OBITUARY : Nicholas Palmer

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The Independent Online
For many years, Nicholas Palmer produced top-quality television studio drama for ATV and Central with the special flair and insight that came from being a writer of it himself.

Nick Palmer found and brought to the screen the work of new writers with the same passion as that of well-established ones: Beryl Bainbridge, Nigel Kneale, Peter Tinniswood, Ron Hutchison, Patricia Highsmith and Paula Milne are among the list of writers who acknowledge their debt to him.

Series for which he script- edited and wrote episodes himself ranged from Unnatural Causes (1986), Connie (1984), The Home Front (1980) and Heartland (1979) to Fraud Squad (1969); his own plays appeared on television and radio and in the theatre, including the stage farce How to Ruin Your Health (Birmingham, 1975), and Comet Among the Stars (1973), for ATV, which starred Ralph Richardson. And he wrote many episodes for series such as Sherlock Holmes, The Hammer House of Horror, No Hiding Place, and Ghost Squad.

In 1973 Palmer became Single Plays Producer for ATV/ Central. He was committed to making plays worthy of the large audience he reached, always regarding himself as a member of that audience. Last year he had supervised the scripts of Casualty for the BBC, and most recently was executive producer of Chandler.

Few of today's independent producers (independent of everything except the money) can imagine the way Palmer's independence of spirit, of mind, of managerial bureaucracy, encouraged actors, directors, designers, technicians to give better than their best. In the period before the mid-Eighties when producers had staff jobs and precisely because of that took creative risks in filling the slots they had, Palmer commissioned with confidence, without the hierarchy of timorous executives above him which cripples so much of the present output. He was his own executive, assistant, associate, and line producer, as well as story editor, and could keep the time short between commission and production.

We worked together several times and I learnt how he overcame every day the debilitating effects of diabetes and his hearing difficulties, how fiercely loyal and easily generous he was, how widely read and musical, and how outraged by Thatcherism. He fell victim to the latter in the shoddy wave of casualisation that swept independent television from the mid-1980s, but continued to write novels at his home in Deal and then started afresh at the BBC.

I first met Palmer in 1981, when my professional life was in ruins after I had broken with the Workers Revolutionary Party and was widely blacklisted. In collaboration with Margaret Matheson he sent me the first script I had received for several years, typically the first screenplay by a new writer, Grazyna Monvid, called A Change in Time. We did it together and then, with Stuart Burge, worked on Peter Tinniswood's Home Front. These two productions re-established me professionally; and in the cast of the second I met my partner for the past 13 years. His death at only 57 robs us of a man with so much more to give.

Roy Battersby

Nicholas Palmer, writer, television producer: born London 19 October 1937; writer and script editor 1959-73; Single Plays Producer, ATV (later Central Television) 1973-89; twice married (two daughters); died London 6 May 1995.