Detail from the Biderbecke Affair script

Papers of Alan Plater


Alan Frederick Plater was born in Jarrow in April 1935, the son of Herbert and Isabella Plater. He was brought up in the Hull area, and educated at Pickering Road Junior School and Kingston High School, Hull. He then studied architecture at King’s College, Newcastle, becoming an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1959. He worked for a short time in the profession, before becoming a full-time writer in 1960.

His subsequent career was extremely wide-ranging and remarkably successful, both in terms of his own original work, and his dramatisations of the work of others. He wrote extensively for radio, television, films and theatre, and for the daily and weekly press, including The Guardian, Punch, Listener, and New Statesman. His writing credits exceed 250 in number and include: The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Misterioso, Z Cars, Softly Softly, The Barchester Chronicles, A Very British Coup and The Fortunes of War.

He received numerous awards, notably the BAFTA Writer’s Award in 1988, and in 1985 was made an Honorary D.Litt. of the University of Hull and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was President of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain between 1991 and 1995. He married, firstly, Shirley Johnson, with whom he had two sons and one daughter, and then lived in London with his second wife, Shirley Rubinstein, whom he married in 1986. He was appointed CBE in 2005. Although diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Plater continued to work. His final television drama, Joe Maddison’s War, was in post-production when he died on 25 June 2010. 

What can the collection be used for?

The collection can be used to study the development and evolution of a particular story or series like The Beiderbecke Trilogy or the process through which a story was adapted for radio, television or the theatre.

What records will I find in the collection?

The archive represents an almost complete record of Alan Plater’s working life. The most important section of the archive comprises files of draft and final scripts, story lines, plot schedules and other working papers relating to Plater’s work for radio, theatre, television (original plays, series contributions, dramatisations and adaptations), film and print. This includes papers relating to projects rejected or abandoned, some of which are still unpublished and/or unperformed.

There is other material relating to Plater’s working life, including notebooks, professional correspondence, press cuttings, video and audio tapes (of works by Plater or interviews of him) and papers relating to the Writers’ Guild and to Plater’s architectural work. The collection is arranged as follows: 

U DPR/1 Works for radio by Alan Plater
U DPR/2 Works for theatre by Alan Plater
U DPR/3 Works for television by Alan Plater: original plays and series
U DPR/4 Works for television by Alan Plater: series contributions/dramatisations
U DPR/5 Feature films involving Alan Plater
U DPR/6 Novelizations
U DPR/7 Other work and unfinished projects by Alan Plater
U DPR/8 Notebooks and address books
U DPR/9 Articles and press cuttings
U DPR/10 Programmes and production memorabilia
U DPR/11 Correspondence
U DPR/12 Photographs
U DPR/13 Video Recordings
U DPR/14 Audio Recordings
U DPR/15 Readings, Festivals and Workshops
U DPR/16 Architectural work
U DPR/17 Personal papers

How do I access the collection?

The collection is available for anyone to use. Due to the personal and sensitive nature of some of the material certain closures have been placed on parts of this collection, and these are clearly identified on the catalogue entries available in the searchroom or via our online catalogue.

Where can I find other material relating to Alan Plater?

Other material relating to Alan Plater can be found at the following repositories:

BBC Written Archives Centre – Correspondence between Plater and BBC Staff

Newcastle upon Tyne Central Library – Northern Drama Library

Newcastle upon Tyne Literary and Philosophical Society – Northern Arts Manuscripts Collection

Robinson Library, University of Newcastle – Papers of Sid Chaplin