Tony Cliff was a BBC Radio producer who found, nurtured and launched many a budding writer. Tony was the perfect person to act as mentor, confidante and friend to a host of hopefuls, including we four who, along with many others, owe him a great deal.
Tony was born on 10 June 1941, three hours before his father was reported missing in action. After graduating from Cambridge he became a journalist on the Sheffield Telegraph before joining the BBC as a trainee television producer in London. He spent some time at Granada TV before moving to BBC Radio Drama.
In the mid-1970s, when Alfred Bradley had already established a small but impressive radio drama centre in Leeds, Tony was appointed as his deputy, replacing Alan Ayckbourn. BBC Leeds already had its share of talent, with Peter Tinniswood, Brian Thompson and Stan Barstow regular contributors, and although Tony continued to work with these established names, he also set out to encourage an amazing number of talented writers, local and mostly unknown. When the department moved to Manchester he continued his search.
Writers loved working for Tony. He would never ask for a heart-breaking rewrite or change the timbre of a piece – he trusted you to get it right, and rarely imposed restrictions. Using mostly local actors he developed a department that was relaxing and a joy to work in, bringing like minds together and encouraging them into joint projects for both radio and television. He was a gentle director of actors, believing it was all about getting the casting right from the start. A favourite note to an actor was "Shall we try that again with your cardigan off?"
Many of us lucky enough to meet and work with him owe our success and livings to his unswerving dedication to our work and progress. Without Tony's unobtrusive fostering of scripts the world of radio and television would have been robbed of many of its most successful writers. Tony was diagnosed with cancer in October 2011 and died on 3 February 2012, and is survived by his wife, Chris, his children, John and Judy and stepchildren, Jim, Jessica and Reuben.