Michael Chaplin (writer)

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Michael Chaplin
Born 1951
County Durham
Occupation Writer
Education Heaton Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne
Alma mater Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
Relatives Sid Chaplin (father)

Michael Chaplin (born in 1951 in County Durham) is an English theatre, radio, television and non-fiction writer and former television producer and executive.

After graduating from Cambridge University in 1973 with a degree in history he trained as a reporter on The Journal newspaper in Newcastle upon Tyne and then became the paper's Health Correspondent.

He later moved to London, becoming successively a researcher, producer and executive producer in London Weekend Television's current affairs and documentaries department. Among his many credits there was editor of the cult arts/lifestyle show South of Watford which helped to establish the TV careers of its successive presenters, Ben Elton and Hugh Laurie. He then produced the ITV drama series as Wish Me Luck about female secret agents in France during World War II which aired on ITV between 1988-1990.

In 1989 he became Head of Drama and Arts at Tyne Tees Television and was Executive Producer of the early Catherine Cookson adaptations, which ran on ITV with great success for a further decade or more.

In 1991 Chaplin moved to BBC Wales as Head of Programmes where he was responsible for transforming the BBC's output in English on both television and radio. By this time Chaplin had begun to write for Live Theatre the acclaimed new writing company in Newcastle upon Tyne, collaborating first with Alan Plater on 'In Blackberry Time' (1988-9), a play about the life and work of his late father, Sid Chaplin.[1]

His first credit on television was the ITV mini-series 'Act of Betrayal' about an IRA super-grass on the run in Australia, co-written with his friend and former LWT colleague Nicholas Evans (author of The Horse Whisperer and other novels).

His first radio writing credit was Hair In The Gate (1990) for BBC Radio 4, based on a play of the same name staged the year before.

In 1994, having just completed the acclaimed ITV mini-series Dandelion Dead directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Kitchen, about the notorious Hay on Wye poisoner Herbert Armstrong, Chaplin became a full-time writer and since then has chalked up many credits across various genres.

In TV he has created the original series Grafters (1998-9) starring Robson Green and Stephen Tomkinson for ITV; and for the BBC Drovers Gold (1997) about a group of Welsh cattle drovers in the 19th century; and then Monarch of the Glen (2000-2006) starring amongst others, Richard Briers and Susan Hampshire; the series ran for 69 episodes and has been screened in many countries around the world.

Chaplin also adapted novels by the crime writer Reginald Hill for four films in the BBC series Dalziel and Pascoe (one of these, 'On Beulah Height', won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America); and also P D James' 'Original Sin' for an ITV mini-series.

Other TV work includes the ITV drama screened in 2006 - 'Pickles - The Dog Who Won The World Cup' and his TV adaption of Michelle Magorian's novel Just Henry screened in 2011. Chaplin also worked on the BBC series Robin Hood and the ITV series Wild at Heart.

Chaplin's radio work for BBC Radio 4 encompasses single plays like 'One-Way Ticket to Palookaville' (1992), and 'The Song Thief', later adapted for the People's Theatre, Newcastle, during its centenary year in 2011. There have also been three contributions to 'The Stanley Baker Baxter Playhouse' : 'Flying Down to Greenock', 'Fife Circle' and 'A Dish of Neapolitan'. Chaplin created and wrote all 13 plays in the much loved series 'Two Pipe Problems' (2006-2013) about life in a retirement home for faded theatricals with a Sherlock Holmes trope, starring Richard Briers and Stanley Baxter. This came to an end in 2013 following the death of Richard Briers.

Michael Chaplin's relationship with Newcastle's Live Theatre began in 1987 and is still flourishing, having produced eight full-length plays and sundry shorter pieces. No less than three have focused on the various travails of Newcastle United F.C.: Beautiful Game (1996), You Couldn't Make It Up and You Really Couldn't Make It Up (both 2009), the latter two co-written with his son Tom Chaplin.[2]

In 2011 he adapted the diaries of the former Labour Government minister and MP for Sunderland South, Chris Mullin, also at Live Theatre. The adaptation was called A Walk on Part.[3][4]

In the summer of 2013 Chaplin's play 'Tyne', an exploration of the history, atmosphere and soul of his native river, had another sell-out run at Live Theatre with music arranged and directed by Kathryn Tickell. The play was revived in 2014 at the Customs House, South Shields and at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne. All of Chaplin's work for Live Theatre has been directed by its artistic director Max Roberts.

Since returning to Newcastle in 2006 with his wife Susan Chaplin, a silversmith and teacher, Chaplin has written two books of non-fiction about icons of the area: Come and See (2011), an affectionate memoir of the beautiful Tyneside Cinema where Chaplin received his cinematic education in the late 60s.[5] In 2013, 'Tyne View - A Walk Around the Port of Tyne', with contributions from artist Birtley Aris, photographer Charles Bell, and poet Christy Ducker. This provided much of the source material for the play Tyne. Both books are published by New Writing North; in January 2014 'Tyne View' went into its 2nd edition.[6]

Michael Chaplin is a visiting professor at the University of Sunderland, President of the People's Theatre, and since 2010 writer in residence for the Port of Tyne. He is currently working on Tommies, a five year project with BBC Radio 4, telling the story of the First World War from the point of view of a group of British Army signallers, as well as developing another series for Radio 4 and a new play for Live Theatre. He is also advising South Tyneside Council on a programme of public art in the borough themed around its shipping and maritime heritage.

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