The Preston Front Page

Tim Firth

A picture of Tim Firth
Preston Front was created by a writer called Tim Firth. Born in 1964, Firth started writing at a young age. At 15 he was writing full-length musicals for local schools, and two years later he was commisioned to write a television script.

In 1983 he attended a writing course run by the playwright Willy Russell and Danny Hiller. "I never wanted to be anything other than a writer," Firth told the Radio Times in 1994. This commitment soon became very clear, when he founded The Works Theatre Company with Sam Mendes while still at college. This of course provided an outlet for Firth's plays.

After studying at Cambridge for 3 years, Firth's first professionally produced play was Heartland which was directed by Sam Mendes in Chichester. This lead to contact with Alan Ackyborn's Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, for whom subsequent plays were written. One of these was the play that probably made Firth's name - Neville's Island.

Neville's Island tells the story of four businessmen shipwrecked on an island in the middle of a lake during a corporate training exercise. Like Firth's television work, it succeeds in being very funny whilst still having a serious theme. The play premiered in Scarborough in 1992. It transferred to the Apollo Theatre in London and was met with critical acclaim, being nominated for various awards including four Oliviers.

With success on the stage, Firth was also writing for television. Following episodes of Minder and The Bill, his first original script was Money For Nothing, which was shown as a Screen One production on the BBC in October 1993. The film starred Christian Anholt, Julian Glover and Paul Reynolds and told the story of a schoolboy whizzkid who found himself caught up in the world of business. It won an award for Best Television Film from the Writer's Guild, and was followed by two series, Once Upon A Time In The North and, of course, Preston Front. Firth has also became heavily involved with The Children's Company, for whom he writes and oversees a range of original children's literature, including a television show called Roger And The Rottentrolls, the first series of which won a BAFTA.

Much of Firth's work is set in the north of England. This is where he grew up, and he now lives in Warrington in Cheshire. He is married to Katy and has 3 children - Jack, Joe and Georgia.

Although much of his work is very funny, Firth doesn't necessarily see himself as a comedy writer. "I start writing and that's what comes out. If it's funny, it's in the way that real life is, because I write about things that amuse me and characters that I've come across." He also has a novel method of writing for television, with no specific plans from one episode to the next. "I just start writing on page one and hope that the characters will show me the story."

Since Preston Front finished, he has written a number of subsequent productions, with doubtless more to follow. Based on the excellence of Tim Firth's earlier work these are certainly worth looking out for.

For more on Tim, see his Official Website.

Theatre Credits

  • Heartlands

  • A Man of Letters (1991) - Script published by Samuel French, 1992, ISBN: 0573042276

  • Neville's Island (1992) - Script published by Samuel French, 1994, ISBN: 0573140057

  • A Bigger Slice of the Pie (1993)

  • The End of the Food Chain (1994) - Script published by Samuel French, ISBN: 0573017557

  • Love Songs For Shopkeepers (1998)

  • The Safari Party (2002) - Script published by Samuel French, ISBN: 0573019819

  • Our House - West End musical with Madness (2003)

    Radio Credits
  • And Now, In Colour: Two series (BBC Radio 4, 1990-91) [Writer & performer]

  • The Mary Whitehouse Experience (BBC Radio 4, 1991-92) [Songwriter]

  • A Kitchenette of Composers (BBC Radio 3 play for the Last Night of the Proms, 1992)

    Television Credits
  • The Bill: Pride And Prejudice (Thames, 1990)

  • Boon: Lie of the Land (Central, 1991)

  • Minder: No Way To Treat A Daley (Euston Films, 1993)

  • Money For Nothing (BBC Screen One, 1993)

  • Scene: Man of Letters (Adaptation of the play for the BBC, 1997)

  • Preston Front: Three series (BBC, 1994-7)

  • Once Upon A Time In The North (BBC, 1994)

  • The Rottentrolls: Four series (Children's Company for Meridian/Yorkshire TV, 1996-2000)

  • Neville's Island (Adaptation of the play, Primetime for Yorkshire Television, 1998)

  • The Flint Street Nativity (Antenna/Yorkshire TV, 1999)

  • Border Cafe (Hartswood Films for BBC, 2000)

  • Combat Sheep (Children's Company/Babycow for BBC, 2001)

  • Cruise of the Gods (Babycow for BBC, 2002)

  • Trapped: King of Fridges (Babycow for ITV, 2004) [Also executive producer on whole series]

    Film Credits
  • Blackball (Midfield Films/Working Title, 2003)

  • Calendar Girls (with Juliet Towhidi, Harbour Pictures/Buena Vista, 2003)

  • The Kinky Boot Factory (in production)

    Children's Books
  • The First Adventure of Roger and the Rottentrolls (1994, Stave House, ISBN: 1859091520)

  • Learning the Alphabet (1994, Stave House, ISBN: 1859091504)

  • Learning to Count with Stories and Rhymes (with Gordon Firth, 1995, Stave House Publications, ISBN: 1859092594)

  • Jimjam YaHA! (with Gordon Firth, 1998, Andre Deutsch Ltd, ISBN: 0233992464)

  • Reigning Sheep and Trolls (with Gordon Firth, 1998, Andre Deutsch Ltd, ISBN: 0233992413)

    Compiled by Matthew Newton

    More on Preston Front at Newton's Laws Of Television 

    Copyright MJ Newton 2003. All rights reserved.
    This article may not be reproduced without permission