By Ade Blackburn
Liverpool has a magnificent literary history, from novelists to poets and playwrights. Here’s a selection of some of our most celebrated writers.
1. Adrian Henri
Adrian Henri was a much-loved figure in the world of performance poetry, fine art and beyond.
Born in Birkenhead, he was part of the Liverpool scene in the 1960s appearing alongside Roger McGough and Brian Patten in the groundbreaking anthology The Mersey Sound. The poems brought everyday subject matter such as pubs and factory work to poetry and were more accessible to readers.
The anthology has sold over half a million copies and was highly influential in opening the doors to other performance-orientated artists who followed in subsequent decades including John Hegley, John Cooper-Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnson and others.
2. Jeff Young
Jeff Young is a writer for theatre, radio and screen, including Eastenders, Holby City, CBBC and Casualty.
His 2020 biographical novel ‘Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay’ is brilliantly evocative of 1960s and 1970s Liverpool, tracing the path of the city’s cultural life up to the present.
He broadcasts essays for Radio 3, collaborates with artists and musicians on sound art installations and has worked on many arts projects in Liverpool and elsewhere, including a residency in Bill Drummond’s Curfew Tower.
3. Levi Tafari
Levi Tafari is a firm member of the Rastafari movement and saw it as his duty to reach a wider audience with his work. In the early 1980s, he started attending the Liverpool 8 Writers Workshop and decided to become a performance poet.
Levi has four collections of work published and has been included in many anthologies. He was the first person to use the term Duboetry, the title of his first book, and several of his musical tracks can be found on compilation albums.
He was also commissioned to write and perform a piece especially for the BBC’s Grange Hill programme, in which he appeared as himself.
4. Carla Lane
One of Britain’s most celebrated television comedy writers for television, Carla Lane was best known for her sitcoms The Liver Birds, Butterflies and Bread, but she was almost as well known for her animal rights activism.
Her first hit series, BBC’s The Liver Birds, was about the lives and loves of two Liverpool girls living on the city’s Huskisson Street, broadcast from 1969-1978.
Her greatest writing success was the 1980s series Bread, the classic sitcom about a Liverpool family scamming and surviving in Thatcher’s Britain.
5. Alan Bleasdale
Alan Bleasdale taught in various Lancashire schools and while teaching, he wrote a series of stories for BBC Radio Merseyside about a Liverpool teenage dreamer Scully. The stories led to a Granada television series.
His most successful work was the series Boys from the Blackstuff (1983), which dealt with the devastating effects of unemployment in Liverpool. The show’s humorous and cutting take on life on the dole featured the legendary Yozza ‘Giz a Job’ Hughes.
He later went on to write the acclaimed series GBH, showing the takeover of a northern English city by a fascist organisation. The show was based on the controversial 1980s Liverpool City Council figure Derek Hatton.
6. Frank Cottrell Boyce
Frank Cottrell Boyce first worked as a television critic and then wrote for Coronation Street and Brookside. He also worked on films with director Michael Winterbottom, including the wonderful Tony Wilson biopic, 24 Hour Party People, starring Steve Coogan.
Frank started his successful career writing for children with 2004’s heist romp Millions. His children’s books have been praised as full of mystery, adventure and above all, laughs. The Unforgotten Coat, a story of cross-cultural friendship in a Liverpool school, earned him The Guardian Prize in 2012.
He later gained recognition as a writer for the inventive 2012 UK Summer Olympics opening ceremony, collaborating with director Danny Boyle.
7. Kevin Sampson
Widely known for his football terrace novel and subsequent film, Awaydays, Kevin Sampson began his writing career in the 1980’s with gig reviews for NME.
His second novel Powder (1999) covers his time setting up the Liverpool record label Produce with The Farm’s Peter Hooton. In the 1990s, Produce had chart success with The Farm, including the top five hit All Together Now and Powder depicts the trials and excesses of the music business.
More recently, Kevin was hired to write the new ITV mini-series Anne, which centres on Anne Williams’ crusade for justice after the death of her son Kevin in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.