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You are in: Tyne > Entertainment > Hollywood On Tyne > TV on Tyne > Catherine Cookson on screen

The Fifteen Streets

The Fifteen Streets was made first

Catherine Cookson on screen

South Shields-born Catherine Cookson's books and the films they were made into have captured the hearts of millions of people over the years.

Dame Catherine Cookson's work helped to put the North East firmly on the map.

Her fiction was set in the region and millions of copies were sold around the world.

Then when the books were made into films, North East locations were used, taking the region's locations into people's living rooms.

Scene from A Dinner of Herbs

Scene from A Dinner of Herbs

The man responsible for bringing the Cooksons to the screen was Ray Marshall with his company Festival Films and Television.

Long-running franchise

Between 1989 and 2001, he produced 18 mini-series of Dame Catherine's work.

He said: "It was about 12 or 13 years so it was the major thing that I have done in my career by a mile.

"It was really what established my company firmly as a big drama producer. It was incredibly important as was my relationship with Catherine Cookson."

Ray started off the franchise with The Fifteen Streets in 1989 and the last one was A Dinner of Herbs in 2001.

He said it was important to set the films in the North East as the books were.

North East locations

Among the locations used in the films were Alnwick Castle, Belsay Hall, Marsden Grotto and the Cheviot hills.

Catherine Zeta Jones in The Cinder Path

Catherine Zeta Jones in The Cinder Path

In The Moth, Eshott Hall, in Northumberland, was chosen as the location for a major fire scene.

Tow Law moor, in County Durham, was used to recreate an action scene from World War I for The Cinder Path.

A mine was recreated in a factory near Gateshead in Tilly Trotter and in The Glass Virgin, Newcastle's Hanover Street was transformed into a 1850s street.

Ray said: "I think the North East became very much part of my life for a while. I sort of felt a bit like an honorary Tynesider just for having spent so much time there.

"Her work was very much grounded in the North East."

He said he thought the films had played a key role in bringing the North East to a wider audience in the 80s and 90s.

Another characteristic of the films was their ability to cast young actors who went on to enjoy successful careers alongside more established names.

Robson Green in The Gambling Man

Robson Green in The Gambling Man

Among those who starred in the Cooksons were Sean Bean, Catherine Zeta Jones, Robson Green and Emilia Fox.

Ray said: "I think the casting in the Cooksons was so crucial to its success."

Enduring interest

He said it is difficult to pick out a favourite from the films, although The Fifteen Streets has a special place in his heart because it was the first one.

Ray said he would love to make another Cookson film but it would all be dependent on getting the funding into place. The next one he would like to bring to the screen is Katie Mulholland.

He also said he wasn't surprised at the enduring interest in her work.

"I think she had a massive fanbase when she was alive. I think that fanbase hasn't really gone away," he said.

last updated: 11/06/2008 at 11:08
created: 11/06/2008

You are in: Tyne > Entertainment > Hollywood On Tyne > TV on Tyne > Catherine Cookson on screen


Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, South Shields, in 1906.

She wrote more than 100 books and more than 100 million copies have been sold around the world.

She spent 17 years at the top of the most-borrowed author list in the library lending charts, losing her title in 2004.

She was appointed OBE in 1985 and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1993.

When people drive into South Tyneside, they are welcomed to Cookson Country. It attracts thousands of Cookson fans every year and The Tales of South Tyneside Gallery at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery has information about her. She was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of South Tyneside.

The Catherine Cookson Foundation at Newcastle University was set up to support research and other academic initiatives.

She died in 1998 at the age of 91.

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