work. I love the characters of Leeds.”
It is with profound sadness that we announce the untimely and sudden passing of our beloved friend, mentor and colleague Kay Mellor on Sunday 15th May 2022. We have lost a phenomenal talent and a true luminary. We ask that you please respect the privacy of the family and friends. pic.twitter.com/hMyPd84jF2
— Rollem Productions (@RollemProdCo) May 17, 2022
Her passion for screenwriting influenced many of her contemporaries.
Paul Stead, from Daisybeck Studios – which shared a base with Mellor’s own production outfit Rollem Productions, said she was “an inspiration to all of us in the TV industry in Yorkshire”.
“We would often meet in the lobby at Prime Studios as that’s where Daisybeck and Rollem are based and share a laugh and a moan about the business.”
“She was an incredible woman as a person, a writer, a director and an executive producer.
He added she was “a beacon to women writers and her legacy will live on in those she inspired.”
Leeds Civic Trust said Mellor was “a true friend” and a “champion of Leeds and the North”.
“Thank you for your incredible contribution to our city. We send our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family,” it said.
West Yorkshire writer Adelle Stripe added: “Sad to hear this about Kay Mellor. Would never have been able to finish Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile without her help.”
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