A treasure trove of Welland’s work

Colin Welland in Ken Loach's film Kes
Colin Welland in Ken Loach's film Kes

Arts enthusiasts can pay tribute to an acclaimed actor and screenwriter born in the borough thanks to a new collection of his BBC work.

The broadcaster has made half a dozen of Leigh writer and performer Colin Welland’s scripts and appearances on screen for Play for Today available to buy online for the first time.

Colin Welland, left, accepts an Oscar for the best screenplay from Jerzy Kosinski, during the 54th annual Academy Awards presentation, Los Angeles

Colin Welland, left, accepts an Oscar for the best screenplay from Jerzy Kosinski, during the 54th annual Academy Awards presentation, Los Angeles

The six TV films were made between 1970 and ‘76 and show the skills which made Welland “one of television’s noblest talents in the age of the single play” in the words of the BBC.

The new collection includes some of his most acclaimed work and shows how he made the bridge from humble dramas reflecting his northern background to ambitious work that paved the way for his Oscar-winning career in cinema.

Welland, who taught for a while at the Manchester Road Secondary Modern School in Leigh and who died in 2015 aged 81, secured an Academy Award for the screenplay of Chariots of Fire in 1982 and appeared in hit TV show Z Cars.

The new collection starts with The Hallelujah Handshake, about a mysterious man who joins a church congregation but may not be entirely what he seems, and Kisses at Fifty which is remarkable for the sympathy with which it treats all the characters in a story of a man beginning an affair with a barmaid on his 50th birthday.

Colin Welland

Colin Welland

Also available is Jack Point, about an amateur dramatics company faced with a crisis when an ambitious young actor wants the part in an operetta which a long-standing member believes is his, and his well-known and controversial depiction of a Yorkshire strike Leeds-United!

The collection is rounded out by A Passage to England, in which he plays a wily sailor helping an Indian family reach Britain, and Your Man from Six Countries, set in the west of Ireland about a young boy whose upbringing is defined by the Troubles.

The BBC has also put online short comments from Welland about each play, an article about his work and a look at the story behind Leeds-United!

At the time the 1974 piece was the most expensive work ever produced for the TV, with the writers behind the new collection several times emphasising the cinematic nature of his writing for the small screen.

As well as his famous account of a 1920s British Olympic team, Welland’s other cinema works included Twice in a Lifetime, starring Gene Hackman.

As an actor he was also known for his memorable turn as a teacher in Ken Loach’s classic film Kes.

Following his death arts enthusiasts staged a hometown tribute night, with The Turnpike Centre hosting an event organised by the Leigh Film Society which his son Christy attended, bringing his father’s Oscar statuette along with him.

For more information, visit https://store.bbc.com/collections/colin-welland-at-the-bbc