The famous author and playright, JB Priestly was born on this day in 1894, at Manningham, Bradford. He attended Belle View School in the city and briefly had a job in the local wool office. In his spare time he would read books and started writing for a local magazine, “The Bradford Pioneer.” After service in the First World War, he continued writing and his first book, “Brief Diversions,” gained the attention of publishers in London. He married a local Bradford lass and traveled down to London to work as a freelance writer. During these years, tragedy struck when his first wife became terminally ill and his father passed away. This sparked a period of activity in his work, as he moved from essays and biographies to fiction writing.
His fourth novel, “The Good Companions” (1929), a story about a group of travelling variety hall entertainers made Priestly a household name. The novel has since been made into several TV and film adaptations. Another called “English Journey” profiled the lives of the working class poor during “The Great Depression” and provided inspiration for the Labour Party during their 1945 Election campaign.
On the back of this, Priestly moved into the world of theatre, where his plays would become popular on the acting circuit during the 1930s. “A Dangerous Corner” and other such “time plays,” would become a feature over this period and after the Second World War. By now, Priestly had become a broadcaster on the new BBC network and a prominent member of the post war Socialist movement. His wartime radio programme, “The Postscript” followed the evening news throughout 1940 and ’41. He attracted audiences of 16 million, which made it the second most popular show, after Churchill’s famous broadcasts.The Postscript was axed when the Prime Minister complained that it was too left wing in its viewpoints. Around this time he founded the Common Wealth party, whose policies were based around Social Reform,. They eventually merged with the Labour Party, but remained a constant voice within the Socialist movement right up until 1993.
In his later years, Priestly continued to write essays, plays and campaign on issues such as nuclear dis-armament. He wrote his own autobiography, “A Margin Released,” in 1962 and appeared in the documentary, “World At War” in 1973. He passed away on 14th August 1984 and a statue was constructed outside the National Media Museum in Bradford as a tribute.
Cover picture credit: Tim Green flickr creative commons.