He Who Would a Writer Be
John Finch was one of the generation of Northern writers who came to prominence in British television in the 1960s, many of them, like Jim Allen, Stan Barstow, Jack Rosenthal and Tony Warren, writing for Granada Television. Recruited by Granada in 1960, Finch was one of the first writers on Coronation Street, for which he wrote 140 episodes, helping to establish it as Britain’s most popular television drama.
Towards the end of the 1960s Finch branched out with other series and single plays, all with a strong Northern flavour, but it was the 52-episode Second World War saga A Family at War that saw him embark on a series of original and highly popular ‘telenovels’ for Granada in the 1970s.
He followed A Family at War with the semi-autobiographical Sam, for which he wrote all 39 one-hour episodes. The story of a boy, like Finch, growing up in the Yorkshire coalfields, Sam was his masterpiece, watched by 20 million viewers every week. He continued to receive letters from viewers thanking him for putting a truthful picture of Northern working-class life on the screen for the rest of his 97 years.
Though his brand of realist Northern drama fell out of favour in the 1980s, John Finch’s contribution to British television drama was enormous. His autobiography, written in the final years of his life, is a testament to a life well lived, revealing a sensitive and accomplished writer who more than fulfilled his dream.
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