OBITUARY: Shauna Brown

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The Independent Online
It was late December 1992, some months after her brother and father had succumbed to brain and stomach cancer respectively, when Shauna Brown discovered she had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She was entitled to be bitter - the illness had been initially misdiagnosed - but, in the final stages of producing BBC2's Christmas Advent Calendar, she would admit only to shock, frustration, and being "pissed off". After years of wondering what she wanted from life, she had come to the realisation that the challenges of being a television producer and director were what gave her most satisfaction. She had made that welcome discovery at the age of 36, and the arrival of a potentially terminal cancerseemed cruel. But then such thoughts would be banished: "I'm going to have to beat this. I've made plans."

She had already done so much. A stroppy teenage feminist who decided at the age of 17 to live on her own terms, Shauna Brown (almost magically) made good on her ideals. She sometimes joked that her CV was a "mess" and she must sound like a anti-everything headbanger but, actually, all her friends thought her early days extraordinary. A founder member of Lesbian Line, coming out as gay in the Guardian at 20, committing herself to four years at Homeless Action, performing as one half of the camp campaigning cabaret duo Lottie and Ada (astringent song parodies a speciality) . . . Shauna Brown's life was her commitment to social justice, to making a difference, and it was a commitment rendered with a rare and graceful wit, qualities that, a decade on, would distinguish her television work.

She learnt the ropes as a researcher on the Channel 4 documentary I Shot My Husband and Nobody Asked Me Why - a title that always made her laugh - and there was no looking back. She was instrumental in putting together the world's first lesbian and gay television series, Out on Tuesday, and her contributions to BBC2's 1992 Saturday Night Out, To Be or Not to Be, a study of homosexuality in the theatre, and The Gay Rock 'n' Roll Years, were acclaimed as the evening's hits, the latter garnering a nomination for a BFI Archive Achievement Award. Shauna Brown loved it all. It somehow completed her.

It also kept her going. During the shooting last year of Sick Women, Smart Doctors (ironically for the Channel 4 Women's Health season), she drove herself to the limit and beyond, getting up early, working to midnight, wanting everything - editing, script, photography, sound - to be as perfect as could be, as if she knew, despite her protestations, that time was running out. So driven was she, she completed Smart Doctors only to rush into Diwali Nights, a study of the Hindi festival, ringing friends on the nights it was screened to seek reassurance: "It was good, wasn't it? Bright and colourful - people should know about it. It's amazing what people don't know."

The voice was still strong and it still wanted the world to take notice of those outside the mainstream.

John Lyttle Shauna McDonald Brown, television producer/director: born Walton-on-Thames 7 May 1957; died London 21 December 1994.