The Kevin Laffan Archive

Scope and Content

The collection is principally related to Kevin Laffan's work for the theatre, with additional material related to his screenplays and novels. It comprises draft typescripts, published playscripts, posters, production scripts, rehearsal scripts, papers related to his published and unpublished novels, and extensive correspondence with his agent Emmanuel Wax. The archive also includes a small amount of correspondence with fellow writers, actors and producers, including Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Harold Pinter, Emlyn Williams, Prunella Scales and Fenton Bresler. There is little original manuscript material in the collection, suggesting that Laffan either did not handwrite his early drafts or did not retain them. The collection contains a small number of early 'Emmerdale Farm' scripts.

Administrative / Biographical History

Kevin Barry Laffan (24 May 1922 - 11 March 2003) was a playwright and scriptwriter, probably best known as the creator, in 1972, of 'Emmerdale Farm', the ITV soap opera, for which he wrote 262 episodes. However, he saw himself as 'a playwright at heart' and wrote numerous plays for theatre and fringe theatre. He married Jeanne Thompson, with whom he had three sons. An actor since the age of 14, Laffan helped found the Everyman Theatre Company in Reading in 1953, becoming its artistic director until 1958, when he left to concentrate on his writing. His television play, 'Cut in Ebony', won an ATV award in 1959, but was never produced, because its subject matter, issues surrounding race and colour, was deemed too controversial for audiences at that time. In 1968, he experienced his first major success with the play 'Zoo Zoo Widdershins Zoo', which won the award for best new drama at the NUS Drama Festival. This study of the lifestyle of a group of young squatters was originally presented by students from the University of Leicester, and was subsequently staged at the Nottingham Playhouse and the Edinburgh Festival. Laffan went on to write 'It's a Two-Foot-Six-Inches-above-the-Ground World', which was originally performed by the Old Vic Theatre Company in Bristol, before transferring to the Wyndham's Theatre in the West End, where it was a critical and commercial success. In 1973, it was made into a feature film, under the revised title of 'The Love Ban'. Its theme of the effects on a young husband and wife of the Catholic Church's stance on birth control was revisited in many of Laffan's later works. In 1968, Laffan received the Irish Life Drama Award for 'The Superannuated Man', which was subsequently staged at the Palace Theatre, Watford, with Margot Leicester in the cast. During the 1970s and 1980s, Laffan established himself as a screenwriter, scripting 'Bud', a six-part series for the music-hall comedian Bud Flanagan and a screenplay starring Anthony Hopkins entitled 'Decision to Burn'. 'The Best Pair of Legs in the Business', with Reg Varney as an ageing holiday camp drag artist, received acclaim from both Harold Pinter and John Osborne. In 1972 he was approached by Yorkshire Television to write a lunchtime farming serial, to be aired twice a week. Against the advice of his agent, he agreed and wrote 'a 26-episode play', leaving the ending open, so that it could continue. His other television successes included 'Beryl's Lot', a comedy-drama inspired by the real-life story of the novelist Margaret Powell, 'Kate' starring Phyllis Calvert as an agony aunt, some episodes of 'Justice' featuring Margaret Lockwood as barrister Harriet Peterson, and the sitcom 'I Thought You'd Gone' with Peter Jones.

Access Information

The collection is open to bona fide researchers. The Special Collections is open Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm. Access by appointment only. Contact to make an appointment.

Acquisition Information

Deposited with the University of Leicester Library on 31 May 2011 by Kevin Laffan's widow, Jeanne Laffan.

Archivist's Note

Description prepared by Margaret Maclean on 20 July 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Much of the material in the archive may remain in copyright. Copyright of Kevin Laffan's own papers is held by his estate. Copyright of the residual material, such as letters written to him and works by other authors, remains with individual authors. Photocopies of material can be supplied for private research purposes only. However, it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study. A copy of such written approval from the copyright holder must be received by the Librarian before reproductions can be made. It is also the researcher's responsibility to obtain the relevant copyright holder's permission to publish or cite papers from the archive. A copy of such written approval from the copyright holder must be received by the Librarian prior to publication. The Library will not be responsible for any failure on the part of authors and publishers to seek such permission to publish. Readers are required to sign a form accepting these conditions.


No further accruals are expected.

Personal Names