John Yorke (producer)

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John Yorke
John Yorke on Rebel Wisdom.jpg
Yorke interviewed on Rebel Wisdom in 2021
John Roland Clifford Yorke

(1962-07-09) 9 July 1962 (age 60)
Stepney, London, England
Alma materNewcastle University
  • Television producer
  • script editor
Years active1994–present
EmployerBBC / Channel 4

John Roland Clifford Yorke (born 9 July 1962)[1][2] is a British television producer and script editor, who was head of Channel 4 Drama 2003-2005,[3][4] controller of BBC drama production 2006-2012[5] and MD of Company Pictures (2013-2015).[6]

Outside of television production, Yorke authored Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them (2014), a best-selling[7] screenwriting guide that proposes a five act structure to film and television narrative and draws from Yorke's research and experience.[8]



Yorke attended Newcastle University.[9] He joined the BBC in 1986, working initially in radio as a studio manager and then as a producer on BBC Radio 5.[10]

Early career - the 1990s and EastEnders[edit]

In 1994, he moved to television, working as a script editor on EastEnders before becoming the storyline consultant on Casualty. In 1999, after a brief period as producer on Sunburn,[11] he took on the executive producer role on EastEnders.[12] During his time there, he was given the task of introducing the soap's fourth weekly episode.

He axed the majority of the Di Marco family, and helped introduce popular characters such as the Slater family.[12] As what Mal Young described as "two of EastEnders most successful years", Yorke was responsible for big ratings winners such as "Who Shot Phil?", Ethel Skinner's death, Jim Branning and Dot Cotton's marriage, abusive Trevor Morgan, and Kat Slater's revelation to her daughter Zoe that she was her mother.[12] Yorke was also responsible for Kim Medcalf being cast in the role of Sam Mitchell in January 2002, after Danniella Westbrook's drug addiction left her unsuitable for the role.[12]

The 2000s[edit]

In May 2002, he left the soap for a senior position under Mal Young in the BBC's in-house Drama Series team, but soon after he left to work for Channel 4 as the Head of Drama in 2003.[13] At Channel 4, he commissioned series such as Shameless, Sex Traffic and the critically acclaimed Omagh.[14] In 2005, it was announced he would return to the BBC, taking over Mal Young's position, as Controller of BBC Drama Series, and, in addition, Co-Head of Independent Drama Commissioning (i.e. programmes made for the BBC by independent production companies, rather than in-house).[13]

One of the reasons he returned was to set around reversing the fortunes of EastEnders, which had been receiving low ratings in comparison to the past. The results were mixed. As Controller of Continuing Drama Series, he has been ultimately responsible for overseeing some of the most popular programmes on British television, including EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors.[13]

In 2005, Yorke founded the BBC Writers Academy, a year-long training scheme for aspiring television writers.[15]

In 2009, he was made controller of the newly formed BBC Drama Production – a merger of Continuing Series and Series and Serials.[citation needed] While at the BBC, Yorke has been Commissioning Editor/Executive Producer for Life on Mars, Robin Hood, Bodies, The Street, A Class Apart, Waterloo Road and HolbyBlue, as well as looking after various series of Spooks, Hustle and New Tricks.

The 2010s[edit]

In 2010, Yorke's job title was changed to that of Controller Continuing Drama Production Studios. He was the executive producer of the Internet spin-off EastEnders: E20 and BBC daytime drama, Land Girls.[16]

In March 2012, Yorke became acting editor of radio soap The Archers while Vanessa Whitburn took long service leave.[17]

He left the BBC again later in 2012. In 2013, he was an executive producer of Truckers and Skins, and the following year, The Missing.[citation needed]

He was a regular writer on Red Rock, writing six episodes between 2015 and 2016.

He also wrote two episodes of Casualty between 2016 and 2017.

Return to EastEnders[edit]

In June 2017, it was announced that EastEnders executive producer Sean O'Connor had stepped down and would be temporarily replaced by Yorke as executive consultant.[18] Yorke announced that he would be staying with the show for a year, longer than his original three months he was contracted to.[19]

Under Yorke EastEnders won its first BAFTA for Continuing Drama in three years – and the last one to date.[20]

TV shows commissioned by Yorke[edit]

Waterloo Road[edit]

Waterloo Road was commissioned by Yorke on his arrival at the BBC from Channel 4.[21] Briefed to find a new returning pre-watershed drama, Yorke approached Shed Productions – makers of Bad Girls and Footballers Wives who had never before had a show on the BBC.[22] During conversations Yorke hit on the idea of a School Precinct and Anne McManus and Maureen Chadwick quickly wrote a pilot episode.

Waterloo Road was launched to huge commercial – if not critical success.  After the first series Yorke asked Anne Mensah – then assistant commissioning editor – if she would take over, and under Mensah the show moved to BBC Scotland.[23]

The show aired from 2006-2015. In September 2021, it was announced that Waterloo Road was to be revived after six years.[24]

Father Brown[edit]

The initial idea for Father Brown, a series based on the books by GK Chesterton, came from Yorke after he heard a Radio 4 programme on Chesterton’s creation the previous evening.[25][26] Liam Keelan, then controller of BBC Daytime, commissioned the first season and Yorke asked two of his former BBC Writers Academy students to create the show – Rachel Flowerday and Tahsin Guner.[27]

It aired in January 2013 on BBC One and Yorke stayed as Executive Producer for the show for two seasons. With a ninth series in production for 2022, it’s the second longest-running daytime drama series broadcast on BBC Television.[28]

Life on Mars[edit]

When Yorke became head of Channel 4 Drama one of the first shows he wanted develop was Life on Mars, but according to show writer Ashley Pharoah, broadcasters had been ‘very anxious about it as a concept’.[29] Although Yorke redeveloped the original script over 18 months so it became less violent and with a greater emphasis on ‘story of the week’, it was ultimately turned down by director of programmes Kevin Lygo.[30]

Yorke eventually left Channel 4 to become controller of BBC Drama Production where the show was green lit by Julie Gardner, BBC Wales Head of Drama. Yorke acted as joint commissioning editor for the show’s entire run (2006 – 2007).[31]

The Street[edit]

Yorke worked with Brookside writer Jimmy McGovern on the idea that became The Street. While rejected by Channel 4, Yorke was able to take the project with him when he returned to the BBC.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. ^ "John Roland Clifford YORKE - Personal Appointments (free information from Companies House)".
  3. ^ "Abbott recasts C4 drama at cost of £100k". the Guardian. 16 June 2003. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  4. ^ "BBC head moves to Channel 4". 12 February 2003. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  5. ^ "BBC - Press Office - John Yorke to be Controller, In-House Drama". Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  6. ^ "About John Yorke". John Yorke Story. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  7. ^ " Best Sellers: The most popular items in Film Screenwriting". Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  8. ^ "The Book". John Yorke Story. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  9. ^ News - English Literature, Language and Linguistics - Newcastle University Archived January 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Team - John Yorke". John Yorke Story. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  11. ^ "My First Television Drama Commission – Composing for TV - Sheridan Tongue". Sheridan Tongue. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d Lindsay, Duncan (24 June 2017). "10 storylines which prove that EastEnders will be in great hands with John Yorke after boss Sean O'Connor leaves". Metro. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b c "BBC - John Yorke, Former Controller of Drama Production and New Talent - Inside the BBC". Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  14. ^ "John Yorke". IMDb. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Curtis Brown". Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  16. ^ "Mobilising Land Girls". Writers' Guild of Great Britain. 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  17. ^ Davies, Keri (29 February 2012). "Acting Archers editor". BBC. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  18. ^ "EastEnders confirms producer is leaving immediately". Digital Spy. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  19. ^ Mitchell, Bea (23 May 2018). "EastEnders boss John Yorke extends contract with soap". Digital Spy. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  20. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  21. ^ "BBC commissions new classroom drama". the Guardian. 24 August 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Shed Productions". Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  23. ^ "BBC switches Waterloo Road production to Scotland". BBC News. 23 August 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  24. ^ "Waterloo Road: High school drama to be revived after six years". BBC News. 23 September 2021. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  25. ^ "BBC Radio Scotland - The Mystery of Father Brown: Ann Widdecombe Investigates". BBC. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  26. ^ "Father Brown – the 'making of' blog". Rachel Flowerday. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  27. ^ "Tahsin Guner". 27 June 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  28. ^ "BBC daytime's Father Brown returns to filming for the ninth series". Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  29. ^ "An interview with screenwriter Ashley Pharoah". John Yorke Story. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  30. ^ "Strange genesis of hit BBC drama Life on Mars". the Guardian. 8 April 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  31. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Life on Mars press pack". Retrieved 24 September 2021.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by Executive Producer of EastEnders
17 April 2000 – 26 July 2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by Executive Producer of EastEnders

Succeeded by
Preceded byas Executive Producer of EastEnders Executive Consultant of EastEnders
27 November 2017 – 19 February 2019
Succeeded byas Executive Producer of EastEnders