Tributes to actress Kay Mellor who has died, aged 71
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Tributes to actress Kay Mellor who has died, aged 71

TV industry loses visionary writer, who wrote hit series including Girlfriends, Band Of Gold, The Syndicate and Fat Friends.

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

Kay Mellor, who died on Sunday, received an OBE in 2010
Kay Mellor, who died on Sunday, received an OBE in 2010

Kay Mellor, who wrote hit TV series including Girlfriends, Band Of Gold, The Syndicate and Fat Friends died on Sunday, aged 71.

She grew up in a Leeds in a council semi with her divorced mother Dinah and then, later, her stepfather Abe Harris, an upholsterer. There wasn’t much money to lavish Kay and her brothers Robert and Philip but she spoke fondly of her “idyllic childhood.”

The family didn’t pay much lip service to their Judaism but one thing they always observed was Passover. Kay always said she felt Jewish and was not afraid to speak up in defence of her religion. She married her husband Anthony in 1968. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Ruth Jones, who starred as Kelly Chadwick in Fat Friends, said: “I am completely shocked to hear the news of Kay’s untimely death. Her contribution to British television was outstanding and I feel privileged to have worked with her. Such a down-to-earth, funny, big-hearted person whose brilliance lay in seeing the extraordinary in the day-to-day. She was a great mentor to me when I first started writing – and always hugely encouraging of new writers – a real testament to the idea of paying it forward. Fat Friends was a massive turning point in my career and I will be eternally grateful to her for what she did for me. British television has lost one of its greats.”

Mellor began her career writing plays. She also worked on Coronation Street and created the award-winning children’s drama Children’s Ward. She also wrote BBC One’s women’s football series Playing The Field and in 2010 received an OBE.

Bafta-nominated series Fat Friends focused on the members of a slimming group in Leeds, and starred James Corden, Ruth Jones, Alison Steadman and Mellor’s youngest daughter, Gaynor Faye. Faye has also starred in Coronation Street, Emmerdale and The Chase on BBC One, a series which she co-wrote with her mother.

Mellor appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2017 and chose The Beautiful South’s Perfect 10, the Fat Friends theme tune, as one of her soundtracks, saying: “Every time I heard that I used to get excited and get butterflies. It was such a lovely time of my life, it was a drama that was really important to me because I thought I had something to say about weight and body image.”

Band Of Gold, about a group of women from Bradford’s red light district, starred Samantha Morton, Geraldine James, Fiona Allen and more.

Sir Lenny Henry, who starred in the third series of The Syndicate, based on a group of lotto winners, tweeted: “I found her to be incredibly creative, funny and instinctive. She knew what she wanted and knew how to get the best from us as actors. She will be missed.”

The fourth series of The Syndicate aired last year and followed the workers at Woodvale Kennels.With previous instalments of the series set in a supermarket, a hospital, and a crumbling stately home, Mellor shared how she had never had a dog, and that getting one had changed her life. “I know that sounds mental but, actually, I love him so much. And I realised – maybe it’s an English thing, I don’t know – but we love dogs.”

The BBC’s chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, said in a statement: “Kay was an outstanding writer and the creative force behind many of the nation’s best-loved television dramas. She wrote with such heart, humanity, humour and passion with strong female characters often taking centre stage.”

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