By WGGB Chair Gail Renard
David Nobbs was a great comedy writer, former Chair and President of the WGGB, and above all a mensch.
David joined the Writers’ Guild in the 1980s after getting a postcard from the Head of Drama at Granada TV congratulating him on the Swedish repeat of his series, A Bit of a Do. Not unreasonably wanting to be paid, he contacted the Guild. He was asked to come in to discuss it and from that moment a Guild activist was born.
David understood people in life as well as in his writing. A Guild AGM once got heated when it was proposed that all future candidates submit a photo when standing for election. It was argued that could prove sexist or ageist. David’s good nature won the day when he pointed out that nowhere did the rule specify it had to be a photo of yourself.
At one time or another David held just about every Guild post, yet he still found time to write his classic comedies, including the very British The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and A Bit of a Do. David’s view on society was bull’s-eye accurate yet still benevolent. He would always discuss his next project enthusiastically and without fail he delivered the goods.
I once asked what his favourite Guild position was and David said negotiator. It made sense, as through his writing and work at the Guild he was always trying to make the world a better place. David taught us all by example what it means to be both a professional writer and trade unionist.
Our thoughts are with his wife, Susan. He leaves a huge, David Nobbs-shaped hole behind, but we were so lucky to call him friend.
Former WGGB President David Edgar writes:
“I met David through the Writers’ Guild, of which he was a committed and active President. He brought the same political commitment, good humour and understanding of human beings to that task as he did to his writing. In Reginald Perrin, David created one of the most brilliantly-observed and emblematic figures of British post-War life (up there with Alf Garnett, Basil Fawlty, Victor Meldrew and David Brent). In A Bit of a Do, he told the story of a whole town through a series of events at its local hotel. He wrote for many of the great comedians – and great programmes – of British television. And it’s worth remembering that both Perrin and A Bit of a Do started life as novels.
“David was kind enough to recruit me to succeed him as President. Along with his strong humanist beliefs, he was a committed trade unionist who believed that – however individual and quirky their talent may be – writers needed to be in and contribute to their union. He will be sorely missed.”
Above photo © Rex Features/Shutterstock