Leicester plays key role in BBC Secret Life of Sue Townsend Aged 68 programme
Our University has played a key role in a new BBC programme on honorary graduate and Distinguished Honorary Fellow Sue Townsend, who died in 2014.
The programme, The Secret Life of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 ¾), provides a warm and witty celebration of Sue Townsend's life and writing. The story is told with the help of children from Sue's old school, her friends and family, as well as the comedy and literary stars she inspired - including Stephen Mangan, Ian Hislop, David Nicholls, Isy Suttie and Adrian Scarborough.
Drawing on Sue Townsend's own archive of letters and notebooks, the film also features unseen photographs, footage and even her appointment diary, which includes poignant entries about her struggles with ill health, written in a humorous style instantly recognisable from her books.
The Archives & Special Collections team at the David Wilson Library made a substantial input into the project. The Leicester team gave advice to the filmmakers on use of the Sue Townsend Archive, provided access to the collection, and accompanied material offsite for filming.
The Sue Townsend Archive was deposited with the University of Leicester in 2005 by Sue herself. It contains her literary, personal and business papers covering her entire literary career, from successful early plays such as Womberang (1979), through the Mole years, and to more recent novels including Number 10 (2002) and The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year (2012). The collection provides fascinating insights into the life and work of one of Leicester’s favourite and most successful writers.
Dr Simon Dixon, Archives and Special Collections Manager, said: “The Sue Townsend Archive is one of the Library’s most important collections, and a key part of the rich cultural heritage of the city of Leicester. We were very pleased to be able to support Sue’s family’s involvement in the documentary by providing the filmmakers with access to the collection. It was particularly rewarding to witness the reaction of her friends and colleagues, including Carole Hayman and Stephan Mangan, to seeing material from the archives for the first time.”
You can watch a clip of the BBC programme below
- The archive and Dr Dixon also feature in BBC East Midlands programme Rebel Writers of the East Midlands on BBC One on Sunday. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ was chosen by the author Bali Rai as one of the region’s most important books. Bali was filmed talking to Dr Dixon about the archive.
- You can see the excerpt showing Stephen Mangan in the reading room here
- The Secret Life of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 ¾) will be available here after broadcast
A video of Sue Townsend receiving a Distinguished Honorary Fellowship at the University of Leicester in 2008 is available below: