Obituary: Richard Cooper

CHILDREN's drama for television was an area in which Richard Cooper's many talents, both natural and professional, found an ease of expression that was rarely bettered in his other work. He cared about ideas and he cared about writing and he believed children were entitled to the best of both.

Although he will be remembered chiefly as a writer of children's television drama, his range and interests were much wider. After leaving theatre school in the early 1950s, where he was much influenced by the work of Rudolf Laban, he in quick succession encountered the other enduring influences in his life - Marlene, the wife he married in 1953 and who remained at his side for the next 45 years, and the Roman Catholic Church, into which both were admitted the year after their marriage.

Until 1980 he followed a career in education. As a drama lecturer in the Sixties, at St Mary's College of Education, Newcastle upon Tyne, he began writing in earnest, initially for the theatre with the support and encouragement of his then Head of Department, Agnes Rackman. He wrote a number of theatre plays including This Was No Ordinary War, During the Interval, It's a Long Way to Jerusalem, The Mandala, Campion's Brag and Torres, most of which were performed on the fringe at the Edinburgh Festival.

In the Seventies the dramatist C.P. Taylor's wife, Elisabeth, attended St Mary's as a mature student and brought her husband to one of Cooper's plays. It was the beginning of a valuable collaboration. Cecil Taylor's active encouragement led to Over There and Lancer and Lace Have Left Love, both of which Cooper wrote for the Stagecoach Company. Shortly afterwards he and Taylor worked with Alex Glasgow on All Change! for the Newcastle Playhouse.

Cooper wrote regularly for the Northumberland Theatre Company and also for Cornerstone, his Catholic interest coming to the fore in A Life of Christ and Poor Fool, a play about St Francis of Assisi. The energy and conviction that he brought to religious themes led to his first foray into television. His theatre play Torres, dealing with the life of Camillo Torres, the revolutionary Columbian priest, was optioned for the screen by Granada. However it was thought too heady a brew for the wider television audience, and the project was shelved.

After the more courageous atmosphere of the theatre, this set Cooper against television writing for a time, until Margaret Bottomley persuaded him to write a six-part serial for Tyne-Tees Television set in the Polish community on Tyneside. This became Quest of Eagles, which won him the 1980 Pye Television Award for Children's Writing.

For Cooper it was like coming home. He forged a professional relationship with Anna Home, an Executive Producer at the BBC. Home produced his work both at the BBC and later at TVS, where she was Director of Programmes. When she returned to the BBC as Head of Children's Programmes, she commissioned the last project he was ever to work on, an adaptation of the Captain Marryat classic Children of the New Forest.

Cooper did not turn his back on adult drama and in 1989 Shadow of the Noose, an eight-part series based on the life of the Edwardian advocate Sir Edward Marshall Hall, was screened on BBC2. It received outstanding reviews and even provoked a fan letter from Lord Scarman.

My own association with Richard Cooper began when he brought me an idea for a children's thriller called Eye of the Storm. We went on to produce the programme for Meridian who at that time, in 1992, were the new kids on the ITV block. The show was a success, bringing Cooper a well-deserved Writer's Guild Award in 1993 and me a professional and personal friendship that I valued enormously during the six years that I knew him.

He and I were last together in April last year, writing the scripts for Children of the New Forest. He was an intelligent and responsive colleague, always brimming over with fresh ideas. He never wished the audience to be sold short.

Peter Tabern

Richard Fairhurst Cooper, writer: born Warrington, Cheshire 5 April 1930; married 1953 Marlene Jordan (four sons, two daughters); died Bordeaux, France 1 February 1998.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us