Paul Makin: Writer of the cult hit 'Nightingales'

When he wrote Nightingales, which drew on his experiences as a nightwatchman at the Birmingham NEC, Paul Makin displayed an inventive mind that made his best work stand out from other, run-of-the-mill sitcoms.

The surreal series, about three unorthodox security guards working the night shift in an office block, was a cult hit on Channel Four when it was first screened in 1990.

Nightingales benefited from the presence of respected actors, attracted by Makin's writing. A bearded and bespectacled Robert Lindsay played Carter, a pseudo-intellectual whose aspirations were constantly frustrated; David Threlfall played the animalistic, unintelligent Bell; and James Ellis played the boss, Sarge, a flawed father figure. The series' dark humour was apparent from the existence of a fourth character, Smith, who sat with the trio but was dead, enabling them to draw his salary.

Into this claustrophobic setting came all manner of characters, from a gorilla hired as a fellow worker to a werewolf conducting a heart-bypass operation. A 1992 festive special, in which the Virgin Mary arrived on Christmas Eve and gave birth to a goldfish, was followed by a second series in 1993.

Born in Wolverhampton in 1953, Makin attended St Peter's School, which he left at 15 to work at Alexander Metals, in Bilston, with the aim of becoming a metallurgist. Deciding that factory life was not for him, Makin left in 1972 to further his childhood ambition to act. He trained at Coventry's Centre for the Performing Arts – where his peers included the film director Terence Davies – before discovering that work was scarce. He took the job as a security guard and also worked at Combe Abbey, where he was employed to walk around dressed as a monk during medieval banquets.

Makin became an assistant stage manager at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre, where he had the chance to act in occasional productions. He was drawn to writing, though, penning unperformed fantasy pantomimes featuring the company's actors.

He left the theatre – and relinquished any idea of acting – after submitting to the BBC a comedy script, "The Plan", an episode from a proposed series to be called Cooper's Ducks, and getting an encouraging response. "That's where it started, really," he said. "If they'd said it was rubbish, I probably wouldn't have written anything else, but they commissioned it. It never got made, but I was just amazed to have been taken seriously."

Makin then submitted his work to the agent of the comedy-writing duo Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. He was taken on, and his first commission, in 1984, was to write two episodes of The Other 'Arf, which starred Lorraine Chase as a cockney model having an affair with a Tory MP, who was played by John Standing. In 1985 he contributed scripts to Roll Over Beethoven – created by Marks and Gran and starring Nigel Planer as a rock 'n' roll legend taking lessons from Liza Goddard's piano teacher – and Mog, which was based on Peter Tinniswood's novel about a petty thief taking refuge in a psychiatric hospital.

Makin got his own idea on screen with three series of A Kind of Living (1988-90). Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour starred as a teacher and his wife who uprooted from Bolton to London with their new baby.

Marks and Gran's production company, Alomo, then made Nightingales, as it did Makin's subsequent sitcoms, 1991's Taking the Floor – starring Matthew Cottle and Barbara Durkin as ballroom dancing partners – and 1997's Grown Ups, about a group of thirtysomethings trying to recapture their youth. Makin also contributed scripts to the final series of Chef! (1996), starring Lenny Henry, and wrote seven episodes (1995-97) of Goodnight Sweetheart, the popular time-travel sitcom created by Marks and Gran.

Anthony Hayward

Paul Alan Makin, writer: born Wolverhampton 9 August 1953; (two daughters with Liz Bayton); died Coventry 4 July 2008.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution