Sally Wainwright

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Sally Wainwright
Born Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England
Occupation Television writer
Years active 2000-present
Known for Last Tango in Halifax
Happy Valley
Scott & Bailey

Sally Wainwright (born 1963) is an English television writer and playwright. She won the 2009 Writer of the Year Award given by the RTS in 2009 for Unforgiven.[1] She is known for work on the BBC dramas Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax.[2][3] Both have won BAFTA's award for best series, and Wainwright was voted best writer.[4]

Early life[edit]

Wainwright was born in Huddersfield in 1963 to mother Dorothy Wainwright. Wainwright was brought up in Sowerby Bridge where she attended Triangle C of E Primary School and Sowerby Bridge Grammar School.[5] She attended York University, reading English and Related Literature.[6]


After university she took a play to the Edinburgh Festival and found an agent for her writing in the process.[6] Meanwhile, she worked as a bus driver.[6] She left the driving job after she started writing for the Radio 4 series The Archers. One of her contributions was to write an atypical story for the long running radio soap in which the village shop was robbed. After that she wrote for Coronation Street, developing her writing skills, from 1994 to 1999. She has since said that working on continuing drama was a great education in discipline and a lesson that great stories are hard work.[7] She was mentored by Kay Mellor who encouraged her to stop writing for soaps and to concentrate instead on original work. She created the TV series At Home with the Braithwaites about a woman who had secretly won the lottery. The programme was nominated for many awards.[8] She won the 2009 Writer of the Year Award given by the RTS in 2009 for Unforgiven which took several awards including best TV series.[1]

Wainwright says that her strong female flawed characters are almost real to her and arrive fully formed in her imagination. She likes to control the television that is created and has done some directing and production of her own work[8] partly to ensure the scenery and dialogue reflects Yorkshire.[9] In 2011 she wrote Scott and Bailey, a series about two female police officers. The idea for the series came from the leading actresses and former Detective Inspector Diane Taylor, who assisted with bringing the series to the air.[10]

Wainwright based the plot of her series Last Tango in Halifax on the story of her mother who was widowed in 2001. [6] Her mother, Dorothy, moved to Oxfordshire to live with her daughter and rediscovered a lost love, Alec Walker, via Friends Reunited.[6] With her mother's permission, Wainwright developed the story of how she remarried so rapidly, publishing series extracts to her mother before broadcast.[8]

When she told the story to Nicola Shindler, she suggested she turn her mother's experience into a television series. Shindler became the series' executive producer.[11] Both Last Tango in Halifax and her crime series Scott and Bailey were turned down by both the BBC and ITV before both were accepted respectively. The former was voted by BAFTA to be best series in 2012 and Wainwright was given the award for best writer.[4]

Happy Valley, which was shot in Yorkshire's picturesque upper Upper Calder Valley and Hebden Bridge,[12][13] stars Sarah Lancashire, whom Wainwright had in mind as she wrote the role.[14] Wainwright made her directorial debut with episode 4 of the first series.[14]

In May 2015, it was announced that Wainwright would be writing and directing a two-hour drama special for BBC One entitled To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters. It subject is the Brontë family, particularly the relationship the three sisters, Anne, Emily and Charlotte, had with their brother, Branwell. On the drama, Wainwright said that "I am thrilled beyond measure that I've been asked by the BBC to bring to life these three fascinating, talented, ingenious Yorkshire women."[15]

Personal life[edit]

Wainwright lives in Oxfordshire. She is married with two children and owns two Maine Coon cats.[8]


Original television productions[edit]

Her original television productions include:

Soap operas[edit]

She has also written for the following soap operas:

Frequent collaborators[edit]

Actor At Home with the Braithwaites (2000-03) Sparkhouse (2002) ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew (2005) Jane Hall (2006) The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (2006) Dead Clever (2007) Bonkers (2007) Unforgiven (2009) Scott & Bailey (2010-16) Last Tango in Halifax (2012-present) Happy Valley (2014-present) To Walk Invisble (2016)
Sarah Smart Yes Yes Yes
Rachel Leskovac Yes Yes Yes Yes
Peter Davison Yes Yes
Judy Holt Yes Yes
Ishia Bennison Yes Yes
Siobhan Finneran Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shirley Henderson Yes Yes
Geraldine James Yes Yes
Amer Nazir Yes Yes
Suranne Jones Yes Yes Yes
Jennifer Hennessy Yes Yes
George Costigan Yes Yes Yes
Amelia Bullmore Yes Yes
Sarah Lancashire Yes Yes
Charlie Murphy Yes Yes


  1. ^ a b "Programme Awards 2009". Royal Television Society Yorkshire. 
  2. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (30 April 2014). "Happy Valley, BBC1 - TV review: Homegrown, Yorkshire-set drama is better than Fargo". The Independent. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  3. ^ DeWolf Smith, Nancy (14 August 2014). "In Yorkshire's Green but Not Pleasant Land". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Graham, Alison (2013). "Can't "bold and memorable female characters" be part of any drama?". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Sally Wainwright: My Yorkshire". Yorkshire Post. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Williamson, Charlotte (22 December 2013). "My mother's late-life love is charming the nation". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Sally Wainwright meets Matthew Barry | Guru Encounters". BAFTA Guru. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Sally Wainwright Desert Island Discs" (Broadcast). BBC Radio 4. 5 October 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Frost, Vicky (6 June 2014). "Sally Wainwright: 'I like writing women, they're heroic'". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "TV cop dramas irritated me, so I made my own, says the former Detective Inspector behind Scott And Bailey". Manchester Evening News. June 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Wainwright, Sally (9 November 2012). "Can you fall in love at 75? Screenwriter Sally Wainwright on how her mother's sweet late-life romance inspired her new drama". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  12. ^ Howe, Liz (30 April 2014). "Sally Wainwright's Happy Valley showcases Yorkshire". Holdsworth House. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Last Tango in Halifax writer Sally Wainwright set to start filming new drama in Hebden Bridge". Halifax Courier. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Jones, Hannah (28 May 2014). "Happy Valley: Writer Sally Wainwright on TV's most talked about show". Wales Online. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "BBC One announces new drama by award-winner writer Sally Wainwright". BBC Media Centre. 
  16. ^ Lockyer, Daphne (1 July 2006). "In the driving seat". The Times. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 

External links[edit]