Fay Weldon

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Fay Weldon
Fay-Weldon Copenhagen-2008.jpg
Fay Weldon at the Copenhagen Book Fair in 2008
Born (1931-09-22) 22 September 1931 (age 87)
Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
OccupationAuthor, essayist, playwright
RelativesAlan Birkinshaw (brother)

Fay Weldon CBE FRSL (born 22 September 1931) is an English author, essayist, feminist and playwright.

Life and career[edit]

Weldon was born Franklin Birkinshaw in Birmingham, England, to a literary family, with both her maternal grandfather, Edgar Jepson (1863–1938), and her mother Margaret writing novels (the latter under the nom de plume Pearl Bellairs, from the name of a character in Aldous Huxley's short story "Farcical History of Richard Greenow"). Weldon spent her early years in Christchurch, New Zealand, where her father worked as a doctor. After her parents divorced, when she was six, she and her sister Jane spent the summers with her father, first in Coromandel, later in Auckland. She attended Christchurch Girls' High School for two years from 1944.[1] In August 1946, when she was 14, she returned to England with her mother and sister. She did not see her father again before his death in 1949.[2] In England she attended the all-girls South Hampstead High School.

She studied psychology and economics at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She later recalled attending classes with the moral philosopher Malcolm Knox, who "spoke exclusively to the male students, maintaining that women were incapable of moral judgement or objectivity."[3] She completed her MA in 1952 and returned to London, where she worked as a clerk at the Foreign Office for a salary of six pounds a week.[4] A year later she became pregnant with her first child. She was unwilling to marry her son's father, but in 1957, tired of struggling to support herself as a single mother, she married Ronald Bateman, a headmaster 25 years her senior.[5][6] They lived together in Acton, London, for two years, until the marriage ended.[5]

She took a job with Crawford's Advertising Agency, where she worked with the writer Elizabeth Smart,[7] and where she could earn enough to support herself and her son. As head of copywriting at Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, she was responsible for publicising (but not originating) the phrase "Go to work on an egg". She coined the slogan "Vodka gets you drunker quicker," saying in a Guardian interview,[8] "It just seemed ... to be obvious that people who wanted to get drunk fast needed to know this." Her bosses disagreed and suppressed it.

At 29 she met Ron Weldon, a jazz musician and antiques dealer.[9] They married and had three sons, the first of whom was born in 1963. It was during her second pregnancy that Weldon began writing for radio and television. A few years later, in 1967, she published her first novel, The Fat Woman's Joke. For the next 30 years she built a very successful career, publishing over twenty novels, collections of short stories, films for television, newspaper and magazine articles and becoming a well-known face and voice on the BBC. In 1971 Weldon wrote the first episode of the landmark television series Upstairs, Downstairs, [170] for which she won a Writers Guild award for Best British TV Series Script. In 1980 Weldon wrote the screenplay for director/producer John Goldschmidt's television movie Life for Christine, which told the true story of a 15-year-old girl's life imprisonment. The film was shown in prime-time on the ITV Network by Granada Television. She also wrote the screenplay for the 1980 BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. In 1989, she contributed to the book for the Petula Clark West End musical Someone Like You.

Her novel The Hearts and Lives of Men was written and published in serial form, appearing in the British magazine Woman between Feb. 1 and Nov. 15, 1986. She told The New York Times, "It was written as the Dickens novels were written....You made it up as you went along, confined by the structure of the story, which is going to go on for you don't know how long—but you have to be able to bring it to an end with three weeks' warning."[10]

In a 1998 interview for the Radio Times Weldon claimed that rape "isn't the worst thing that can happen to a woman if you're safe, alive and unmarked after the event."[11] She was roundly condemned by feminists for this assertion.[12]

During her marriage to Ron Weldon, the couple visited therapists regularly. They divorced in 1994, after he left her for his astrological therapist who had told him that the couple's astrological signs were incompatible.[5] They had lived in East Compton, Somerset.[13] She subsequently married Nick Fox, a poet who is also her manager, with whom she currently lives in Dorset.[5][9]

In 1996, she was a member of the jury at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[14] She was also chair of judges for the 1983 Booker Prize. The judging for that prize produced a draw between J. M. Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K and Salman Rushdie's Shame, leaving Weldon to choose between the two. According to Stephen Moss in The Guardian, "Her arm was bent and she chose Rushdie" only to change her mind as the result was being phoned through.[15]

Appearing with Gerard Casey on British television discussion programme After Dark in 1997

In 2000 Weldon became a member of the Church of England and was confirmed in St Paul's Cathedral, which was perhaps appropriate because she states that she likes to think that she was "converted by St Paul".[16]

In 2001 Weldon's novel The Bulgari Connection became notorious for its product placement, naming the jewellers not only in the title but another 33 times, while 12 times at least was appointed in the £18,000 contract.

In 2006 Weldon was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University in West London: "A great writer needs a certain personality and a natural talent for language, but there is a great deal that can be taught – how to put words together quickly and efficiently to make a point, how to be graceful and eloquent, how to convey emotion, how to build up tension, and how to create alternative worlds."

In 2012 Weldon was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, where she shares an office with Professor Maggie Gee.[17]

Weldon serves together with Daniel Pipes as the most notable foreign members of the board of the Danish Press Freedom Society (Trykkefrihedsselskabet).



Weldon published an autobiography of her early years, Auto da Fay (an allusion to auto da fe), in 2002. Plays Action Replay - A Play ( 1980) first performed 1979 ( Birmingham Repertory Studio Theatre); [18]

Criticism and reviews[edit]

Chalcot Crescent[edit]

  • Guinness, Molly (12 September 2009). "Family album". The Spectator. 311 (9446): 37–38. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  • "REVIEW : Fay Weldon - Chalcot Crescent". Upcoming4.me. 5 April 2012. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2013.


  1. ^ Steward, By Ian (9 November 2009). "'Hum of lesbianism' at girls' school". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. ^ Weldon, Fay (2003). Auto da Fay. New York: Grove Press. p. 193.
  3. ^ Weldon, Fay (2003). Auto da Fay. New York: Grove Press. p. 218.
  4. ^ Weldon, Fay (2003). Auto da Fay. New York: Grove Press. p. 240.
  5. ^ a b c d Saner, Emine, "'I'm the only feminist there is – the others are all out of step'", The Guardian, 22 August 2009.
  6. ^ Weldon, Fay (2003). Auto da Fay. New York: Grove Press.
  7. ^ Weldon, Fay (2003). Auto da Fay. New York: Grove Press. pp. 316–17.
  8. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (12 September 2006). "Fay Weldon who has found God after 70 years as atheist talks to Stuart Jeffries". The Guardian.
  9. ^ a b Grice, Elizabeth, "Fay Weldon: 'Dying? I don't want to do that again'", Daily Telegraph, 12 March 2009.
  10. ^ Wilcox, James (March 13, 1988). "Little Nell, Or Virtue Rewarded". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Fay Weldon: Rape isn't the worst thing that can happen ", BBC News, 30 June 1998.
  12. ^ Blamires, Diana (30 June 1998). "Fay Weldon causes rape storm". The Independent. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Somerset can boast a whole host of literary connections". Wells Journal. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2016.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  15. ^ Moss, Stephen (18 September 2001). "Is the Booker fixed?". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 18 September 2001.
  16. ^ Weldon, Fay, "Converted by St Paul", in Caroline Chartres (ed.), Why I Am Atill an Anglican, Continuum, 2006, p. 134.
  17. ^ "Weldon and Hensher head to Bath Spa". The Bookseller. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  18. ^ Published by A Samuel French Acting Edition

External links[edit]