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Sally Wainwright delays Happy Valley series three to work on new drama project

Wainwright wants to work on the story of Yorkshire diarist Anne Lister before bringing Catherine Cawood back to our screens

Published: Friday, 25th November 2016 at 9:00 am

Fans of Happy Valley will have to wait at least another year for news of the BBC drama’s return, because screenwriter Sally Wainwright is a little busy working on a new project.


The writer has been named this year’s recipient of the Wellcome Trust’s £30,000 screenwriting fellowship, and told an audience gathered at the prize giving that she’d be using the funding to help with her research into the life and times of Yorkshire diarist Anne Lister, The Guardian reports.

“For my next project I am writing about Anne Lister, the West Yorkshire diarist, who studied human anatomy in Paris in the 1820s among many other remarkable things, so what better place to research that?” she said.

Lister documented her private life in a series of intimate diaries, which Wainwright will use to craft a TV drama about her fellow Yorkshire native.


The Wellcome Trust is one of the world’s largest medical research charities, so there’s little doubt that having access to their experts and archives will be very helpful indeed.

“I realised that almost everything I do could benefit from what is on offer here,” Wainwright explained. “I do a lot of research; for instance with Happy Valley I spoke to a psychiatrist about what it’s like to be a psychopath. Though by the time I get round to writing the next series of Happy Valley, the year will have expired.”

Wainwright’s revelation follow Happy Valley producer Nicola Shindler’s confirmation that the show would not return until at least 2018.

“Sally is thinking about a story and the story she is thinking about literally needs time. Because if you look at the characters that are left, there is Sarah, there is James Norton and there is a young boy, who the minute he turns into a teenager it becomes a much more interesting story”, Shindler said.

"She doesn’t know what the story is yet. She is mulling it in her head but we are thinking about giving it a bit of space in story terms.”


Wainwright's next drama, To Walk Invisible, is about the Bronte sisters and will air on BBC1 over the Christmas period.


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