I suppose I've been telling stories all my life, with varying degrees of success. I studied the masters by reading English Literature at Oxford, then proceeded to teach them myself for nearly ten years. In 1991 I did my long-suffering students a favour and moved into television, first as lowly script-reader, and then to the glories of Researcher.
Research was a wonderful job. I'd be given a brief with little more detail than 'some time in the eighteenth century an aborigine called Bennelong was brought to this country - can you find out what he did here?' and packed off to come up with a story. There was no internet in those days - I learned how to use libraries and archives, how to dig out family records, and sometimes simply when to use the phone. I loved it. This too was a kind of history - the tracking down the truth of what really happened is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. It's also proved to be one of the most useful.
But best of all was script-editing. In my time on series such as Boon and Medics then EastEnders, I was working directly with real, professional writers and learning far more about stories and storytelling than I ever had in a classroom. I was also privileged to be learning from some of the giants in the television world, particularly Ted Childs at Central and Sally Head at Granada.
In 1995 I became a Producer, first on Medics, then two series of Staying Alive, before moving into film drama with the 1998 Wuthering Heights for LWT, then the second series of Ambassador through Ecosse Films for BBC Northern Ireland. Everything seemed to be going beautifully, but somewhere in that time I think I must have broken a mirror, because that's when everything changed.
It started with the pilot of McCready and Daughter. The show was originally designed for the great Tony Doyle - but tragically Tony died just a week before the readthrough. After much agonizing we eventually went ahead, and the wonderful Lorcan Cranitch stepped in to make the pilot so successful a series was commissioned as a result.
Next was Messiah, the first of the serial-killer series created by Boris Starling and starring Ken Stott. This time we were hit by cast illness so severe the shoot had to be broken off in the middle and resumed months later. We got through it, and the show was a huge success, but I was beginning to feel I might be something of a Jonah.
Then came the job of Executive Producer of EastEnders...