Storey, David, 1933-2017, novelist and playwright

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Storey, David, 1933-2017, novelist and playwright

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David Storey was born 13 July 1933 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, to coalminer Frank Storey and his wife. Educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, Storey was accepted to study geography at Reading University but instead signed a fourteen year contract to play professional rugby league for Leeds.

He was able to combine his rugby career with a growing interest in art and literature, attending Wakefield Art School between 1951 and 1953 and then Slade School of Fine Art in London, during which time he travelled back to Leeds at weekends for matches. He also produced a series of sketch designs for Christmas cards for Leeds Rugby Club and by the time he left Slade School of Fine Art he had completed around seven unpublished novels.

After completing his studies at Slade, Storey quit rugby and began working as a supply teacher in London. In 1956 he married Barbara Hamilton whom he had met as a schoolboy in Wakefield. Storey continued to write throughout this period and in 1960 his novel, ‘This Sporting Life,’ was published, winning the Macmillan Fiction Prize. Storey subsequently adapted it for the screen and the film, directed by Lindsay Anderson and starring Richard Harris, was released to great critical and commercial success in 1963.

He would go on to write a number of screenplays during the 1960s, including ‘Ned Kelly’ for Karel Reisz, the producer of ‘This Sporting Life,’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ for Lindsay Anderson

His second novel, ‘Flight into Camden,’ was released in 1960 and went on to win the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award, given by the Society of Authors, in 1963. Further novels followed, including ‘Radcliffe’ in 1963; ‘Pasmore’ in 1972, winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; ‘Saville’ in 1976, winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction; and ‘A Serious Man’ in 1998.

The 1960s also saw the beginning of Storey’s close working relationship with the Royal Court Theatre in London when a play he had written in 1958, ‘The Restoration of Arnold Middleton,’ was staged by the Traverse Theatre Company in Edinburgh and subsequently performed at the Royal Court. The play won the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright in 1967, an award shared with a young Tom Stoppard, and Storey went on to write many successful plays, frequently staged under the direction of Lindsay Anderson. In 1969 ‘In Celebration,’ was staged at the Royal Court, followed by ‘The Contractor,’ which won Best Play of the Year at the London Theatre Critics Awards in 1969 as well as the New York Critics Best Play of the Year Award in 1973.

In 1969 Storey was named Writer of the Year by the Variety Club and the following year, 1970, saw the first production of ‘Home,’ one of his most acclaimed plays. Set in a mental hospital, the play was named New York Critics Best Play of the Year in 1970 and won the Evening Standard Award for the Best Play of the Year in 1971. It was also nominated for a Tony Award in the United States, and was adapted as a screenplay. Between 1972 and 1974 Storey also held the position of Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Court.

David Storey's next play, the rugby themed ‘The Changing Room,’ was also highly successful, winning the New York Critics Best Play of the Year Award in 1972, and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in 1973. In 1973 he premiered three new works, ‘Cromwell’ starring Albert Finney, ‘The Farm,’ and ‘Life Class’ starring Alan Bates. He followed these with ‘Mother’s Day’ in 1976, ‘Sisters’ in 1978, ‘Early Days’ in 1980, ‘Phoenix’ in 1984 and ‘Jubilee,’ originally staged as The March on Russia,’ in 1989. In 1994 his play ‘Caring’ starring Maggie Smith was broadcast by the BBC World Service.

Since the mid-1990s Storey has concentrated mostly on his novel writing with ‘as it happened’ published in 2002 and ‘Thin-Ice Skater’, in 2004.

David Storey died on 27 March 2017.


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GB 193

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ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2003); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).


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Laura Yeomans, 'The David Storey Papers: Introduction' (2006)

British Council, 'David Storey,'

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Created by Sally-Anne Shearn, May 2015.
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