Jeff Pope: After Cilla, Biggs and Lucan, time for Danny Baker

Danny Baker, whose memoirs will be adapted for the BBC by Jeff Pope jack barnes

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The Independent Online

Jeff Pope somehow combines the role of head of factual drama at ITV Studios with being one of Britain’s most successful television writers.

His work is currently being aired on ITV with a month-long celebration of his true crime dramas, including Mrs Biggs, the story of the wife of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, and Lucan, dramatising events leading to the disappearance of the notorious earl.

Philomena, the feature film he wrote with Steve Coogan, was nominated for an Oscar. Pope’s next big project is for the BBC, Cradle to Grave, an eight-part series on the childhood of Danny Baker, based on the presenter’s memoirs. The project has roots at ITV where Baker and Pope both worked on the London Weekend Television programme The Six O’Clock Show (as did I).

Pope clearly remembers Danny’s father, Fred “Spud” Baker, a ducking and diving London ex-docker and key character in the new drama, visiting his son in hospitality at ITV’s studios at London’s South Bank. The classic Spud story features a young Danny following his father’s orders to tell an insurance man he is not at home, only for Spud to interrupt the conversation to tell the disbelieving visitor: “If he says I’m not home, I’m not home!”

Cradle to Grave, says Pope, will be a story of the Bakers against the world. “It’s how Spud fought for the best for his family, not always on the right side of the law.”

Though he is known for crime stories, the writer says Baker’s story will allow him to mix comedy with real-life events. “With Danny’s childhood in south London, and all the wonderful stories, this is the perfect opportunity to do that.”

The action finishes with Baker’s character still in his mid-teens, allowing for further series.

Pope’s recent work also includes Cilla, the dramatisation of another icon of the ITV building, where she used to present Surprise Surprise! and Blind Date. “I vividly remember seeing Cilla and her husband, Bobby, in the corridors and the lifts,” he says. Who will he pick for his next biopic, former boss Greg Dyke?

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