Bradford-born novelist and playwright J.B. Priestley is well-known as the writer behind An Inspector Calls, yet his contribution to the golden age of cinema is often overlooked. 

To unreel this under-documented history is a star cast – esteemed Bradfordian Steve Abbott – producer of Brassed Off, A Fish called Wanda, and Michael Palin’s TV travel programmes; celebrated film historian Bill Lawrence; and JBP author John Baxendale. They will look at Priestley’s complicated relationship with Hollywood – one that spans unacknowledged screenwriter credits, his apparent conflicted feelings about working in mainstream cinema, and the iconic stars he might have rubbed shoulders with along the way.

How did these opportunities come about, and what did Hollywood see in one of Yorkshire’s most prolific writers? In this celebration of Priestley’s influence and legacy, we aim to find out.

About The Artist

Headshot of Steve Abbott

Steve Abbott

Steve Abbott was born and raised in Bradford. He lived and worked in Los Angeles during much of the 80s and 90s.

His career in Film saw him elected to AMPAS, BAFTA, EFA and APSA but his proudest achievements have come much closer to home in the 21st Century; he was the founding Chair of both Screen Yorkshire and Bradford City of Film. In Bradford’s successful bid to become the World’s first UNESCO City of Film, Steve was ably supported by Bill Lawrence, as well as Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam, the founders of the Bradford Literature Festival.

Steve stepped down from both the above organisations as pension age beckoned in late 2019.  He now has more time to follow his lifetime passions for Bradford City AFC, Yorkshire CCC and Los Angeles Dodgers, though he’s not too keen to talk about the first two of this trio at present. 

About The Author

Headshot of John Baxendale

John Baxendale

John Baxendale is Honorary Visiting Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, where he taught history for many years.  He is the author of Priestley’s England: J B Priestley and English Culture (Manchester University Press 2007) and numerous articles on twentieth century British cultural history.


About The Historian

Bill Lawrence

Bill Lawrence was Head of Film at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (later the National Science and Media Museum), Bradford. He set up three of the city’s film festivals – Bradford International Film Festival, Bite the Mango Film Festival and Bradford Animation Festival. Bill was part of the team who set up the prestigious partnership board of Bradford: City of Film and was involved in achieving the UNESCO designation in 2009. Subsequently he became Creative Director at Showroom Cinema, Sheffield, one of the UK’s leading independent cinemas. Bill is the founder of Reel Solutions and was part of the research team who helped set up the original film offer for Square Chapel Arts Centre. Bill is now on the board of Cultured Squared/Bradford Literature.

About The Speaker

Lindsay Sutton Headshot

Lindsay Sutton

Lindsay Sutton has excellent credentials to host the presentation and discussion. As Chair of the J B Priestley Society, he has an extensive knowledge of JBP, and as a journalist, he even interviewed the Great Man. He is well acquainted with Priestley’s changing attitude to America and his visits to Arizona and California, including working trips to Hollywood.  

Lindsay was born and bought up in Bradford, before he in turn worked on the Mirror, the Mail and the Times, serving on both the domestic and international front. He has also worked for ITV, Sky and the BBC as a TV reporter, news editor and documentary producer, and has notched up three lifetime writing awards, including IPW American Travel Writer of the Year.  

However, his heart remains set in the North of England. Significantly, two of his more recent books are ‘The Pain and the Glory,’ dealing with Bradford City Football Club, and ‘Sands of Time,’ tracking the former Queen’s Guide to Morecambe Bay, Cedric Robinson.