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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Richmond Fellowship Scotland: Executive Director

£66,192 per annum including car allowance of £5,700): The Richmond Fellowship ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Office Junior

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Site Agent

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This traditional family company...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent