Sally Wainwright

Loud and proud: Gentlemen Jack creators celebrate the drama's success

O’Hooley & Tidow , Anne Choma, Sally Wainwright and Dr Finn Mackay (Credit: Dee Robertson)

Gentleman Jack wowed critics and audiences alike when it aired on BBC One earlier this year. This was a Sunday-night period drama with a difference – based on the diaries of early 19th-century landowner, industrialist and traveller Anne Lister, it revealed a woman determined to explore her lesbian sexuality.

How Sally Wainwright brought her heroine to life in Gentleman Jack

Suranne Jones playing Anne Lister and Sally Wainwright (Credit: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)

Some 20 years in the making, Sally’s Wainwright’s new television drama, Gentleman Jack, was originally rejected by every broadcaster she took it to. The story of an openly gay woman who farmed in 19th-century rural Yorkshire was considered a non-starter by TV networks. Starting this month, the topic is getting eight hours of BBC One Sunday-night primetime.

It’s common for writers to describe their latest work as a “passion project” – often industry-accepted shorthand for what they hope is infectious enthusiasm for their new offering.

Sophie Rundell joins Suranne Jones in Sally Wainwright drama Gentleman Jack

Jones stars as remarkable Regency landowner Anne Lister in the BBC One drama, which will hit screens in 2019.

Speaking to the RTS in 2017, Wainwright spoke of her attraction to the project. “[She was] this extraordinary woman who lived in Halifax in the 1820-30s. She did some extraordinary things at a time when women just weren’t allowed to do anything really.”

Jed Mercurio's advice for screenwriters

Line of Duty (Credit: BBC)

Now's a great time to get into writing for TV. There have never been more opportunities for scripted programming. To stand out from the crowd, an idea should seem original and distinctive.

While the breadth of programming has increased, the traditional formats have remained dominant. Your writing should fit the standard models for a mini-series, a serial or an episodic series; 30 minutes for comedy, 60 minutes for drama.

Cracking Telly: Screenwriter Ryan Brown shares his story

"I probably have more of a writer's soul than an actor's soul" - Ryan Brown

Although still early in his career himself, Brown has been making waves, having won the Bafta New Writing Prize of Drama in 2016, and been runner up in an Idris Elba-fronted writing competition, 'Write to Greenlight'.

Competitions are now key to breaking into the industry as a young writer, he believes. While in the past it was possible to get your break with a killer script and the right opportunity, now young writers need an ‘in’. Competitions, he believes, are the key.

Happy Valley's Sally Wainwright: "I write people I want to be, not who I am"

The screenwriter received the Judges’ Award among others at the RTS Programme Awards 2017 for her “outstanding contribution to the UK’s television and media industry.”

“I feel very lucky that I have been able to achieve my ambitions and been able to do the things that I want to do,” she says humbly.

She is humble too about her past achievements: Baftas, RTS Awards, TV Choice Awards, Broadcast awards and more litter the shelves of her study in her Cotswold home.

“It’s nice to be recognised,” she says.

BBC One announces new drama Shibden Hall from Sally Wainwright

The eight-part series follows the story of landowner Anne Lister who returns from years of travel to re-establish her faded ancestral home Shibden Hall, Halifax.

Society dictates that she should re-open her coal mines and marry well, yet the charming and single-minded Anne has no intention of marrying a man and instead seeks a wealthy female suitor.

Shibden Hall is a love story based on historical facts, taken from the diary entries of Anne Lister which contained the intimate details of her life.