Kay Mellor OBE died on May 15th, 2022 aged 71, it has been revealed. The award-winning English writer, actor and director was the force behind a number of iconic British dramas and, was the mother to two children, including actor and writer Gaynor Faye, known for her roles in Emmerdale and Coronation Street amongst others; and TV producer Yvonne Francas.
As one of the most recognisable names and faces across the UK, the news came as a shock to many, who would pay tribute to Mellor as one of the most influential and inspiring women the entertainment industry has ever seen.
BBC's Chief Content Officer, Charlotte Moore said: "Kay was an outstanding writer and the creative force behind many of the nation's best loved television dramas. She wrote with such heart, humanity, humour and passion with strong female characters often taking centre stage."
Those “strong female characters” have gone down as some of the most beloved British television figures of all time. Some of the most notable were a part of crime drama series Band of Gold, which debuted on ITV all the way back in March 1995 after eight years of fine-tuning the story that Mellor wanted to tell.
She had been driving with her husband down a road in Bradford which was famous for prostitution, when she spotted a young woman with mottled blue legs that looked straight into her car. Seeing someone who she had described as “a child” left Mellor moved, to the point where she felt she had no choice but to tell the story of young women like this one on screen.
Instead of falling into stereotypes about sex workers, Mellor put in the hard research to discover exactly who these women were behind the masks of prostitution. They would form the basis for the series Band of Gold and the eclectic cast of characters that audiences would fall in love with.
It was that dedication to tell real stories that would make Mellor such a success. She didn’t just talk the talk, but she made sure to walk the walk and put on screen as accurate a portrayal of those who inspired her, as possible. She would open up entirely new conversations surrounding traditionally taboo subjects and in doing so, challenge and indeed change the stereotypically-negative narrative conjured up by societal constructs.
She would go on to win the Dennis Potter Award from the BAFTAs in 1998 thanks to that hard work, but she wasn’t done. Knowing she now had laid the foundations of an incredible career to build upon, she would go on to conjure up other incredible TV offerings including Playing the Field in 1998, which told the story of a fictional female football team; Fat Friends in 2000 which focused on members of a slimming group and the psychological impact their weight had impacted them; and Between the Sheets in 2003, which wasn't shy in discussing both romantic and sexual challenges faced by several different fictional couples.
Not just talented behind the camera, Mellor would also appear in her own adaptation of Jane Eyre in 1997, as well as crime drama movie A Good Thief in 2002 and TV thriller Gifted in 2003. Over on stage, she acted in Three Girls in Blue and, took the spotlight in the one-woman show Queen.
In more recent times, Mellor wrote BBC drama The Syndicate, which ran for four seasons. The show followed a different group of lottery winners in each season, all with their own trials and tribulations that came with winning such a substantial amount of money with the country's eyes glaring down at them. There was also ITV drama Girlfriends in 2018, which followed a group of middle-aged women who had been friends since their teenage years.
With such an incredible back-catalogue, we know that Mellor is going to be missed by all those who knew her, knew of her and, loved her. May she rest peacefully, and in power.